Thursday, April 1, 2021

In This Moment, April 1 (Passover and April Fools Day): Food for Thought

In This Moment
End of Pesach Edition

Watch our second TBE Zoom Seder
It was amazing and thanks to everyone who participated!
See below the video and some screenshots from the Seder...
TBE Zoom Seder, 2021
Rev. Dr. Michael Christie attended our Seder from his car and spoke of the "gift" that the Jewish people have been given, to share with the world the story of the Exodus, which has inspired so many liberation movements over the ages. He called Jews "stewards of freedom," adding "you're not just been freed from suffering but you're able to carry the pain and purpose." He and I will continue to expand this fruitful partnership next week on April 6, as our congregations co-host our Town Meeting with Senator Blumenthal.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Passover,

It's been a busy holiday here. We had the Zoom Seder last Sunday night and services throughout the week. Click here for more photos from the Seder, along with the outline, links and chat-box comments. In her D'var Torah on Sunday, Beverly Stein spoke about the heroic women of Passover. You can read her remarks here. Also, see below the video of the AJC's Community of Conscience Interfaith Seder, of which we were a co-sponsor, including and impressive array of religious leaders and stirring remarks (about 20 minutes in) by TBE's Stephne Behrend, who is president of the Westchester - Fairfield region. My part? Ten Plagues. Hey, someone's got to do it!
Community of Conscience Interfaith Seder - AJC Westchester/ Fairfield
Food for Thought

Passover is a great time to think about food, especially when we have been blessed with the new Sisterhood cookbook, celebrating TBE's 100 years. Meanwhile over in England, new archeological proof has emerged that medieval Jews there ate strictly kosher. Read about it in the Jewish Chronicle.

The power of food to sustain a culture is undeniable. I wrote about it in my introduction to the cookbook, which, in light of its relevance to this holiday, I'm reprinting here:

I’ve always felt that the best way to transmit a culture is through the stomach. Our fondest childhood memories revolve around the tastes and smells of tradition – the Hallah on Shabbat, the matzah ball soup on Passover, the sweet tzimmis of Rosh Hashanah and, of course, the oily latkes of Chanukah. 

When you think about it, Judaism has been kept alive (and Jews kept awake all night) over the centuries as much because of what goes into our mouths as from what comes out of our mouths. The ancient sages understood this keenly, and they made a direct connection between the two. Jewish food has long represented the best of our value system: sensitivity to life, kindness to animals, love of tradition, celebration of nature, not wasting precious resources, honoring parents and love of Israel and the Jewish people – all these are embedded in the foods we choose to eat. 

Our foods express Jewish diversity and creativity too. As a mobile people, we’ve become infinitely adaptable. We didn’t invent the bagel (we adopted it from Poland in the 17th century), but it has come to define us for various reasons, not the least of which is that it is round and has a hole. In our tradition, round foods symbolize mourning and the cycles of life. The hole is not uniquely Jewish, but the response is. How we fill it is. What we build around it is. When Jewish mourners return from a funeral, the tradition requires us to eat immediately. We eat round foods to show that life goes on. Our response to death is life – and food is the very symbol of life.

All of which is my way of stating that this cookbook belongs right next to the siddur and Bible among our pantheon of sacred texts. As a labor of love by the editors, it is a supreme expression of faith in the Jewish future and reverence for our past. As a collection of recipes from the kitchens of scores of congregants, it is an authentic expression of the very soul of the congregation. And as a book that will help to transmit the love of Judaism to the next generation, one meal at a time, this is in every sense a living document. Like the Passover Haggadah, it will not be complete without a wine stain here or a dried speck of matzah meal there. Like the Torah itself, it will be rendered meaningless unless it is used.

I know that I will savor the smells even before they leap from the page (even of the meatier sections, although I’m a vegetarian). And through this collaborative effort, I also know that, even when the synagogue is dark and cold, in some kitchen somewhere, someone will be enjoying a little taste of TBE.

Yashar Koach to Fran Ginsburg, cookbook editor, and to all who contributed to it!

Some additional reading:

PBS postpones documentary on evangelicals and Israel for ‘editorial review’ - Broadcaster delays release of ‘Til Kingdom Come’ after accusations from pro-Israel watchdog group that director misleadingly spliced together two parts of Trump speech

Famous Seders in Jewish History...
Warsaw Ghetto, 1940s
Barcelona Haggadah, c1340
TBE Zoom Seder, 2021 (Sigman family)
Enjoy the remainder of your holiday!
Rabbi Joshua Hammerman

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