Beautifying your Pesach Table

Spring Greens Saute from The Jewish Seasonal Kitchen by Amelia Saltsman

Spring Greens Saute from The Jewish Seasonal Kitchen by Amelia Saltsman

By today, you’ve probably decided what you are making for your first Passover meal tomorrow night. Patti and I will be making Stuffed Cabbage, with the recipe posted last year at this time. I’m about to go make some, and if you come to the AARC Family Seder on Sunday, you’ll get to have a taste!

But there is a long week ahead of Pesach food restrictions, and I want to share with you a stand out cookbook that could make your week more culinarily delightful: The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen: A Fresh Take on Tradition by Amelia Saltsman. With a Romanian grandmother and an Iraqi grandmother, growing up in a farming community in Israel and her extensive writings on local and fair food production, family farms, and farmers’ markets, she is an author whose interests are close to my heart. You can access some recipes and read more about her on her website and blog.

I’ve often thought about the contradiction between the limits on foods we can eat on Passover, the necessity of sticking to the dry “bread of affliction” for a full week, and our communal focus on the Passover feast, creating ever more scrumptious Pesach foods. Rabbi Yael Levy’s “Thoughts on Matzah” post from her Jewish Mindfulness site helped me come to a satisfying understanding of this.

Thoughts On Matzah

Rabbi Yael Levy | 4-20-2016

When we begin the Seder, the matzah is lechem oni—the bread of affliction.

By the middle of the seder the matzah has become the afikomen—the dessert—what we seek, what we long for.

The transformation starts as we lift up the three matzot, break the middle matzah and call, “This is the bread of affliction that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt.  Let all who are hungry come and eat.”

As we acknowledge the suffering and brokenness that exists in us and in our world and reach out from this place to make connections, to share who we are and what we have to offer the matzah goes from being the bread of poverty to being the bread of connection, hope and faith.

AARC Seder, 5776


From Allison Stupka and Harry Fried

Moses said to Pharaoh, “Let my people go”….. to the AARC 3rd Day of Passover Seder Potluck!!!! And Moses should know, after all he had a burning desire to make this day happen.

Attending our family-friendly Seder on Sunday, April 24, at  4:30pm at the JCC (should end at about 7:30 pm) is nowhere near as difficult as hardening Pharaoh’s heart or parting the Red Sea. In fact, it’s easy.

Just click on this link to our sign-up page and sign up; all the pieces we need are there. Even Pharaoh couldn’t stop you, and that’s saying a lot.

Allison and I have been organizing AARC’s seders, with others, for at least the past eight years. This year is going to be even better since we get to recline in the JCC’s lounges, rather than on our (beloved but acoustically challenging) basketball court!

We look forward to seeing everyone and celebrating this most important and enjoyable service.

Want to help plan?  What is your vision for the AARC Seder? Special food? Special songs? Something else? Please email us to help put together our communal celebration.

Passover has many different interpretations. Even if you’re not helping plan, what does Passover mean to you? Do you have special memories about this holiday? If you want to, please bring a poem, a short written thought, a picture or a special song or food to share with the group. Let’s make this celebration communal and intellectually stimulating! Please email us with any questions if you feel the need to run an idea by someone before the Seder.

Beit Sefer Kids at Seder 2013

Planting Parsley in a Leap Year!

parselyThe days are just beginning to lengthen, and though the cold is just settling in, the extra light signals the tree sap that spring will come. And so begins the Jewish cycle of springtime, full moon holidays: Tu b’Shevat, Purim, and Passover.

In addition to the Tu b’shevat Shabbaton on Friday and Saturday January 22/23, Rabbi Strassfeld will help our Beit Sefer students on Sunday January 24 to do some Tu b’shevat planting. Though the holiday is the “New Year of the Trees,” in our cold climate it is a custom to do some indoor planting of parsley in anticipation of Passover. I’ve done this many times and noticed that sometimes the parsley is ready to harvest by Passover, and sometimes not. I consulted with Erica Kempter of Nature and Nuture Seeds about how to better ensure our parsley seeds will grow by Passover (keep them in a warm and lighted place). But the Jewish calendar gives a very strong reason for why some years are better than others for growing indoor parsley for Passover. In each 19 year cycle there are seven leap years during which an extra month is added between the holidays of Tu b’shevat and Passover. Some years there are ~60 days between the holidays, and some years (like this year!) there are ~90 days! A good year for planting parsley on Tu b’shevat to be harvested for the Passover seder plate!

This year, the Beit Sefer students will be planting not only parsley, but arugula and lettuce, too. Here are some instructions if you want to try this at home. This is the year!

Second Seder was a Night of Questions

2nd seder 2015 1Over thirty AARC members, family, and friends gathered in Rav Michal and Jon Sweeney’s living room, adding chairs several times as we evidently fulfilled the tradition of cramming as many bodies into a space as possible. Our second seder focused on the questions and the questioners: questions that are traditionally asked, questions we could ask, and why we ask. After the seder, I asked several people to comment on the meaningful moments for them.

On our name tags we included a self-descriptive word about what kind of child we were or are. Allison Stupka said, “It was so interesting to hear what kind of children people thought they were. I did not know many of the people I was sitting at the table with, and got to know them through interesting conversation.” Our questions led us to think about why we retell the same story year after year of the Israelites’ slavery and flight to freedom. We asked about transformations in how we tell–and how we hear–the story to give it contemporary meaning. Ellen Dannin said, “Our seder found us struggling with issues of slavery and freedom, of how to build and keep a just society, and of why year after year we should tell our children the story of Passover.”

We talked about contemporary situations of both slavery and injustice, the difference and similarities between the physical bondage of Africans in our country’s first 200 years and the low-waged jobs of people who supply so many of the products we use and depend upon. Martha Kransdorf said, “During the seder, I was struck by questions that drew parallels between the enslavement the Israelites experienced, and the experiences of Palestinians today.” One of our seder’s guests was Laurie White’s roommate, Manal, a Palestinian from Nazareth who is here at the University of Michigan on a yearlong Fulbright. “I appreciated the warm welcome Manal received at her first seder ever, despite years of doing Palestinian-Jewish dialogue work in Israel,” Laurie said.

Rav Michel also gave us a lot to chew on when she suggested that often we have thought of contemporary “plagues” as being the ugly aspects of our society such as racism, sexism, etc. But in the Exodus story, the plagues were decrees of God that challenged the power of the Pharoah. In this light, could contemporary “plagues” (that challenge military/industrial/corporate power) be more like unions, renewal energy and self-sufficient communities? An interesting turn! As Danny Steinmetz said of our second night seder, “Got me thinking about the incredible popularity of the seder and that rituals work best that are designed ground up to teach and to provoke curiosity.”

The potluck food was plentiful and scrumptious. And for those who wonder about my recipe for vegetarian stuffed cabbage, keep posted! Thanks to Rav Michal, Jon, and Sima for hosting our large group, and to Ellen Dannin for help in putting together our ritual.

Passover Planning Post

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The first seder of Passover is Friday April 3

As in past years, AARC will help match up members with home seders. If you are having a first night seder and have an empty seat or two that could be filled by AARC member(s), email Clare. If you’d like to be invited to a home seder for the first night, email Clare. I’ll do my best to match everybody up.

AARC Second Night Community Seder

Join us for a musical, thoughtful, interactive and delicious celebration of our story of freedom! The theme for the evening will be “Becoming Slaves, Becoming Free” and include explorations of personal, communal and international experiences and issues.

Our younger guests will have age appropriate fun and an opportunity to create something to share with us as we ponder more adult issues.

The meal will be a coordinated pot-luck to assure we have an appropriate mix of items as well as all the ritual goodies.

Location: TBD based on size of gathering.

Please RSVP by March31st. For more information contact Rav Michal

Mimouna, a farewell to Passover (and Shabbat) Saturday April 11, 6:00-9:30pm

We’ll celebrate the end of Passover with a Sephardic tradition of Mimouna (a hametz-laden Spring feast) and the end of Shabbat with Havdalah. The meal will include pizza for the children and Spring vegetables. Please join us with a dish to share such as fresh bread, beer, and Sephardic inspired dishes. At the home of Carol Lessure, Jon Engelbert, Avi and Deron.