The Rosh HaShanah Seder

Posted on September 12th, 2012 by

By Rabbi Barbara Aiello 

After the Chosen Food exhibition opened almost a year ago, my research on Jewish food slowed considerably, but it did not come to a complete halt. I’m forever hearing about something that is new to me, or seizing on bits of history and culture that I put aside for further investigation. The Sephardic/Mizrachi custom of the Rosh HaShanah seder was included in our exhibition, thanks to Poopa Dweck’s generosity in sharing a photograph from her beautiful cookbook, Aromas of Aleppo (Harper Collins, 2007), but we didn’t explore it in depth. So I reached out to Rabbi Barbara Aiello, a woman on the forefront of popularizing this lovely custom in America, to write about her experiences for us.

Rabbi Barbara, as she likes to be addressed, is the first woman rabbi and first non-orthodox rabbi in Italy. She serves Sinagoga Ner Tamid del Sud, the first active synagogue in Calabria since Inquisition times. During the winter months she serves the Kobernick senior living campus in Sarasota, Florida where she is resident rabbi. Contact her at www.rabbibarbara.com.

For more information about how to celebrate a Rosh HaShanah seder, complete with a “mini haggadah,” go to Rabbi Barbara’s 2010 post on Interfaith Family at http:///www.interfaithfamily.com/holidays/rosh_hashanah_and_yom_kippur/The_Rosh_Hashanah_Seder_Who_Knew.shtml

 Shana tova umetukah!

Karen

Rabbi Barbara Aiello

All of us know the most popular seder of all – the Passover Seder. “Seder” is a Hebrew word that means “order,” and the Passover seder includes an order of prayers and blessings, symbolic foods and songs, and of course, a special seder plate, to help tell the story of the our Jewish ancestors’ flight from slavery in Egypt to freedom.

The less well-known Rosh HaShanah seder is a Sephardic custom.  In Jewish homes in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Greece, North African countries like Morocco and Egypt, and India, it is traditional for families to hold a seder on the night before Rosh HaShanah.

The Rosh HaShanah seder is similar to the Passover seder in many ways.  It includes stories, prayers, blessings, songs and symbolic foods. In recent years seder plates designed especially for the symbolic Rosh HaShanah seder foods have become available so that families can create a specific “order” to celebrate the birthday of the world.

The Rosh HaShanah seder  is called “Seder Yehi Ratzon,” the Seder of God’s will, because we offer blessings that it will be God’s will that we are blessed with bounty, strength, and peace in the coming year. The seder has its origins in the Talmud (Horayot 12a) where Rabbi Abaye writes about eating those foods that grow in abundance at this time of the year. We serve this abundance at our Rosh HaShanah seder table as a symbol of prosperity.

As a Sephardic Jew and rabbi who serves a congregation in Calabria, Italy, for part of the year, I brought the Rosh HaShanah seder to my congregants who live at the Kobernick senior community in Sarasota, Florida.  I’ve offered the seder tasting for three years to participants who range in age from 70 to over 100 years old, and members of the community who volunteer on our campus. We create small seder plates so that each individual can sample the symbolic foods. A larger plate contains a taste of the symbolic foods such as dates or pomegranates, figs, apples and honey, carrots, pumpkin or squash, beets, scallions or leeks and tuna fish. The table centerpiece features a large fish head, reminiscent of the ancient seder tradition where a large steamed fish was offered as the main course.

The Rosh HaShanah seder is quickly becoming an important event in the celebration of the Jewish New Year, mainly because it offers a joyful simcha during a solemn time of the year. Sometimes the birthday of the world is secondary to Rosh HaShanah’s more  somber message of teshuvah (return). The Rosh HaShanah seder offers a moment of joy prior to the services that contain a more serious theme.

The cultural element to the seder experience gives American Jews, the majority of whom have roots in the Ashkenazi tradition, a chance to experience a simcha that originates from Sephardic or Middle Eastern culture. Because we Sephardic Jews are a minority within a minority, our unique culture is often obscure or misunderstood. The seder gives Jews of all backgrounds a glimpse into the beauty of the Mediterranean Jewish culture, broadening the “meshpucha” feeling for all of us.

Finally those who participate in the Rosh HaShanah seder have the opportunity to add another family-based observance to the New Year experience. We Jews enjoy gathering around the family table. The Rosh HaShanah seder is another way to bring the family together, not only to tickle the palate, but to share in gratitude for another year of love and life.

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Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippour and….Kreplach?

Posted on August 28th, 2012 by

A blog post by Gift Shop Manager Esther Weiner.

Did I say kreplach? In the same breath as the High Holidays? Yes, I did…and since you asked, I’ll tell you why. Since I was a child my mother, Pearl Printz, served her delicious golden chicken soup every Friday night, always with her home-made noodles. Of course for the high holidays, kreplach floated in the soup, hiding between the noodles. It was kind of a tradition that kreplach and Rosh Hashanah were a team. When I got married and moved to Baltimore, my mother-in-law, Fannie Weiner, made kreplach, they too were delicious, and I was hooked on learning how to put them together.

Well, after trial and error I came up with my own recipe and now my family will not sit down to the table unless they know that kreplach will come with the chicken soup! So my friends who follow blogs, I am stuck…but, I must admit, happily so.  Even though it’s a big job, I love making kreplach. I make what seems like tons of them so that they last through the holidays, the extras hidden in my freezer, to surface on Shabbat dinners with friends and family (…”what, kreplach?”) and the bounty continues to be enjoyed through the year, as long as they last.

Definition of kreplach:  Small dough squares, filled with a mixture of seasoned cooked meat, served with a soup, usually chicken soup, although they have been known to float in vegetable soup as well.

eta:

KREPLACH

(dough squares filled with meat), makes approximately 150 pieces

 DOUGH

Use a food processor, it’s easier. Into the processor bowl put:

3 cups regular flour

3 eggs

1 tsp salt

Scant ¼ cup warm water

PROCESS all of the above until dough forms a ball. If necessary add a bit more water to the machine as it processes. Stopping the motor to push down the dough.

REMOVE the dough, knead on a board or clean countertop until smooth. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

 

FILLING

Any combination of cooked chicken and beef, or chicken and veal or beef and veal. Meat can be cooked in a soup, removing the cooked meat when cool and cut into small pieces. There should be about 1 ½ lbs of cooked meat. Saute a large onion (or 2 medium size onions) in oil together with minced 4-5 pieces garlic until golden. Grind the meat together with the onions (they should be ground twice otherwise the meat could be chunky). To the ground meat mixture add 2 or 3 eggs (depending on your amount of meat), about 3 tblsp fine bread crumbs, salt and pepper to taste.

 

ROLL OUT DOUGH

Cut off a small piece of dough, roll out as fine as possible, dough should be quite thin. Cut into strips then into 2” squares, fill with a half tsp. of meat mixture, fold to form a triangle, close the ends by pressing them tight. Drop the filled triangles into a pot of simmering lightly salted water, cook for 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and put into a bowl, lightly sprinkle with oil. Continue until all the meat is used.

NOTE:  kreplach will freeze well in strong plastic bags.

 

 

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SuperKids 2012!

Posted on July 25th, 2012 by

A blog post by Education Intern Ariella Esterson.

Every Tuesday at 12:30 p.m., the doors to the Jewish Museum of Maryland burst open and in run the smiling faces of the SuperKids. SuperKids is a six-week summer reading enrichment program for boys and girls in grades 2nd,3rd, and 4th. The idea of SuperKids is to combine traditional summer camp activities with enriching learning experiences that helps to prepare students to return to school in the fall. They partner with many of Baltimore’s best-known cultural and historical organizations to ensure children receive a fun and educational summer. They integrate reading and writing into all aspect of camp so while the campers are having fun, they are also working to improve their literacy skills.

When the SuperKids arrive, they immediately can’t wait to get started with the day’s activities. The kids are split into 3 groups; one group to Lloyd Street Synagogue, one to Chosen Food and one to Voices on Lombard Street. One of the docents, Lois Fekete, is in charge of the Synagogue portion and teaches the SuperKids an intro to Judaism lesson and teaches them the Hebrew Alphabet. The group in Voices of Lombard Street set out on a scavenger hunt to learn about how immigrants lived when they arrived to Baltimore. They get to play and interact with the different objects inside the exhibit, such as the kitchen set and sowing machines.

So far, all of the SuperKids have loved these interactive sections and we’ve even had trouble having the kids leave the museum! Sample questions in the scavenger hunt include “Behind you is a bathtub. Read the text panel above it. Draw a picture of what was inside,” and “Find the photograph of people on a boat. These are immigrants coming to Baltimore. What is an immigrant?” Questions such as these ensure that the SuperKids read and write, which helps to prepare them for returning to school.

The third exhibit, Chosen Food, is the last stop for the SuperKids. In here, there are three different stations. The first station is a Hechser Hunt. A Hechser is a symbol placed on foods to show that these foods are considered Kosher. These symbols include the Star-K and the OU. The concept of kosher is introduced to the kids and then food packages and a chart of the different symbols are handed out and the kids need to locate the symbol on the boxes. They get really excited and love calling out when they find one with the name of the Hechsher they found.

Now that the kids know about Jewish foods, at the next station they learn about Jewish holidays and different Jewish foods eaten on those holidays. The kids are asked what their favorite holiday is, Jewish or Secular, and what’s their favorite food to eat on that holiday. We’ve gotten responses such as turkey on Thanksgiving and candy on Halloween. We then discuss different Jewish holidays and the food eaten on those, such as Matzah on Passover and Latkes on Hanukah. We then hand out a paper with a picture of a plate and have the kids draw their favorite holiday meal. We’ve gotten many delicious designs which have made us all very hungry.

The third and final station within Chosen Food is having all the kids sit down and reading them a book titled, “Matzo Ball Soup,” written by Jennifer Littman. (http:///www.amazon.com/Matzo-Ball-Soup-Bobbed-Brewed/dp/0965643107) The book tells the story of a grandmother preparing matzo ball soup for her family to eat on the Sabbath.

It ties together the entire Chosen Food exhibit for it talks about a Jewish holiday with a specific Jewish food that is eaten. Through the entire Chosen Food exhibit, the SuperKids  read, write, and draw which is very important to aid their development as they prepare to return to school.

SuperKids is a great program that combines learning with fun. It’s so nice to see their smiling faces every week and their excitement about the museum and I can’t wait until next time!

For more information on SuperKids check out http:///www.parksandpeople.org/learn/summer-programs/superkids-camp/

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