Happy Earth Day!

Posted on May 2nd, 2012 by

A blog post by Program Manager Rachel Cylus.

It all started a few months ago with a lively conversation in the West Wing about Peeps Dioramas.  If you haven’t heard of Peeps Dioramas (where have you been??), they are a national edible art competition each spring celebrating the popular Easter candy, Peeps.

“If only there were a Passover equivalent!” we exclaimed.

That is how the idea of “Ginger ‘Bread of Affliction’ Houses” was born.  Matzah – also referred to in many Haggadahs as the bread of affliction, is a pretty great building material, although it can be pretty crumbly and delicate, hence “ginger”.  Eventually we would like to have an edible art contest based around matzah, but for this year we decided to stick to Matzah House building.

With a little tweaking and some input from our colleague, Kim Jacobsohn at the DBJCC, the Earth Day Counts program began to take shape.  Just after Passover and right in the middle of the Counting of the Omer, Earth Day is the perfect time of the year to talk about Feeding the World from a Jewish Food perspective.

During Passover we spend a lot of time giving extra consideration for the foods that we eat.  Does it rise?  Does it have cornstarch?  Is it made with soybean oil?  Considering that Kashrut has a lot of rules and regulations to begin with, on Passover the rules multiply ten fold, it seems.  And with it, we find ourselves selling off chametz – leavened products, and buying new… well, everything.

But what about after Passover is over?  What happens to all the food we just can’t stand looking at one more day?  Why not turn it into edible art and celebrate how food ends up on our tables in the first place.

For this program we had seven family friendly activities.  First and foremost, of course, Building Matzah Houses out of leftover matzah and Passover candy.  The kids were pretty creative, even if many of the houses had to remain 2-dimensional objects of wonder.  We used cake icing to stick everything together, and the weird and wacky candies of Passover made for great decoration.  By making them edible, we even got a few participants who were ready to snack on some matzah again.

We also celebrated the foods we can eat, in the form of a Seven Ancient Species Taste Test.  Participants were invited to try the seven foods of the bible which were used in sacrifice at the ancientTemple.  We tried dates, figs, olives, grapes, pomegranates, wheat and barley in multiple forms and guests were invited to fill out surveys and tell us what they thought of these special foods.

Then we used two of the seven species (wheat and grapes) to make sandwiches for the needy.  With help from our friends at the Jewish Volunteer Connection, we donated pb&j sandwiches that we made together to Our Daily Bread and the Helping Up Mission.

Since wheat and barley are key elements in the Counting of the Omer, we decorated calendars to keep track of the days between Passover and Shavuot, when the Israelites would bring offerings to the temple.

All in all it was a great day, with around eighty people showing up to take part in the festivities.  The next Family Fun Day at the Jewish Museum of Maryland is July 1st when the Sol Food Bus will be arriving to teach us about Urban farming.  See you then!

*All photos by Will Kirk.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland