What’s in (and on) a Seder Plate? JMM Staff Share Esther’s Place Favorites

Posted on March 23rd, 2018 by

A blog post by JMM Office Manager and Shop Assistant Jessica Konigsberg. For more posts from Jessica, click HERE.

During Passover, the Seder plate is, for many, the symbolic heart of both the meal and the ritual, carrying five or six items that help tell key parts of the Passover story: karpas (often parsley), charoset (sweet fruit), maror (often horseradish), zeroa (roast lamb shankbone), and beitzah (egg). Some Seder plates also contain a second bitter herb known as chazeret. And some plates may also hold an orange or other contemporary addition that conveys a social justice message and recognizes the contributions of specific members of the community, including gay and lesbian and women members of the Jewish community.

At Esther’s Place, we strive to carry Seder plates in a wide variety of styles and price points, including glass plates, ceramic plates, and even a unique and beautiful “folding” Seder plate.

The Seder plate is often a piece of great beauty, pride, and personal meaning within the home. And in honor of this, a small group of JMM staff picked out their favorite Seder plates on sale at the JMM Gift Shop, Esther’s Place, and shared a few thoughts on why they love their chosen plate and/or how they would incorporate the plate into their own Passover celebrations. Here are their selections and stories.

Tracie Guy-Decker, Deputy Director:

The Futura Seder Plate by Jonathan Adler is not only my favorite one in the Gift Shop, it is also the actual Seder plate used by my family. I first saw the plate in an internet ad, which took me to the website of the Jewish Museum Shop (the New York museum). I fell in love instantly with the plate’s mid-century aesthetic, particularly the central atomic-looking figure—and promptly bought the plate first for myself. Then I figured out how to buy it for Esther’s Place. In fact, this plate is the reason that Esther’s Place carries Jonathan Adler products (which include other beautiful and unusual Judaica and tabletop items). The plate goes with my family’s Sputnik-style dining room light fixture and mid-century-style table, perfectly complementing our dining room—both in terms of style and ritual.

Lindsey Davis, Interim Program Manager:

I love metallic and shine, so when my eye caught the Seder Plate on Pedestal by Israel Giftware Designs I knew I had found my favorite. There’s something harmonious about the mix of silver, gold, and bronze. These metals are typically isolated from one another, and I loved the risk of the designer to put them adjacent to one another and result in something so beautiful. I think the design is reflective of my own Seder table, where there always seems to be an added guest, someone new, a friend stopping by, and an extra chair being pulled up at last minute. Regardless of how fragmented all the pieces may be, they make sense together—similar to this Seder plate.

Jessica Konigsberg, Office Manager & Shop Assistant:

My favorite Seder plate is our Porcelain Tree of Life Seder Plate because it is most reminiscent of the Seder plates that my husband and I have used during each Passover we’ve shared together. To clarify, until recently, my husband and I had never owned a real Seder plate. Each year, my creative, resourceful husband makes us a disposable Seder plate using a white paper plate and colorful print-outs from the internet—one for each of the six items to be displayed on the plate. The Tree of Life Seder Plate reminds me of the bright, friendly illustrations that have come to characterize our humble Seder plates. I also love the Tree of Life imagery and symbolism generally; in particular, the idea of trees representing humanity and human aspiration resonates with me and seems to fit well with the meaning of Passover.

Tracey Dorfmann, Director of Development:

This Seder plate appeals to me because the spring motif was executed through beautiful craftsmanship. I love the combination of metalsmithing styles and patinas.

Marvin Pinkert, Executive Director:

I chose the KidKraft Passover Set. I particularly liked the two-piece afikomen. At my Seder, I’ll be saying “Next year in Jerusalem” and then out of hearing range of my son and daughter, “…maybe, the year after that a grandchild to share this afikomen with?”

The Passover holiday, which remembers the story of the Jewish people’s salvation from slavery in Egypt, is one of liberation, and the Seder is often, fittingly, a reflection of personal expression. We hope you’ll stop by Esther’s Place to experience some of this beauty and self-expression through our many beautiful and distinctive Seder plates and other table accompaniments, including Elijah’s Cups and Miriam’s Cups (the latter is a Seder addition honoring women), salt water dishes, horseradish dishes and more. How does your Passover table tell the story of the holiday and of your household and loved ones? We would love to hear.

And as you prepare for the upcoming holiday, don’t forget to check out our online collection database to enjoy the many special Seder plates in our Museum collection. Click here to explore the collection. If you stop in to the JMM library in the next couple of weeks, you can get a closer look at one of those Seder plates!

This olive wood Seder plate was brought to Baltimore from Palestine in 1909 by Sophie Szold. Gift of Jastrow Levin, JMM 1988.141.1

 

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Processions, Debates and Curbstone Encounters: The Struggle over Kosher Meat in Baltimore, 1897 – 1918 Pt. 6

Posted on March 22nd, 2017 by

Article by Avi Y. Decter. Originally published in Generations 2011 – 2012: Jewish Foodways

The boycott of 1910 was one dramatic episode in a twenty-year struggle over kosher meat that engaged meat wholesalers, retail butchers, shochets (ritual slaughterers), the Orthodox rabbinate, and thousands of ordinary Jews, especially in East Baltimore. In the first decades of the twentieth century, conflict over kosher meat was a familiar topic. Today, that contestation is little remembered and poorly documented. However, sufficient evidence survives to give us access to the trajectory and meaning of the protracted struggle over kosher meat. Here is that story.

Part VI: The “Kosher Meat War” of 1910

Missed parts 1 – 6? Start here.

"Women Raid Markets: Outbreak Follows Kosher Meat Boycott in Cincinnati." CINCINNATI, May 16 - Following a kosher meat boycott here angry women invaded markets to-day, threw kerosene upon the stock, and in several instances attached other women who had bought meat from the interdicted shops. Two arrests were made. An advance in the price of josher meat from 12 to 15 cents a pound caused the boycott. New York Times, May 17, 1910.

“Women Raid Markets: Outbreak Follows Kosher Meat Boycott in Cincinnati.” New York Times, May 17, 1910.

The kosher meat boycott of 1910 was initiated, organized, and maintained by Jewish housewives living in East Baltimore. The women leading the strike against kosher meat promoted the eating of fish as a substitute – but their activity went much farther. As shoppers emerged from butcher shops in the Jewish neighborhood, coal oil and gasoline were poured over their purchases. Parcels of meat were seized and thrown in the gutter. Intimidating threats were voiced, pushing and shoving thook place, and arrests ensued.[1] The boycott appears to have been effective: the Baltimore News reported on March 31 that, “For two weeks, the people of the Hebrew colony east of the Jones Falls have been  living on eggs, fish and vegetables.”[2] Th further pressure the local wholesale butchers, the boycotters opened three cooperative stores which sold kosher meat shipped in from Chicago.

Meanwhile, the retail butchers and storekeepers seized the opportunity to retaliate against the wholesale butchers. At a meeting on March 24, the retailers determined to boycott their local wholesalers; those retailers who were importing kosher meat from Western suppliers (in defiance of the Orthodox rabbis) “promised to assist in the work by abstaining from purchasing or selling any meat” for two days.[3] A few retailers stayed open, selling locally slaughtered meat at the old, higher prices, but they did little business.[4]

On April 4, a mass meeting that drew 3,000 people was held at the Monumental Theatre. The boycotters resolved unanimously “to keep up the fight to the bitter end: against “the Kosher Meat Trust of this city.” By patronizing only the three cooperative shops that were selling Chicago meat, the boycotters hoped to force down the price of meat.[5] The early arrival of Passover that year underlined the potential for losses among those in the kosher meat industry.

Continue to Part VII: A Continuing Struggle

Notes:

[1] “Coal Oil is Weapon in Anti-Kosher War,” Baltimore News, 23 March 1910. “Boycotters Use Gasoline,” Baltimore American, 23 March 1910. “Boycotter Comes to Grief,” Baltimore Sun, 24 March 1910, p. 7. “Another Arrest in Kosher Meat War,” Baltimore News, 24 March 1910.

[2] “Kosher Meat Sold With Police Guard,” Baltimore News,  31 March 1910.

[3] “Boycott On Kosher Meat,” Baltimore Sun, 25 March 1910, p. 5. “Kosher Meat Boycotters Quiet,” Baltimore Sun, 26 March, 1910, p. 9.

[4] “Boycott Fails To Reduce Beef Price,” Baltimore News, 4 April 1910.

[5] “Meat Boycotters Around,” Baltimore Sun, 4 April 1910, p. 14.

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Processions, Debates and Curbstone Encounters: The Struggle over Kosher Meat in Baltimore, 1897 – 1918 Pt. 3

Posted on March 13th, 2017 by

Article by Avi Y. Decter. Originally published in Generations 2011 – 2012: Jewish Foodways

The boycott of 1910 was one dramatic episode in a twenty-year struggle over kosher meat that engaged meat wholesalers, retail butchers, shochets (ritual slaughterers), the Orthodox rabbinate, and thousands of ordinary Jews, especially in East Baltimore. In the first decades of the twentieth century, conflict over kosher meat was a familiar topic. Today, that contestation is little remembered and poorly documented. However, sufficient evidence survives to give us access to the trajectory and meaning of the protracted struggle over kosher meat. Here is that story.

Part III: The Butchers Go on Strike

Missed parts 1-2? Start here.

 Nathan London in the doorway of his kosher butcher shop on Lombard Street, early 20th century. JMM 2001.90.1

Nathan London in the doorway of his kosher butcher shop on Lombard Street, early 20th century. JMM 2001.90.1

For a decade, contestation over shechita appears to have abated in Baltimore. But in March 1907 the Baltimore Sun reported a conflict between the large meat wholesalers and the kosher meat retailers they supplied. The retailers claimed that the wholesalers were charging excessive prices for kosher meat and refused to purchase their locally slaughtered kosher beef. After a few days, the retail butchers went a step further, agreeing to buy all their kosher meat exclusively from two small slaughterers who offered more favorable prices. A week later, the Sun reported the dispute was still in progress.[1]

Among those affected, of course, were the consumers, who, the Sun reported, were “much wrought up over the situation.” In fact, the butchers’ strike bore most heavily on the poorer members of the community, who “are the most Orthodox [and who] have not been able to get their customary rations of this important article of food.” With Passover drawing near, the butchers relented, agreeing “to provide meat the old price until after the Passover. Then the strike will begin again.”[2]

Although the temporary cessation of the butchers’ strike was cited by the Sun as “an inspiring example of race co-operation,” the Orthodox congregations soon felt it necessary to again take decisive steps to regulate the making and sale of kosher meat in Baltimore. In July 1908, twenty-eight Orthodox congregations in East Baltimore organized the Federation of Orthodox Jewish Congregations to “advance every interest affecting Orthodox Jews.” One of the purposes cited was to protect consumers from unscrupulous dealers who falsified seals of kashrut, thus casting doubt on the ritual purity of all meat sold as kosher.[3]

The kosher butchers’ strike and its immediate aftermath point to a complex collision of interests. The wholesalers were trying to raise the price of kosher meat; shochets were seeking higher pay; consumers were balking at paying higher prices; the rabbinate was asserting its authority over shechita; and kosher butchers at the retail level were caught in the cross-currents.

Continue to Part IV: Another Controversy over Kosher Meat

Notes:

[1] “Kosher Butchers Accept,” Baltimore Sun, 23 March 1907, p. 11. “Ghetto Sees a Truce in Kosher Butcher’s Strike,” Baltimore Sun, 31 March 1907, p. 12.

[2] “Ghetto Sees a Truce in Kosher Butcher’s Strike.”

[3] “For Pure Kosher Meat,” Baltimore Sun, 25 July 1908, p.6.

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