JMM Insights: Passover in a Time of Quarantine

“How is this night different than all other nights?” How indeed…

I know that some readers of this newsletter have already lost friends or relatives to this terrible virus.  To you I want to extend our deepest condolences. To those currently struggling with the illness, I want to wish you strength and speedy recovery.  And to those who risk their lives as first responders – for you the whole community is grateful.

For the rest of us, deprived of the company of our extended families in what is a joyous festival season in the Jewish calendar, my wishes are continued health, patience, and most importantly resilience.  It is the custom to read and sing “Dayenu” (“would have been enough for us”) at this time of year.  “If G-d had parted the Red Sea, but not… Dayenu.”

The preferred response of our ancestors through more than 5000 years of crises large and small has been to be grateful for what we have rather than kvetch about what we don’t.  Or in the old lyrics of Sheldon Harnick, “G-d would like us to be joyful even when our hearts lie panting on the floor, how much more should we be joyful when there’s really something to be joyful for.”

It is in that spirit that we offer this Passover edition of JMM Insights. I am grateful for the Internet which allows us to share with your families so much of the content of JMM and allows you to freely share it with others. For this Passover that will have to be enough.  Dayenu.



The Passover Project: Preparing Passover meals for servicemen during World War II. Images from the JMM Collections, JMM 1993.159 and JMM 1985.90.

Thinking about Eli Bass’s post on The Associated’s blog, A Passover Like No Other, it occurred to us that, while this year will be different,  that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun and meaningful. In that light, we wanted to share with everyone some Passover-themed activities, collections, and stories that will help you celebrate Passover not just differently, but more awesomely (that is, indeed, a real word!).

First up: Marvin has taken the time to create a virtual afikomen search – along with an explanation about how to make your own! If you solve his challenge, there’s a special prize awaiting you.
Next, Joanna Church, JMM Director of Collections and Exhibits, shares some Passover highlights from our collection – you’ll even discover what the phrase “Passover Mobe” means!
The JMM Programs team has put together a whole passel of Passover projects to do with the family with a focus on “going green” this holiday.
And JMM Director of Education Ilene Dackman-Alon has selected some great Passover stories to watch and read!

Plus, we’ve also rounded up some great resources for hosting virtual Passover Seders that you might find handy:

18Doors, which focuses on people in interfaith relationships, offers a variety of resources and links here.

The online publication Alma, for “ladies (and everyone) with chutzpah,” shares this guide to hosting a virtual Seder.

The Union for Reform Judaism shares their suggestions for making your virtual Seder “lively, engaging, and meaningful” here.

The Schmooze podcast, produced by the Yiddish Book Center, looks at the tradition of The Third Seder and a unique online event happening on April 12.

From the collections: Pre-school Seder, April 1976. JCC Collection, JMM 2006.13.2663. Passover youth Seder, April 1973. JMM 1996.63.50. Model Seder for New Americans, April 3, 1990. BHU Archives Collection, JMM 2009.40.3896.

How are you participating in Seder this year? Let us know!

Celebrating in Space!

During the holidays, every family has their own traditions. Holidays are a time for people to come together. Sometimes you aren’t able to be with your family and friends in person. Astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) are far away from their homes. During their time in space, they might miss holidays taking place on earth.

Learn about how astronauts celebrate holidays on the international space station and invent your own space-themed holiday!


This week on the JMM blog we’ve got a ton of Passover content for you, some linked above and others you may not have seen yet!

Check out Cooking at ChezAlon – which includes a truly delicious looking family recipe and Pesach Part 2: The Wicked Son, a follow up Passover post from Marvin!

And be sure to stop in tomorrow for a special guest post on The Szyk Haggadh from Dr. Lynley Herbert of The Walters Art Museum!


Whether your spring cleaning or spring sprucing, Esther’s Place has the perfect adornments for everything from your head to your home!

A JMM kippah is a great look (we’ve also got baseball caps, if that’s more your style) – or how about a fabulous new necklace? The sterling silver Star of David pictured above features a golden Chai and is available through our online shop for $54 – but there are plenty more shiny treats to bedeck yourself or a loved one! A new hamsa or mezuzzah also never goes amiss when freshening up your space.

Don’t see something you’re interested in at the online shop? Contact Shop Manager Chris Sniezek at and let us know.


Together We Remember

History of the Atrocity Prevention Movement
Wednesday, April 8, 2020
at 12:00pm

In this interactive session, David Estrin will share the origin story of the movement to end genocide and mass atrocities around the world, where the movement stands today, and how you can play a meaningful role in where it goes next.

Goodnight with Dolly

Llama Llama Red Pajama
Thursday, April 16, 2020
at 7:00pm

Everyone’s favorite Book Lady is bringing children and families everywhere just what they need during a time of unrest. Join Dolly Parton as she reads this classic kids’ favorite by Anna Dowdney.

Jewish Film Festivals

The Gefilte Film

Each year, the Hermelin family of Detroit come together to celebrate Passover (pesach)—honoring the liberation of the Jews from slavery in ancient Egypt—by eating Gefilte fish. While simple on the surface, Gefilte is stuffed with history and meaning (just like the recipe itself).


This week’s #WhatWereReading comes from Museum Educator Marisa Shultz, and two of our Trustees, Larry Caplan and Duke Zimmerman!

Marisa reports she is in the middle of Noam Sienna’s ground-breaking book, A Rainbow Thread: An Anthology of Queer Jewish Texts from the First Century to 1969. This primary source-based primer is extremely well contextualized and contains translated writings spanning two millennia and “from almost every corner of the Jewish world.” Engaging, revelatory, and relevant, Sienna undoubtedly succeeds in his goal to “encourage [the reader] to take a second look at what they assumed they knew about how Jews thought and talked about sexuality and gender” throughout history.

Up next for Marisa? Either Here All Along by former head speechwriter for Michelle Obama, Sarah Hurwitz, or  Hasidism: A New History, which was featured on Dr. Jason Lustig’s Jewish History Matters podcast (though she didn’t quite realize it is almost 900 pages long…).

From Larry: I recently read The Disappearance of Emile Zola by Michael Rosen.

The brave and outspoken Zola, a prominent French writer, brought the world’s attention to the blatantly anti-Semitic treason prosecution against Captain Alfred Dreyfus in the late 19th century. French opinion also turned against Zola, and he was charged with criminal libel and facing jail time. On the eve of his verdict, he snuck out of France and hid in England for a couple of years. This is the story of his exile in England and how he managed to hang on. Among other challenges, he adeptly balanced visits from his wife and mistress. After all, he was French.

From Duke: In March I finished reading Red Notice by author Bill Browder, then late in March I read The Wright Brothers by author David McCullough. I am now reading Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by author Erik Larson.

What are you reading this week? Let us know here or on Twitter or Facebook!


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