Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ever Been to a Truly Meaningful Seder?

Parenting Through a Jewish Lens Alumni Advisory Group Chair Jessica Boatright reflects on making Passover Seders significant and shares a special family tradition. 

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that we recently had a great event to help alumni and friends of Parenting Through a Jewish Lens prepare for Passover. The afternoon included two short (and inspiring!) classes for parents – one on making the seder meaningful for our kids, led by Rabbi Julie Zupan, and the other on making the seder meaningful for adults, led by Rabbi Natan Margalit.

I have been reflecting on the session with Natan, and what it meant to me as a parent and individual. Natan began our session with a question that really struck me – he asked the group if they had ever been to a seder that was truly meaningful to them, as adults. Less than half the room raised their hands. His assertion, which received a lot of knowing looks, was that as parents we spend a lot of time thinking about how to make holidays and traditions meaningful and fun for our kids, and not very much time thinking about how to make them meaningful for ourselves. Moreover, as we learned as PTJL participants, helping our kids find meaning and connection is dependent not just on how we teach but on how we are – on how our kids perceive our own connection to Judaism. Natan’s Passover class was about nurturing this connection.

Luckily for me, I was able to raise my hand to Natan’s question, as I have been to not just one, but to many seders that have been meaningful to me as an adult. One reason for this is a tradition that we started with my mother’s family of having two very different seders – a traditional seder on the first night of Passover, and a more modern interpretation of a seder on the second night. Each year someone would find a new Hagaddah to use on the second night, usually aligned with a political theme (feminism, the labor movement, etc) or an expression of the seder (the puppet-based “We Tell It To Our Children” is a family favorite). Doing these two seders allowed us to deepen our connection to the holiday – reminding us that the story is both ancient and contemporary, that the seder is to be experienced both collectively and individually, and that Passover reminds us not just of our connections to the Jewish people but of our connections to humanity as well.

As the busy mother of two young children, however, it is easy to fall into the trap of forgetting the grown-ups, and myself, in the seders. While I might decorate the table with plastic figurines of the plagues for the kids to play with, I am hard-pressed to make time to find a new Hagaddah every year. But Natan’s class and my memories have me thinking – perhaps we don’t need a whole new seder to get us thinking. Instead, we can look for moments, maybe even just one, that we can add to help us find new meaning. It doesn’t even need to take much time. Put an orange (or a tomato) on your seder plate for the first time. When you raise each cup of wine, take a moment to tie it to a modern social justice issue. There are plenty of resources online, in print, and elsewhere to get you started in picking something. Below are a few ideas from Natan and me:

Friday, March 15, 2013

Passover Recipes inspired by Matzah Matters

This past Sunday, the Parenting Through a Jewish Lens Alumni Advisory Group put on a fabulous event to help families prepare for Passover. “Matzah Matters” drew 60 people who enjoyed learning, schmoozing, eating and crafting.

The planning group got creative with the menu: everything served corresponded to foods you typically find at a Seder; mini quiches were a nod to the eggs we eat and have on the Seder plate, sliced apples alongside trail mix was meant to mimic charoset, and fresh vegetables with dips were a nod to parsley and salt water. Here we share some recipes to help bring these dishes to your Passover table. Next week watch out for a post with resources engaging adults and children in the Seder that were shared at the event.


Cottage Cheese Mini Quiches
This recipe comes from Alumni Advisory group member Hilda Lief. It is super easy to make so kids can help!

1 lb. cottage cheese, small curds
3/4 cup Bisquick
1/4 cup margarine
1 onion, chopped
3 Tbsp. sour cream (or plain yogurt)
1 Tbsp. sugar
3 eggs

Mix all ingredients. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes in greased mini-muffin tins. Cool in pans 15 or more minutes before removing. Yield: 48

Roasted Potatoes with Lemon, Olives and Dill
Recipe by Associate Director of Adult Learning at Hebrew College, Elisha Gechter – check out her blog for more.

2 lb bag of red bliss potatoes
2 lemons
1 jar of cured pitted black olives
1 Tbsp. of paprika
1/4 cup of chopped fresh dill
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Slice the potatoes in half and scatter on a metal baking sheet. Finely slice the lemons and olives and lay on top of the potatoes. Sprinkle with the paprika and dill and the salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and then bake for 35 minutes until potatoes are golden and crispy.

Alumni Advisory Group member Phoebe Peabody shares her recipe for Matzo Brei as well as links to two new recipes she plans to attempt this year:

Matzo Brei
Adapted from Martha Stewart, a great "french toast" style treat during Passover.

6 matzahs (8 inch squares)
6 eggs
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. sugar (we like it sweet, so decrease to taste)
Salt to taste
2 Tbsp. butter

1. Break each matzah square into about 8 pieces, place in large bowl. Add enough boiling water to cover, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and soak for about 5-8 minutes. Squeeze well with hands to remove excess water.

2. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, beat eggs, cinnamon, sugar and salt. Add softened matzah and mix.

3. Heat butter in 12 inch, oven-safe skillet over medium heat, swirl to coat. Add matzah mixture and press gently. Cook until brown on bottom and butter bubbles and comes up on sides. Place pan in heated oven and finish cooking, 15-18 minutes, or until brown.

4. Serve with syrup, or fruit puree.

Tip: You can cool leftovers and cut into wedges and warm in toaster oven. We make a big batch to be sure we have happy bellies all week!

For more Passover Recipes visit’s collection

Happy Eating!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Yes, Matzah Matters!

There were over 60 people at our "Matzah Matters" event yesterday at Hebrew College for local families and Parenting Through a Jewish Lens alumni.

Check back later this week for Passover resources and recipes!

Kids enjoy creating Passover crafts for the Seder table

More crafting and playing

Parents learn with Rabbi Julie Zupan, discussing how they can make the Seder more engaging for kids
Parents also learned with Rabbi Natan Margalit about involving adults as questioners and participants in the Seder

The food served was inspired by Seder cuisine

Parents peruse resources to help make their Seders come alive