Rabbi Avi Katz Orlow is the Director of Jewish Education at the Foundation for Jewish Camp.
I am excited. Tonight we will begin celebrating Chag Ha Aviv – Passover, our spring holiday – also named Chag HaMatzot the holiday of unleavened bread. But why do we eat unleavened bread – matzah – on Passover? We read in the Haggadah:
Because the dough of our fathers did not have time to become leavened before the King of the kings, the Holy One, blessed be God, revealed God’s self to them and redeemed them. Thus it is said: “They baked Matzah-cakes from the dough that they had brought out of Egypt, because it was not leavened; for they had been driven out of Egypt and could not delay, and they had also not prepared any [other] provisions.” (DIY Haggadah)
So yes, as the Haggadah says, when the time came for the Jews to finally leave, they did not delay. Yet, the final plague was not the first time they heard of their pending exodus. Moses came and told the slaves long in advance that they would be leaving. While they did not have Ziplocs and Tupperware to pack provisions for the trip, I still think they could have done a better job preparing for this arduous journey. They weathered the elements so well before that you’d assume they would have prepared some bagels for the trip. Now wouldn’t a holiday where we just needed to eat a lot of bagels be a great one? So,why matzah?
It is understandable that the slaves would be reticent to leave the only world they knew, could it be that was not the only reason that they were not well prepared for their trip? We all run late, waiting until the last-minute to get things done. Even when we are told that something is going to happen, or that we have an assignment, we can be surprised and unprepared when it comes to pass or be due. While completely natural and common place, this procrastination comes from an interesting lapse of faith. Maybe Pharaoh was not alone in doubting the God of the Israelites. While we call matzah “the bread of affliction,” it appears that the affliction itself is procrastination.
So we have Chag HaMatzot a holiday that you cannot do last-minute. We actually start to prepare for Passover a month in advance. As we eat this “bread of procrastination” it is a time to reflect on our faith. When I am running late or procrastinating, I assume that other people will understand because I am doing God’s work, but God forbid someone wastes my time… We all have ways we can grow; matzah is there to flatten us out and remind us that this growth might not fit neatly into our schedule. Which is why I am excited, because after spring comes summer and with summer comes … camp a time for growth for so many of our children!
Rachel Saks has an M.S. in Education and is a Registered Dietitian. She developed and ran Healthy Living, a Camp Ramah program that combines nutrition education, mindful eating, cooking instruction and physical activity. Rachel is also the co-author of “Jewish American Food Culture.”
Even though the Purim costumes have barely been packed away and there are still one or two lonely poppy seed hamentaschen sitting on your counter, it’s time to think about Passover. Will you be having guests for seder or going to celebrate with friends and family? Who will be invited? What kind of haroset will you make this year? What kind of medication will you stock in the medicine cabinet for the inevitable mid-week tummy troubles? All of these are important questions to answer, but it’s also important to stop for a moment to think about another, slightly bigger question: How will you engage your children in preparations for the holiday this year in a way that will bring your whole family a deeper, more spiritual understanding of Passover?
Sure, you can ask your children to help clean the house of chametz, but doing so won’t give them a context for understanding the holiday, primarily because it involves simply doing something rather than immersion in an experience. Jewish camps excel at experiential learning by creating a context for activities rather than going through the actions by rote. Camps deeply engage campers with Judaism at a young age, leading them to develop a desire for connectivity to the Jewish community and to the formation of a strong Jewish identity.
One of the greatest and most exciting ways for kids to experience Judaism and Passover is in the kitchen. With their hands in kugel and their minds on the laws of kashrut for Passover, kids have the opportunity to learn through doing on this holiday. Teach them about what it means to be kosher-for-Passover and engage them in helping to prepare your kitchen for the holiday. Work with your children to find interesting recipes and to plan, shop, and cook with them. Notice the pride they exhibit when mastering a task in the kitchen (just like the pride they had last summer when they perfected their 3-point shot or got up on water skis!) and revel in the fact that they are experiencing and understanding Passover on a whole new level.
Here are some tips to involve your children in the kitchen on Passover and the rest of the year, as well as a fun recipe to try together. Planning, shopping and cooking can teach you and your family how to effectively connect to each other, to Judaism and to God on a deeper and more meaningful level. Here’s how:
1. Plan it up!
Cooking with kids works better if they are involved in the planning and if they are given a specific job to do under light supervision.
2. Chop it up
Kids 3 years old and up can cut, as long as you give them a safe knife. Give them a plastic disposable knife, plastic knives from a kids set, or a butter or dinner knife with a dulled edge. Give them things that are easy to cut, like herbs, peeled fruit, zucchini, tomatoes and cucumbers.
3. Mix it up!
Kids love stirring and mixing things, but that doesn’t have to be limited to baking! Have them help toss a salad, mix sauce into quinoa, or even mix spices together for an herb rub.
4. Mess it up!
Cooking with kids will be messy, but that’s okay! Food will be spilled and clothes like likely get stained- so gets some aprons and let the fun begin!
5. Chat it up!
Try to use your time in the kitchen together to talk about food traditions, the spirituality of food, where food comes from, good nutrition and more. The opportunity for these precious family moments should not be missed!
Kosher for Passover Zucchini Potato Kugel Muffins
5 medium baking potatoes
2 small zucchini
2 medium carrots, peeled
1 large yellow onion
5 cloves garlic
1 large spring fresh rosemary
4 whole eggs
4 egg whites
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup matzah cake meal
3 tablespoons potato starch
2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Using the shredding blade of a food processor, shred the potatoes (with the skin), zucchini, carrots, onions and rosemary leaves.
- Place all of the vegetables in a large bowl and squeeze out the excess liquid (don’t worry about getting all of it out- there will always be more!)
- In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and then stir in the remaining ingredients.
- Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables and mix well.
- Spray muffin tins with cooking spray and heap the vegetables into the tins. Pat down firmly.
- Bake for 30 minutes, or until the kugel seems to be firm and set and the top is browned and crispy.
- Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes before serving, or allow to cool and refrigerate up to 5 days (or freeze up to 3 months!)
Have a happy, delicious and meaningful Passover!
Lauri Exley lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband, four-year-old daughter and 18-month-old son.
Charoset, fried matzo, wine, matzo meal bagels, matzo pizza, marshmallows and family. All of these things, and more, are why Passover is and has always been my favorite holiday. Sure, people moan and groan about the dry, tasteless food, but I love it! My favorite memories are of my mother and me using matzo meal to make virtually everything and I have always enjoyed finding new ways to use it (even if bagels and donuts end up having the same taste). In recent years, it has become much easier to keep Kosher for Passover, with more variety and flavor in the food, but I am always searching for something new.
My mother-in-law loves to cook and bake. She has a treasure trove of recipes; each one tops the next. I discovered a recipe she had for something called “Saltine Chocolate Pieces” and after we made them together, and of course ate them, I knew this was a recipe I had to have. The end result is something similar to toffee brittle using saltine crackers. Having spent so many years suffering through store-bought Passover treats, I immediately thought about how great this would taste if I replaced the saltines with matzo.
Chocolate-covered matzo is one of the first items to fly off grocery shelves during the Passover season. So, using my mother-in-law’s recipe, I decided to make a variation of my own. (Upon writing this blog entry, I have discovered that other people have discovered this wonderful creation as well, so I cannot claim it as my own original idea).
Sure, I will continue to make matzo meal bagels and fried matzo every year (can’t forget the classics), but it’s nice to be able to add new, tastier foods to the mix – creating new memories and traditions with my kids.
Matzo Chocolate Pieces (aka Matzo Crunch)
- 4-6 unsalted matzo
- 1 c brown sugar
- 1 c butter
- 12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 3/4 c chopped nuts
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a 10×15-inch cookie sheet with foil; place a sheet of parchment paper on top of the foil (very important).
- Cover the cookie sheet with a layer of matzo.
- Boil sugar and butter in saucepan for 4 minutes.
- Pour mixture over matzo and spread evenly.
- Bake at 400°F for 5 minutes.
- Remove from oven.
- Sprinkle with chocolate chips.
- Let set and cool for 1 minute, then spread the melted chips over the matzo with a spatula.
- Sprinkle the chopped nuts on top, then press down lightly.
- Cool until firm and cut into diagonal pieces. Pieces can be frozen.
Yields approximately 30 pieces.
Looking for a camp-y Passover dessert to serve alongside this delicious treat? Try these yummy Matzo S’mores from ingredientsinc.com!
Want fun crafts to teach your kids about this meaningful and complex holiday? How about activities to get them excited and involved in your family’s seder? Or games that get them asking questions? Download Camp Passover, a camp-themed Passover activity book for kids, here: http://www.jewishcamp.org/camp-passover
Rabbi Avi Katz Orlow is the Director of Jewish Education at the Foundation for Jewish Camp.
Our oldest child has reached the age where he is eligible to go to overnight camp for the first time, and we have been giving a lot of thought as to when would be the right time for a child to leave home. We know firsthand that camp is an amazing utopia where 24/7 joyous Judaism is the expectation, but it is normal to think about when the right age to expose our children to a new loving community outside their home and family is.
Conversely, I’ve found we are not as thorough when it comes to judging when to expose our children to some other important life lessons and experiences. Like many other children, my kids learned about the story of Esther in preparation for Purim. A few years ago, when my eldest was in kindergarten, he shared with me what he had learned about this ancient holiday. Haman’s punishment for attempting genocide was to walk behind Mordechai, who was riding on the royal horse, and pick up the poop. He added with a smile that this was his favorite part of the story.
This year on Purim, like every other year, I will try to fulfill the commandment to mistake the blessing of Mordechai with the curse of Haman – the only day of the year on which we are commanded to not differentiate between good and evil. But truthfully, while Purim is clearly a story of survival and joy, it is told against the backdrop of hate and anti-Semitism. Unfortunately in our society, a presence of “evil” or hate is expected; Haman is a stock character in our history. As the adage goes, “What is the definition of an anti-Semite? It is someone who hates Jews more than they are supposed to.” It is astounding to realize that the expectation of anti-Semitism has made us fulfill the commandment of mixing up Mordechai and Haman all year-long.
I am thankful that my young son was not yet taught of Haman and his sons being put to death. But, what is the right age to tell your child about the history and existence of anti-Semitism? It is a curse to think that anti-Semitism is a normal part of our world. It is a blessing to live in an environment like Jewish camp that loves you and cherishes and celebrates your identity. It’s common to sit down to discuss the appropriate age to send one’s child to summer camp for the first time. But if we are willing to put such thought into whether they are ready to enter a new community- a community that will provide them with love, independence, pride, skills, and fun- shouldn’t we give at least as much thought to when and how to expose our children to the reality of and presence of anti-Semitism in our history?
We live in a time of freedom, but we can never forget that this freedom comes at a price. We need to make sure the confusion of Purim is the exception and not the rule. It scares me to think that my children might grow up without strong memories of knowing a survivor of the Shoah, (Holocaust). How will they understand the horrors of anti-Semitism without trivializing it? We need to confront the idea of evil with our children beyond making bad people ”pick up the poop.”
We are getting ready to celebrate one of our favorite holidays, Purim, this weekend! Are you preparing and need some inspiration, recipes, projects, costume ideas, and books? Check out the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Purim Pinterest board for help.
FJC not only has boards for holidays but also camp projects at home, recipes, gear, packing ideas, books, movies, and more!