Ben & Jerry’s charoset and 10 more Passover ice cream ideas


A few weeks after Ben & Jerry’s founders indicated that marijuana-infused ice cream may one day join its product line, the company’s kosher-for-Passover charoset flavor has been generating buzz.

In case your memories of last year’s seder are blurred by too many cups of wine, charoset is the fruit-and-nut puree that symbolizes the mortar Hebrew slaves used when making bricks to construct Egyptian cities. In making its charoset flavor, which, sadly, is distributed only in Israel, Ben & Jerry’s opted for the Ashkenazi tradition of apples and walnuts, rather than the chunky Sephardic style featuring nuts blended with assorted dried fruits.

Ashkenazi charoset is great, but why stop at one Passover flavor? If we could have 10 plagues, why not 10 ice creams? Here’s some Passover flavors we’d like to see:

1) Sephardic Charoset: Think rum raisin, but with lots of spices and other dried fruits like dates and figs.

2) Manischewitz Madness: Sure, it’s not yet legal to put marijuana in the ice cream, but why not this potent and intensely sweet wine? We envision it as a sorbet with a kick that could replace the four cups of wine and double as a palate cleanser.

3) Chocolate-Covered Matzahs and Cream: Think cookies and cream, but crunchier and kosher for Passover.

4) Macaroons and Cream: Ice cream with chunks of macaroon, and the possibility of almost infinite sub-categories of flavors, mixing different types of macaroon with different types of ice cream.

5) Pure Macaroon: Forget the chunks of macaroon and instead just infuse the almond and coconut that form macaroons’ base into the ice cream itself.

6) Fruit Jellies Jamboree: The iconic gooey fruity candies mixed into vanilla ice cream or fruit sorbet offers a nice mix of textures.

7) Rocky Road out of Egypt: Wouldn’t those 40 years in the desert have been nicer with this confection of chocolate ice cream mixed with kosher marshmallows and nuts.

8) Red Sea: You won’t want to part with this red-velvet rich chocolate.

9) Tzimmes: Sweet potato base with chunks of dried fruit. If you don’t think a tuber can go in ice cream, remember this: pumpkin pie is an accepted ice-cream flavor and sweet potato pie tastes a little like pumpkin pie, so why not?

10) Dayenu: All (or maybe just some) of the above flavors combined into one more-than-satisfying flavor.

Incidentally Ben & Jerry’s, Passover is not the only Jewish holiday. When you finish with the Pesach line, we’re hoping to see some Rosh Hashanah (apples-and-honey), Hanukkah (jelly doughnuts and/or gelt, anyone?) and Shavuot (cheesecake) confections.

Vegan Passover recipe: Traditional charoset


Traditional Charoset

  • 1–2 Macintosh apples, peeled and cored
  • 1 cup walnuts, shelled
  • Kosher wine, for moistening
  • Cinnamon, to taste
  • Sugar, to taste

 

Mince the apples and walnuts or pulse in a food processor. Moisten with the kosher wine and season with cinnamon and sugar.

Makes 10 servings

Evan Kleiman revisits her Passover traditions


In an environment that’s all too familiar with short-lived businesses and perpetual change, the sound of a collective, disappointed sigh spread through Los Angeles in January 2012 when restaurateur and chef Evan Kleiman announced she was closing Angeli Caffe after more than 27 years in business. Kleiman remains prominent on the L.A. food scene with her KCRW show, “Good Food,” and the doyenne of the beloved Melrose Avenue Italian restaurant also gave her fans a taste of what they’d been missing a few weeks ago at the Skirball Cultural Center, where she prepared her classic Passover menu

In this culmination event tied to Tent: Food LA, Kleiman partnered with Skirball Executive Chef Sean Sheridan to revisit classic dishes her customers came to expect every year at her Angeli Passovers, this time at a special gathering called “Angeli Caffe Passover Pop-Up.” Here, as at the restaurant, Kleiman served the meal “kosher style” and family style, never as a formal seder, however. 

For my own family, in fact, Passover at Angeli came to represent what the restaurant did best. Kleiman excelled at offering comforting, unfussy, fairly priced food that tasted delicious and was prepared with the utmost care yet offered in an unpretentious ambiance, all under the guidance of her own deep culinary knowledge and generous spirit. 

Angeli was never about Kleiman’s singular culinary ego or advancing a dogmatic agenda she’s built around authentic Italian food and cooking. Instead, Kleiman — a Silver Lake native and Mid-City resident who clearly remembers learning to make hamantashen at the Hollywood-Los Feliz JCC (now the Silverlake Independent JCC) on Sunset Boulevard when she was 8 years old — served as an L.A.-based pioneer in recognizing how a mix of European influences and California ingredients can thrive. Perhaps most significantly, she showed us how food can foster community. 

This mission of creating a genuine food community remains a core component of her continuing work as a cook, educator, writer and host of “Good Food.” It is no wonder she describes herself as a “culinary multitasker.” (Disclosure: I have appeared as a guest on her radio show.) After attempts in the late 1980s and early ’90s to expand the Angeli brand at three splashier locations in West Los Angeles, none of which achieved the longevity of her first venue, she reinvented herself at her original home on Melrose near Poinsettia Avenue, where she continued to cement her role as one of L.A.’s godmothers of food. 

Jordan Peimer, vice president of programs at the Skirball, summarized feelings shared by nostalgic erstwhile Angeli customers, many of them in attendance at the dinner that night. “There are all kinds of reasons I miss Angeli Caffe,” Peimer told the crowd. “I miss seeing Evan at least every month. And I really miss Passover.” 

Kleiman starting doing casual holiday dinners more than 25 years ago to provide a place for her family and friends to go (Kleiman’s mother recently turned 94). During the early years, she took what she confessed to be an overly eclectic approach to menu planning. 

“I flitted around. I would do all-Indian Passover, and then I would do all-Greek Sephardic Passover,” she recalled. “I realized what people really wanted was some Ashkenazi stuff, and some Italianized stuff.” Eventually, her longtime staff knew how to make Pesce en Carpione, the fusion Tortino di Azzime (aka  “mazzagna”), and Kleiman’s unique charoset recipe as easily as Angeli’s signature dishes, such as pizza Margherita and red-beet gnocchi. 

The Skirball meal included huevos haminados, hard-boiled eggs slow-cooked in layers of onion skins in a time-honored Sephardic method. This dish holds a particular significance for Kleiman, who said her “favorite [moment] was when somebody would come up to me and ask, ‘Is it time to start saving onion skins?’ And I was like, ‘Yes, we did it!’ ” 

She took delight in how her staff incorporated this aspect of the Jewish seasonal calendar into the restaurant’s annual rhythms.

Asked why she hosted Passover meals at what was otherwise an Italian restaurant, Kleiman gave an answer that made perfect sense: “The Italian tradition is really interesting to me because it’s neither Ashkenazi nor Sephardic. It’s its own separate tradition,” she said. Furthermore, Angeli always served as a venue that allowed Kleiman to explore her interest in other cultures. For many years, for instance, she hosted a weekly prix fixe family supper, each week highlighting a different non-Italian cooking style. 

The Skirball was also host to Tent: Food LA, a weeklong seminar for 20 participants between the ages of 21 and 30, who spent the time immersed in the multifaceted food culture of Los Angeles. Tent is affiliated with the Yiddish Book Center of Amherst, Mass., and operates Jewish cultural programs around the country; programs elsewhere have focused on journalism, music and fashion. This year’s Tent program is only the second one that has been organized in Los Angeles. 

The week’s itinerary included meals at a range of local restaurants, a fruit picking adventure, a pickling lesson, a lecture about the history of cream cheese, a panel discussion with restaurant critics Jonathan Gold and Patrick Kuh, meetings with prominent chefs and food justice activists, a tortilla-making lesson in Boyle Heights and a tour of the San Gabriel Valley. Kleiman collaborated with professor Leah Hochman of Hebrew Union College to curate the week’s events. 

At the Skirball, Kleiman told the attendees, who were also hungrily anticipating their own seders, “It was bizarre to make this meal in a completely different environment without my angels, who were around me for 25 years,” referring to her dedicated crew at Angeli. 

Despite the change in scenery, however, the food proved typically and thoroughly satisfying, and with these recipes, you, too, can re-create Kleiman’s Passover dishes in whatever environment you choose. 

No matter where you serve them, your guests will be very grateful.  


EVAN KLEIMAN’S CHAROSET

  • 2 oranges
  • 1 pound pitted dates
  • 1 pound dried Turkish apricots
  • 1/2 pound mixed raisins
  • 1 cup red Passover wine
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup chopped toasted nuts of your choice

Trim off and discard stem end of the oranges; cut in quarters. Pass the dates, apricots, raisins and orange quarters through the coarse blade of a meat grinder. (Intersperse the orange quarters with the dried fruits to loosen the mixture.) Transfer ground fruits to a mixing bowl. Add wine, cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Mix thoroughly. Stir in chopped nuts or use them for garnish. 

Serve in bowls or spoon onto baby romaine lettuce leaves. 

Makes 3 to 4 cups.


PESCE IN CARPIONE (MARINATED WHITE FISH WITH PINE NUTS)

  • 2 pounds white fish fillets, skin on
  • Matzo meal for dredging
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Vegetable oil for pan frying
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
  • Small handful coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley

DRESSING: 

  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup champagne vinegar or good-quality white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 shallot, peeled and minced
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 head radicchio or butter lettuce
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted 

Using tweezers, pliers or your fingers, remove any bones from the fish. Cut fillets crosswise into pieces about 1/1/2 inches wide. Place the matzo meal in a shallow dish; season with salt and pepper to taste. In a large nonstick skillet, heat about 1/2 inch of vegetable oil until hot but not smoking. Lightly dredge the fish in the seasoned matzah meal, add to the pan, and fry until golden. Carefully remove the fish from the skillet and arrange it in a nonreactive baking pan of stainless steel, glass or enamel.

Put the onions in a medium skillet with 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/2 cup water. 

Bring to a boil and cook the onions over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they are very tender and golden. First the water will cook off, then the onions will sauté in the remaining oil. 

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange the caramelized onions over the cooked fish, then sprinkle with chopped parsley.

To make the dressing:

In a small bowl or blender whisk together olive oil, vinegar, mustard, shallot, lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste. (Add a squeeze of lemon juice if desired.) Pour mixture over the fish and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours, or up to 3 days. Bring it back to room temperature before serving. 

To serve, separate the radicchio into individual leaves; arrange on serving plates. Lift the fish, topped with the onion mixture, out of the marinade and arrange on the leaves. Garnish with pine nuts.

Makes 8 small first-course servings.


TORTINO DI AZZIME (MATZAH LASAGNE WITH MEAT SAUCE OR ANGELI FRESH TOMATO-BASIL SAUCE)

MEAT SAUCE:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and minced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and minced
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 pound lean ground lamb or beef
  • Small handful coarsely chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, leaves only, coarsely chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 (28-ounce) can imported Italian tomatoes, pureed with juice
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 boxes matzah 

Heat olive oil in a medium-sized heavy skillet. Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic; cook slowly over low heat until onion becomes very soft. Add ground lamb and saute over high heat, stirring frequently to break up any large lumps. Add parsley, basil and rosemary. When the meat has lost all pinkness, add tomatoes, tomato sauce, and salt and pepper to taste; cook over medium-low heat for approximately 1 hour or until sauce is thick and flavors have blended.

To assemble:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Cover bottom of a baking dish with a ladleful of the Meat Sauce. As you take the matzah out of the box to layer it into the baking dish, place it under cold running water for a couple of seconds. Then make a layer of matzah that completely covers the bottom of the pan. 

Cover the matzah with another layer of the sauce, using the back of a spoon or a rubber spatula to spread the sauce evenly. Continue layering matzah and sauce until all ingredients are used, finishing with a layer of sauce. Cover casserole with aluminum foil. Bake in preheated oven approximately 40 minutes, or until bubbling hot. Can be served hot or at room temperature.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

VEGETARIAN ALTERNATIVE

VEGETABLE LAYERS:

  • 2 onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound mushrooms, stems trimmed, cut into quarters or sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 bunch fresh Italian parsley, leaves only, coarsely chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, leaves only, coarsely chopped
  • 2 bunches fresh spinach, washed or 4 bags washed spinach
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 boxes matzah 

In a large skillet, cook the onions in oil and a little water until they are very soft and golden brown. When done, set aside in small bowl. Saute the mushrooms over high heat in oil, adding half of garlic, parsley and basil. When done set aside in small bowl. Saute spinach and remaining garlic in olive oil in a covered pan. Add salt to taste. When done set aside in small bowl. 


ANGELI FRESH TOMATO-BASIL SAUCE

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 to 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans peeled tomatoes in juice
  • 4 leaves fresh basil, torn 
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and saute just until the garlic gives off its characteristic aroma. Add the tomatoes and cook over moderately high heat until the tomatoes begin to break down and form a sauce. Stir frequently. Add the basil, season with salt and pepper, and continue cooking over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick. Remove from heat and put sauce through medium disc of a food mill. An immersion blender may be used instead. However, the sauce should have some texture.

To assemble:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Cover bottom of a baking dish with a ladleful of the Angeli Fresh Tomato-Basil Sauce. As you take the matzah out of the box to layer it into the baking dish, place it under cold running water for a couple of seconds. Then make a layer of matzah that completely covers the bottom of the pan. 

Cover the matzah with another layer of the sauce, using the back of a spoon or a rubber spatula to spread the sauce evenly. Place a layer of cooked onions over the sauce. Top with half the sautéed mushrooms. Add half the sautéed spinach. Again, drizzle with sauce. Make another layer of matzah. Continue layering with sauce, cooked vegetables and matzah until all the ingredients are used, finishing with a layer of matzah topped with a layer of sauce. Cover casserole with aluminum foil. Bake in preheated oven approximately 40 minutes, or until bubbling hot. Can be served hot or at room temperature.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.


POLLO ARROSTO (LEMON AND ROSEMARY CHICKEN)

  • 1 chicken (about 3 1/2 pounds), cut into
  • 8 pieces
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh rosemary leaves
  • 10 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, peel removed, pith and pulp chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a bowl, toss chicken with oil, rosemary, garlic, lemon juice, lemon pith and pulp, and salt and pepper. Marinate for 1 hour.

Heat oven to 475 F. Arrange chicken pieces in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish; add remaining marinade. Roast, turning once, until cooked through, about 30-40 minutes.

Makes 8 servings.

First published in Saveur magazine.


NO-FLOUR, NO-DAIRY CHOCOLATE COOKIES

  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or coffee
  • 2 1/2 cups semisweet Passover chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheet(s) with parchment paper. In bowl of standing mixer or in a large bowl with hand-held mixer, mix powdered sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon and salt at low speed. Add egg whites; beat at low speed until batter is well mixed. Stir in vanilla and chocolate chips by hand. 

Using a spoon or small cookie scoop, spoon batter onto baking sheets, leaving 1/2 inch between cookies, as the batter will spread. Bake until the cookies are cracking on the surface, about 15 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes, then carefully transfer to cooling rack.

Makes 15 cookies.

RECIPE: Yemenite Charoset/Charoset Truffles


Yemenite Charoset/Charoset Truffles
(Click here for the full article)

1 cup pitted, chopped dates

1/2 cup chopped dried figs

1 teaspoon ground ginger

Pinch of coriander

1 small red chili pepper, seeded and minced,

or pinch of cayenne

2 tablespoons matzah meal

1/3 cup sweet Passover wine

3 tablespoons sesame seeds

2 cups melted semisweet chocolate

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the knife blade, blend the dates, figs, ginger, coriander, chili pepper, matzah meal and wine. Mix in sesame seeds and transfer to a glass bowl. Roll into one-inch balls or serve in a bowl.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups or 12 balls.

Why Is This Seder Different?


Every year, the retelling of the story of Passover sparks the same intergenerational debate around our family’s seder table. Like singing "Dayenu" or eating charoset, we look forward to our traditional discussion of the nature and extent of anti-Semitism. My father, with my grandmother cheering on, argues that anti-Semitism is alive and, alas, well.

My two sisters and I disagree. Raised in liberal, heterogeneous communities, we describe a time and place where ethnic differences are celebrated, where they are taken in stride, and where surely no one is persecuted on their account.

We proudly tell him about the Korean American who gave an oral presentation on the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in our public high school history class. He rolls his eyes and cites litanies of anti-Jewish actions in places like Los Angeles and Paris. We accuse my father of clinging to an obsolete ghetto mentality of victimization; he accuses us of making generalizations based on the distinct liberal bubble in the northeast where we grew up. We are naive, he warns, to think that the world has come to terms with religious difference.

My sisters and I have come to look forward to this Pesach time debate; it is part of our holiday ritual. In arguing for the demise of anti-Semitism in America, we feel downright patriotic, celebrants of tolerant, multicultural America. We are also lauding our success as a generation. As a post-religious cohort, our generation has moved such differences past their potential to divide and to instigate hatred since these were experienced by our parents and even more by our grandparents.

This year, the seder will be different. For the first time in our generation’s memory, we have confronted a period of world history rife with blatant anti-Semitism. For sure, the anti-Jewish sentiment is not coming from next door. But the media has brought the accusations and hate against Jews expressed daily in Gaza City, Islamabad and Riyadh to our living rooms.

Young American Jews, who have long considered the Arab-Israeli conflict as a battle between two nations thousands of miles away, this year might be wondering why the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," a anti-Semite’s must-read, is a best-seller among young Egyptians, citizens of the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with the Jewish state. Even the most assimilated, unaffiliated American Jew, who still clings to the concept of a post-religious age, can no longer be deaf or blind to the hate directed against him. For example, even those American Jews who have long ceased to celebrate Purim could not help but react to a headline published in early March in a Saudi government daily, "Jews Use Teenagers Blood for Purim Pastries."

As a generation of American Jews raised on freedom of choice, Judaism was a part of our identity that we willingly embraced or rejected. We are a generation that treats Judaism as one component of our complex identities, one that we can elect to change and accommodate to the demands of the modern world.

We are, all of us — or so we have believed — Jews by choice. And thus we are shocked by this wave of anti-Semitism, because it does not differentiate between the temple-goer and the unobservant, between Reform and Orthodox, between Israel supporter and anti-Zionist.

Our generation of American Jews does not fit one prototype.

The simple son will come to the seder seeking information. With his parents he will discuss the intifada, the Saudi peace plan, the world views held by Islamic fundamentalists and the nature of U.S. foreign policy responses. The daughter who does not know how to ask might be so removed from Jewish practice that she chooses to absent herself and, perhaps, to spare embarrassment and hurt, is no longer invited to the seder. But if she does attend, she will need to be encouraged before she can begin to ask questions. But she will probably not connect Daniel Pearl’s last words — "I am a Jew , my mother is a Jew" — to her own life.

The evil son will come to the seder table angrily, maybe against his will. He will flippantly disassociate himself from the seder rituals, hurting his parents and grandparents. He will question the need for a Jewish state, though, unlike the simple son, he is fully aware of Jewish history and suffering.

The smart, respectful daughter and son will come to the seder with emotional reactions and questions prompted by their careful reading of current events. If it’s a good seder, they will probably leave more confused and upset about Israel and the war on terrorism than when they arrived.

This year, a new intergenerational discussion will dominate our seder. This year, my sisters and I will come to the table, respectfully conceding to our father that anti-Semitism has not perished. But we will also come to answer and provide comfort to our parents.

We will try to persuade them that, while they may be right, after all, that anti-Semitism is our condition, we may also be right when we insist that it is not our immutable destiny.



Dafna Hochman conducts research on terrorism and national security at a foreign policy think tank in Washigton, D.C. Her prior work includes Seeds of Peace International Camp in Maine and the Center for Jewish-Arab Economic Development in Herzliyah, Israel.

Charoset a recipe for sharing.


When I was growing up, preparing for Passover &’9;was a very serious matter. It was hard and tedious work, yet there is one memory that lingers in my mind and always makes me smile. On the day before Passover, in the midst of the boiling chickens and rising sponge cakes, my father would walk into the kitchen and announce that it was time to make the charoset. My mother happily retreated and my father would take over. He quickly assembled the apples, dates, nuts, wine and spices he needed to prepare the charoset that would sit on the seder plate that night.

As he put his ingredients in the food processor, he’d always say the same thing: “We have it so easy now. When I was a boy growing up in Europe, do you think we had a food processor?” He’d then share stories of what life had been like when he was young, living in a small town in Transylvania, the mountainous terrain between Hungary and Romania. His family did not have plastic to cover their counters for Passover, but rather heavy wooden boards that were kept in the attic. It was a whole day’s work just to get them down the stairs and clean them for use. Despite the hardships, my father spoke of those days with a nostalgic affection.

Each year the charoset recipe remained the same, but the stories were different. Finally, when I was old enough to hear them, he told me how he and his brother tried to commemorate Passover in Ebensee, an Austrian concentration camp.

When my father, Rabbi Tzvi Rossler, finished his stories and the charoset was made, I waited with great anticipation for one delicious taste. “We make the charoset to remind us of the mortar that the Jewish people used in Egypt when they made their bricks,” he said. “You have to be patient and wait for the seder to begin to have some more.”

Now that I have a family of my own, I am the one who works frantically in the kitchen the day before Passover. I am lucky because I know that somewhere, late in the day, relief will come. My father will take over the kitchen. He will line up all his ingredients and, together with his three grandchildren, prepare the charoset. As they chop and mix, he will tell them how easy they have it now and share with them his sweet recipe and his bittersweet memories.

3 sweet apples, peeled, sliced

12 soft dates

1/2 cup ground walnuts

1/2 tsp. (or more) cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ginger

Sweet kosher wine

Alternate between the apples and dates as you chop them in the food processor.

Remove and put in a bowl.

Add the walnuts, cinnamon and ginger. Mix gently and add enough sweet red kosher wine to make a firm paste. Go easy on the wine so that it remains in a semisolid state.

Have all the tasters give their opinions.

Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights?


Although I’ve been attending Passover dinners from the time I was knee-high to a scrupulously set seder table, there’s something I’ve never really thought about until recently: how does all this storytelling relate to me? Storytelling is the essence of Passover. We gather together to narrate how, more than 3,000 years ago, Moses miraculously led the Jews to freedom from slavery in Pharaoh’s Egypt.

It’s a wonderful story, with heroes to root for and bad guys to rail against. It’s all part of experiencing what our ancestors endured. It’s all part of the story. But come on, what’s the link to my life?

When a Jew has a question, she asks a rabbi. I asked Rabbi Daniel Bouskila of Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel in Los Angeles what the story of Passover has to do with me as a modern Jew. Typically, he answered my question with a question.

“Did you know that by retelling the story of what happened thousands of years ago, it brings us closer together?” the rabbi asked.

“No,” I answered. “How’s that?” And typically, he answered my second question with a story.

A friend of his attended a seder which was being led by the patriarch of the family, a Holocaust survivor. Since it was such a sensitive subject, his family had been careful never to ask about his experiences. As he was reciting from the Haggadah, he came to a phrase that commanded fathers to tell their children about their lives, so they will better understand their heritage.

The man turned white, leaned back, and was utterly silent for several minutes. Finally, he exclaimed, “I think I have been a bad Jew.” Everyone was perplexed. How could this kind, generous, religious man, who was greatly beloved by his family, think he was bad? He heaved a heavy sigh. “I have never told you what happened to me. I have never shared my experience.” And so on this Passover he spent several hours relating the painful story, which his children, grandchildren and everyone in attendance will never forget.

And so I finally realized what the telling of the Passover story means to me. If we liken the Exodus from Egypt into the promised land –the trip which takes us from bondage to freedom — to our sometimes sweet, sometimes painful journey through life, we realize how similar our lives are to those of our ancestors. And this Passover I will encourage my parents to tell us their stories, and maybe I will tell my children my story, and maybe others will tell their stories.

For if the point of the seder is to bring everyone closer together, then what more important story could everyone want to hear?

Turkish Charoset

There are as many variations on charoset as there are ways of retelling the Passover story.

2 sweet apples, peeled, cored

&’009;and chopped

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 cup large golden raisins

&’009;or sultanas

1/2 cup white figs,

&’009;coarsely chopped

1/4 cup dried cherries

&’009; (optional)

1/2 cup walnuts, shelled

&’009;and chopped fine

1/2 cup ground almonds

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon brown sugar

&’009;or honey

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

pinch of cayenne pepper

2-3 tablespoons sweet red

&’009; Passover wine (more, if

&’009; necessary).

Cover apples with lemon juice in bowl. Chop fruit and nuts by hand, or, if you prefer a paste, put in in blender or food processor. Stir in zest, sugar and spices; taste and adjust seasonings. Moisten with wine to make thick paste. Serves 6