February 25, 2020


A Jewish American soldier finds himself in the Iraqi desert on the first night of Passover and improvises a seder with another soldier by drawing a seder plate in the sand.

Meanwhile, a Jewish lawyer from Menlo Park discovers that our centuries-old haggadah does not actually tell the story it’s supposed to tell — the Jewish Exodus — so he compiles and publishes his own.

In Chicago, a family of Jewish socialists who don’t believe in God have a seder where they celebrate their fight for social justice while singing “We Shall Overcome.”

Forty years later, their daughter in Los Angeles uses yoga to find God and creates a special seder for her Alcoholics Anonymous group.

If you recall, a couple of weeks ago I asked you if there were Passover experiences that really moved you. Well, all I can say is I’m glad I asked.

Philip M. Peck wrote: “During the first Gulf War, I was mobilized to an Infantry Division. We were training 24/7. As a young lieutenant I had an extra responsibility of loading all our armored vehicles to be taken to the ships when the first night of Passover was approaching. As the sun was setting, I realized that there would be no seder for me. I looked out over the desert and smiled. I thanked God for allowing me to reach that day. It gave me great comfort that all over the world there would be seders. It gave me even greater comfort knowing that my family would be gathering around a seder table.”

“At that point, I walked over to the young sergeant who was helping me load the tanks on flatbed trucks,” he continued. “I said to him that I needed to tell him a story, a great story. This young man, who never met a Jew, was about to celebrate his first seder. I drew a seder plate in the sand and took out whatever I had from my MRE’s [Meal, Ready-to-Eat] to make a seder. My sergeant listened as I then told the story of Passover from memory. This experience has never left me. Every seder that has followed has been a great gift.”

Seth Watkins, a Jewish lawyer from Menlo Park, wrote: “Passover hasn’t been transformative because the standard traditional haggadah omits the story of the Exodus. I solved the problem by compiling a haggadah with the Exodus story in it (ExodusHaggadah.com), allowing each of us to understand, a bit better, what our ancestors endured in Egypt. The result has been transformative. People of all Jewish affiliations — or none — are transfixed by the story, or discuss details, and nobody asks the dreaded question, ‘When do we eat?'”

Because Seth is a scholar of Semitic languages, he was able to bring his personal touch to the haggadah. He researched ancient translations of certain biblical terms, which, according to him, further elucidate the Exodus story. (I used his haggadah for the second seder, and I think he’s on to something.)

A woman from Los Angeles wrote: “When I was younger, my family celebrated Passover with another family whose father was a psychoanalyst and whose mother had been raised in anarchist, very left-wing political Jewish circles in Chicago. My family did not believe in God either, but both families wanted not to assimilate, not to deny our Jewishness.”

“So we had our seder, and what stayed with us kids was the social and political dimension — that we were pledged to help anyone who suffered from injustice. We sang ‘We Shall Overcome’ (this was the ’60s) and labor songs.

“Now I’m a grown-up, and I am still hosting a seder, this year for my 12-step group! I’ve become more religious, or more spiritual, than I ever was as a kid. I used yoga to help me find God, and it actually worked. I wanted a scientific way to enter the field of religion, and yoga as taught by a yogi from India provided that. I find that when I celebrate Pesach with my brother-in-laws I’m a little inundated with Hebrew and traditions. But when I create my own, mostly in English, and relate the themes of freedom and deliverance to oppression I or my friends have suffered, it means more.”

As I reflected on what all these people wrote, it struck me that what really moved them was not the Passover story itself, but what they personally brought to it.

Improvising a seder in the Iraqi desert, teaching your kids about social injustice, adding the Exodus story to the haggadah, creating a special seder for your friends at Alcoholics Anonymous — these are all examples of Jews putting their personal stamp on their Judaism. And why not?

We are all one family, yes, but we are also a family of individuals, each with our own dreams and dramas and personal baggage. We are moved by different things. As Jews, we are especially moved when we bring our individual uniqueness to our Judaism.

The people who answered my Passover question were moved when they took a 3,000-year-old story of liberation and did something very Jewish with it: They made it their own.

If any of us feel like emulating them, we all better hurry — Passover is only 12 months away.

David Suissa, an advertising executive, is founder of OLAM magazine and Meals4Israel.com. He can be reached at dsuissa@olam.org.


Micah has a question about maror. Click the BIG ARROW

Kol HaMispallel, b’mkom hazeh b’Yerushalayim
Ke’ilu hispallel lifnei Kisei HaKovod,
She’shar hashamayim, hashamayim shom hu
U’pesach posu’ach l’shmaya tefillah

“Whosoever prays in Jerusalem is considered as if he prayed before the Throne of Glory, for the gate of heaven is open there to receive the prayer”–Pirkei de Rabbi Eliezer, circa 800 C.E.

Subliminal and Israeli hip-hop violinist Miri Ben-Ari:“Adon Olam, Ad Matai?—God Almighty, how much longer?”

(Hebrew with English subtitles)

Yes, we know we have two translations here.

Rabbi Irwin Kula video courtesy ‘ TARGET=’_blank’>

Breaking matzoh cleanly. Hat tip to Mobius.

Quirky Israeli rockers TEAPACKS are this year’s official contestants in the 2007 Eurovision song contest and controversy is already brewing over the political nature of their entry “Push the Button.”

Click the BIG ARROW to see Rob Eshman’s new
bio diesel VW and watch him drink a bio diesel Martini

Last week I bemoaned the fact that former Gov. Tom Vilsack, the only presidential candidate with the ideas and track record to wean America off foreign oil, droppedout of the race.

This week I decided I wasn’t going to just sit there and moan, I was going to do something about it.

So I bought a car.

And not a Prius. At 40 miles per gallon, the hybrid car to the stars is a gas-guzzler compared to my new baby: a 2005 Volkswagen Passat TDI, a diesel car that gets 30 to 40 miles per gallon … of corn oil.

I’d been writing and speaking and boring my family for some time now on how absolutely stupid it is for Americans to be dependent on foreign oil. Our petroleum economy lines the pockets of Middle East potentates and other facilitators of extremism and terror. It directly endangers the state of Israel by strengthening its enemy’s regimes. And, whether the oil we burn is from Texas or Saudi Arabia, it contributes to global warming.

The enormity of our stupidity is dwarfed by an even bigger stupidity: We have the technology, now, to solve this problem.

Take my new car, for instance.

Two days after I bought it, I took my car to the appropriately named USA gas station at Glencoe Avenue and Mindanao Way in Marina del Rey and pulled up to a pump marked, “BioDiesel.” I filled up my tank, and I drove away.

That’s it.

The fuel now powering my car is made in America from canola, corn, soy or other new and recycled food oils. Almost any off-the-assembly line diesel engine can run just fine on it.

“Aren’t you afraid of enriching those Midwest corn oil shieks?” a friend of mine said as we tooled around.

Oh, what a world it would be: Saudi princes actually out looking for real jobs while Kansas corn farmers blow wads of cash in Macao.

Biodiesel itself has the consistency, smell and, yes, taste of Mazola. Made from food oils and alcohol, it disintegrates into harmless organic matter when spilled. It’s as toxic as table salt.

And biodiesel is virtually carbon neutral — whatever carbon dioxide it releases when burned is offset by the carbon dioxide the plants absorb when they grow.

At first, when I walked into the gas station kiosk to pay for my biodiesel, I was crestfallen. I don’t know what I expected — maybe a recycled bamboo floor and exposed beams, a pretty hostess offering me an organic mimosa and a free 10 minute Reiki treatment from Al Gore.

Instead, the only decorations were racks of Slim Jims and a fridge full of Throttle. The station’s cashier sat behind thick bulletproof glass. I paid $3.29 a gallon for 12 gallons and walked out.

And, in retrospect, that was the beauty of the whole experience. There’s nothing unusual or alternative about running America’s transport system on native, non-petroleum fuel. You can drive a great car, fill up as usual (though without the noxious odor), and be on your way.

Unfortunately, the biodiesel movement still has a certain crunchiness associated with it. Diesels are common in Europe, and, prompted by the creation of a new low-sulpher diesel, a new generation of these cars will soon hit American shores. But for now, partisans tend to drive pre-1985 Mercedes with iron engines that are said to run for a million miles. These behemoths chug along well enough and can be had for as little as $3,000, but I was looking for something with airbags and zip.

A small group converts these diesel engines to run on waste vegetable oil. Several companies do this for around $800. Jeremy Mittman, a lawyer with Proskauer Rose LLP in Century City, has a deal with Pat’s kosher restaurant on Pico to pick up its used fry oil. He filters it and funnels it into the tank of his 1982 Mercedes. His total fuel cost: about 0.

The biodiesel I use is labeled B100 — 100 percent biodiesel, not blended with regular diesel. It is more expensive than our government subsidized gasoline for now, and there’s only a handful of retail outlets locally, but a biodiesel facility is opening near Oxnard, which will allow the price to Southern Californians to drop. In the meantime, 15 cents per gallon more than regular unleaded strikes me as a small price to pay.

After all, if you drive a gas-powered car and donate to organizations that fight global warming or defend Israel, you’re contributing to the solution and the problem. Rabbi David Wolpe understood this when he delivered a sermon last January at Sinai Temple urging congregants to drive hybrid vehicles. After his talk, some 50 families traded in their Lexuses and Mercedes guzzlers for Priuses.

The American Jewish Committee understood this when it began offering incentives for employees to switch to hybrid vehicles. The organization has rightly made energy independence a cornerstone of its advocacy work.

Is biodiesel “The Answer?” No — but like hybrids, fuel-cell vehicles, higher Federal fuel mileage standards and public transportation, it’s an important step along the way.

And the only dangers?

Getting struck by a hybrid owner for sporting my new bumper sticker: “Biodiesel: Cleaner Than Your Prius.”

“Hybrid v. Diesel”:http://www.homepower.com/files/featured/HybridsVsDiesels.pdf

What Is Biodiesel?http://www.biodieselnow.com/default.aspx

American Jewish Committee’s Stand on Energy Independencehttp://www.ajc.org/site/c.ijITI2PHKoG/b.838461/k.C502/Energy.htm

“Cleaner Greener Cars” from E Magazine:http://www.emagazine.com/view/?3623

This movie was produced by Shatil for the board meeting of the New Israel Fund.

8 min 50 sec – Feb 25, 2007www.shabbatfund.org

The Jerusalem Shabbat Fund – JSF – providers food coupons l’kavod Shabbat Kodesh for needy Jews throughout Israel.

Only 15 at the time, Israel’s Liel Kolet coaxes Bill Clinton onstage to sing ‘Imagine’ with a Jewish-Arab kids choir at a concert for Shimon Peres’ 85th birthday

What’s funny to Sarah?  And does she tell racist jokes?  Well, she does use the ‘C’ word.

Kenny Ellis sings his hit single from his ‘Hanukkah Swings!’ album on Favored Nations Records—swingingest ‘Dreidel Song’ ever

A Day at Canter’s by Tracy Swedlow

Music by Chutzpah!



Ikea Doll Bat Mitzvah by Rachel Illowsky


When you least expect it, he’s selected


Once you’ve seen and heard ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ in Japanese, what’s left but klezmer from Ireland?

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