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April 26, 2015 / 7 Iyar, 5775
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‘Ashkenic’ Jews to Celebrate the Passover with Brisket and Kuegel


A scene from Woody Allen's "Sleeper." Diane Keaton wails: "Oy vey Ize Meer…"

A scene from Woody Allen's "Sleeper." Diane Keaton wails: "Oy vey Ize Meer…"
Photo Credit: "Sleeper" screen shot.

In Woody Allen’s 1973 comic Sci Fi masterpiece “Sleeper,” an underground band in the far future is trying to revive Allen’s memory by acting out scenes from his childhood in Jewish Brooklyn. One of the men, in the roll of Allen’s father, urges him, “Stop whining and eat your shiksa…”

That was the feeling that overcame me when I read the article in Monday’s Daily Mail of New Baltimore, NY, under the headline “Church brings Jewish traditions to life.”

What an irresistible headline! From history, I could tell you a lot about things churches have done to Jewish traditions, but bringing them to life would not be in the top ten.

According to the Daily Mail, though, “parishioners from the New Baltimore Reformed Church and others in the community recently explored the traditions of the Jewish faith and its people in the weeks preceding the Christian holiday of Easter and the Jewish holiday of Passover.”

With an ease and fluency reminiscent of Garrison Keillor’s News from Lake Wobegon, reported Melanie Lekocevic wrote:

“Heading up the program was Rev. Kerr’s sister, Jessie Kerr-Whitt, who at a young age converted to Judaism and now teaches its tenets to children and adults alike. As a Jewish educator at a nearby Hebrew school, Kerr-Whitt also spreads knowledge of the Jewish faith to others who are looking to learn.”

Rev’s sis apparently “differentiated between Eastern European Jews — the ‘Ashkenic’ from Russia, Poland and the like, and the ‘Sephardic,’ those hailing from the Mediterranean areas of the world.”

The Ashkenic may be celebrating this coming holiday of Passover “with common Jewish foods from Eastern Europe, such as brisket and kuegel.”

Stop whining, eat your shiksa…

It’s tough to tell who’s maligning Jewish information here, Jessie or Melanie, when the article cites: “[The new month] used to be calculated by looking for the new moon,” Kerr-Whitt explained. “They would light the signal fires to show there had been a full moon to pass the information along that there was a new month.” On a planet where the full moon springs into existence out of the void of course.

Likewise this scholarly note: “Because of the less than scientific nature of determining the calendar all those years ago, there is disagreement among some Jewish scholars as to how long some holidays last; some are celebrated for seven days, while those same holidays can also be celebrated for eight days.”

Of course, there is no disagreement at all, and Jewish festivals are celebrated for seven days in Israel and for eight in the Diaspora (Rosh HaShana lasts two days and Yom Kippur just one day everywhere).

“I am happy to share my knowledge of Judaism with people who are interested and want to learn,” Kerr-Whitt said. “That’s the teacher in me.”

Because those who know – are already doing.

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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