web analytics
November 23, 2014 / 1 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘matzah’

Anti-Terror Airport Squads Briefed on Tefillin and Matzah

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

The Transportation Security Administration has made its employees aware the Jews with a kippa and praying with tefillin are not necessarily terrorists.

This good news should help Jews relax when praying at the airport or on the airplane during the Passover holiday.

This is no laughing matter.

When a Jewish teen put on his tefillin and prayed on board a US Airways four years ago, the crew panicked and aborted the flight from LaGuardia Airport, landing in Philadelphia amid unfounded fears of a terrorist bomb.

The tefillin’s two small Scripture-filled boxes were a bit strange to the nervous crew. After all, they could be explosives inside. Or maybe a collapsible Uzi.

And those straps! There are two straps hanging down from the tefillin that are put on the head, and there is a strap on one arm, so who knows? Someone who never saw tefillin in his life could run away with his imagination and suspect that the straps could be wires from an explosive device.

The plane landed, and the boy, a lot more scared than the crew, was met by police, the FBI and bomb-sniffing dogs

And he didn’t even get a chance to pray.

A similar incident the following year caused the pilots of an Alaska Airlines flight to lock down the cockpit and alert authorities because of three Orthodox Jews with tefillin on the flight from Mexico City to Los Angeles.

When the same thing happened on a flight in New Zealand, the country’s Race Relations Commissioner said the armed response was unfortunate and showed “an exaggerated fear of terrorism.”

So this time, TSA is prepared and instructing staffers that tefillin are not bombs, the kippa is not designed to hide a bomb, and matzah is not a bomb.

“Our workforce is aware of the unique items carried by individuals and religious practices individuals may engage in while traveling,” said a TSA statement. This may include reading of religious text or participating in prayer rituals. Observant travelers may be wearing a head covering, prayer shawl, and phylacteries — in Hebrew, kippa, tallit, and tefillin.”

The TSA has also informed baggage inspectors to be careful with matzah packages.

Perhaps they have explained to them that matzah is not suspicious cardboard. Hopefully, workers understand that they are not to be munching on any cookies made with leavened bread when checking matzah packages

“Some travelers will be carrying boxes of matzah, which are consumed as part of the Passover ritual. Matzah can be machine or handmade and are typically very thin and fragile, and break easily,

“Passengers traveling with religious items, including handmade matzah, may request a hand inspection by the TSO of the items at the security checkpoint.” TSO is the abbreviation for Transport Security Officer.

Agudath Israel of America, an umbrella group for Orthodox congregations, expressed its “profound thanks” for the notice, stating that the agency has been deeply sensitive to our community’s needs and concerns on this and many issues.”

But if a worker does accidentally break a matzah in half, who gets the Afikomen

(JTA contributed to this report.)

Below is the TV report of the tefillin-bomb scare four years ago.

Assembly Line

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

You don’t need to be a Prime Minister to make Matzah.

Russian Jewish Group Offers Free Matzah

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

The Russian Jewish Congress has partnered with one of the country’s leading Internet companies to deliver free matzah to Muscovite Jews. The only cost to recipients will be the price of the delivery.

The collaboration with the online marketing giant Vigoda.ru will allow the Jewish organization to send two million emails on Thursday in the hope that the offer will help introduce matzah to the homes of young professionals who would otherwise not get them.

“The idea is to reach out to young and secular Jews and to reintroduce or sometimes introduce this basic custom of Judaism,” Matvey Chlenov, the RJC’s deputy executive director, told JTA. “Like most Muscovites, they are busy with careers and raising children and will often not take the effort to spend two-three hours in Moscow’s notorious traffic jams to get to a handful of places where matzot are on sale.”

The emails that are meant to place matzah on the menu this Passover were sent through Vigoda.ru, a Russian website and company that, similar to the American website Groupon, offers various deals for reduced prices in a daily email that it sends to a large number of people.

The Russian Jewish Congress has stocked up on a ton of matzah it hopes to give out with help from Vigoda and through the organization’s own campaign on social media.

David Shostak, co-owner and CEO of Vigoda, said his firm decided to include the Russian Jewish Congress’ offer in an email to two million recipients in Moscow as “a service to the community.” Shostak, who speaks Hebrew, said he runs the company from Moscow but travels often to Israel.

Passover 5773-2013 Is Around the Corner

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

Following is the essential Passover set of reminders, if you will. We strongly recommend that you consult a rabbi or a friend or a friendly rabbi for any one of these items which may cause you anxiety. Obviously, one can spend all the time starting after Hanukah in preparation for Passover, but most of us don’t.

Passover—Pesach, the Jewish festival celebrating our redemption from slavery in Egypt in the 1250s BCE, begins on the 14th day of the month of Nisan in the Jewish calendar, which is in spring in the Northern Hemisphere, and this year begins at sunset, Monday, March 25.

Passover  is celebrated for seven days in Israel, eight days everywhere else. It is one of the top four Jewish holidays celebrated in America, alongside Hanukah, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur.

Passover-Pesach is unique among the holidays on the Jewish calendar in its prohibition against chametz, which is defined as five types of grains that have been combined with water and left to stand for more than eighteen minutes—the renowned “leavening” or fermentation. This includes bread and cake, but also a very long list of products, not all of them foodstuff.

The consumption, keeping, and owning of chametz is forbidden during Passover.

A typical observant Jewish home combines several means of dealing with this prohibition (you’ll be amazed how much of your physical space is mired in chametz):

1. A thorough scrubbing of all the areas in the home where food will be produced or consumed. The ground rule here is that the chametz should be removed in a manner similar to the way it was introduced—if it was through heat, then the particular utensil should be cleaned and heated for a period of up to one hour, and so on.

2. Covering all the areas where food is produced or consumed with paper, plastic, or aluminum foil sheets.

3. Storing all the chametz products of value (think single malt whiskey) in designated areas which are sealed until after Passover. Those areas are then sold through a special broker to a gentile for the duration of the holiday. You can also do it over the Internet, check out any one of these chametz sale websites.

4. On the eve of Passover, the head of the family checks the entire domicile for chametz, after which they recite an announcement that any chametz stuff that has not been discovered and eliminated no longer belongs to them (see it in the early pages of your Passover Haggadah).

After sunset, Monday, March 25, we all sit down around the seder table, to read the Haggadah, drink 4 cups of wine and eat our first bite of Matzah. This should take us well into the night, when we eat the Afikoman.

If you’re in the diaspora, you get to do the whole thing a second time on Tuesday evening. In Israel you enter the Chol Hamoed-intermediary days of Passover a day early. The holiday will be over in Israel on Monday night, April 1, and elsewhere on Tuesday night, April 2.

Please use the comments to add anything we may have skipped – remember, we were shooting for the essentials.

Gentile Prisoners Suddenly Become Jewish for Kosher Food

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

The York, Pennsylvania prison has recorded a sudden upsurge in “Jewish” prisoners, along with a much higher food budget following their demands for kosher food.

The law requires serving kosher food to Jews who request it, but that does not cover the non-Jews. Kosher food has to be prepared outside the prison and costs up to four times the price of a non-kosher meal. Multiply the difference by the 140 “kosher” prisoners and the result is an additional $100,000 a month.

Acting York County Solicitor Donald Reihart said during a recent prison board meeting that the prisoners think kosher food is better, which may or may not be the case.

Rabbi Jeffrey Astrachan of York’s Temple Beth Israel, York’s largest Jewish congregation, told York media, “It’s more expensive to prepare a kosher meal because of the processes that are involved with the slaughtering and the preparation of the food, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the food is any better.

“You could give someone two pieces of bread and a piece of cheese and that could be a kosher meal. It doesn’t mean you’re going to get some brisket or matzo ball soup. They could get a kosher meal that still tastes horrible.”

His congregation has approximately 600 people, one percent of whom keep kosher, he added. There is no orthodox Jewish synagogue in the city, so that leaves the question of how many “outsiders” in the prison are Jewish, which has a population of approximately 2,400. Nearly 1 percent claim they are Jewish, which means there are a whole lot of Jews from elsewhere, or more likely, there are a lot of fakes.

Prison officials are trying to figure out to solve the problem. Some of the Jewish wanabees give themselves away quickly, switching back and forth every so often from kosher to non-kosher meals. Apparently, they just can’t give up the bacon and eggs.

A “circumcision check” would not solve the problem because there are plenty of non-Jews who are circumcised. On the other hand, prison officials could tell those who are not circumcised and who claim they are Jewish that they must get a quick operation on you know where. That would probably work.

That the leaves the question of those who are circumcised but are not Jewish. Their birth certificates could be checked, but then there is the question of those who claim they converted.

Linda Seligson, the cultural director at York’s Jewish Community Center, has an even better idea to get rid of the phony Jews. Simply wait for Passover and see how many of the inmates can get along eating matzah for eight days and sticking to a diet of potatoes and more potatoes because of the Ashkenazi restriction on eating “kitniyot,” such as corn and other grains.

So much for the “food of freedom” for prisoners.

But what about the Sephardim, who do not hold by that custom?

York Daily Record columnist Mike Argento has a better solution. He reminds readers that being a Jew is not all matzo balls and gravy.

If the inmates stay Jewish long enough, they will encounter anti-Semitism, and then the prison budget will go back to where it was.

Borders: The Eruv In Contemporary Jewish Art – Shaping Community: Poetics and Politics of the Eruv at Yale

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

ISM Gallery of Sacred Arts, Yale Institute of Sacred Music
Allan and Leah Rabinowitz Gallery, Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale
32 Edgewood Gallery, Yale School of Art, New Haven, Ct
Hours and dates: www.yale.edu/ism/eruv

For most observant Jews, the eruv is invisible. Each week we prepare for Shabbos: ready our food, conclude our mundane affairs, shower, dress and put the house keys in our pocket and check the web that the local eruv is up. Unless there has been a storm or other physical disaster, we can assume everything is okay. Just like the Shabbos calm that descends for 25 hours, the eruv operates for us in the background: essential but unnoticed.

At Yale that is not the case. Margaret Olin, senior research scholar at the Yale Divinity School, has curated a groundbreaking three-part exhibition that critically examines this three thousand year old fundamental rabbinic institution. As far as I am aware the intricacies of such a complex halacha has never been subject to an artistic investigation, not to mention an entire exhibition of eleven diverse artists. Interestingly, almost all of these artists are not observant, which may be why they can feel free to artistically engage in this forbidding subject.

Mel Alexenberg, venerable conceptual artist, teacher and writer, has paradoxically one of the more traditional works in this show, a digital print on canvas, The Miami Beach Eruv (1998) that reflects its initially “hidden” nature. We see a gaudy Art Deco façade on Ocean Drive (Miami Beach) brandishing the glory of the material workaday world. Meanwhile a black and white digitalized image of Rembrandts’ fleeing angel (Angel Leaving Tobias, Louvre) is caught in this morass, symbolizing the religious Jew trapped in Miami’s culture of flesh and sensuality. And yet the thin eruv line stretches across the top, reminding us of Shabbos and delineating the permissible from the forbidden.

In a more practical vein Margaret Olin, the show’s curator and conceptual creator, presents us with a photographic primer on the very nature of the eruv. Her 35 photographs (2010 – 2012) and illuminating texts (including Maimonides, Talmud Yerushalmi, Franz Kafka, Michael Chabon: The Yiddish Policeman’s Union) present the purpose and means of the urban eruv. Describing it as “This Token Partnership” wherein multiple private dwellings agree to share a common space and its ownership by means of shared food (such as a box of matzah), Olin begins her images simply with the matzah of the Yale eruv. The scope of course quickly expands to include whole neighborhoods “shared” by means of symbolic walls and doorways, constructed by the most minimal of means, defined by her as “urban bricolage.” This term, amazingly appropriate for the eruv, is a postmodern technique in which ordinary and/or found objects are combined to create artworks. In the eruv this includes the sides of buildings, fences, telephone poles, wires and anything else that can be halachically patched together to create the legitimate borders of a shared private space. Her examination of the New Haven/Yale eruv with its rabbinic supervisors exposed the physical and conceptual complexities of such a project and guided her photographs. By focusing on the intricacies of the necessary vertical posts (lechi) and the horizontal posts or wires (koreh elyon) either in beautifully abstract close-ups or the seemingly invisible halachic borders in disarmingly simple street scenes, the viewer is slowly brought into the complex mindset of rabbinic urban architecture.

New York Hilton (2010), photograph by Margaret Olin
Courtesy the artist

Olin’s images explore how the urban eruv simultaneously includes and excludes city spaces with her image New York Hilton marking the Sixth Avenue border of the Manhattan eruv, paradoxically shutting off access to Jews who carry on Shabbos. Similarly she also explores eruv wires in Israel, such as the one in Abu Tur running past an Islamic institution, that proudly wave their “flags” and make the weekly checking easier.

Another aspect of the first section of the exhibition is an exploration of theoretical concepts that the eruv summons. Ben Schachter’s Eruv Maps (reviewed here in November, 2008) are naturally in abundance. These twelve deeply conceptual works slyly reproduce the map outlines of city eruvim using simple thread as the border, thereby echoing the wire that creates most eruv borders. These works operate by collapsing the vast physical size and complexity of the eruv into simple artworks, each 20” x 30.” In this way his work unexpectedly points out just how abstract and creative this rabbinic innovation actually is. As the catalogue notes, his eruv maps are “emulations of emulations,” reflecting the reality that “the eruv emulates architecture through a summary drawing in space by means of fishing lines and wires, so he emulates that drawing through his own fiber art…” It is the parsing the borders of interior/exterior (and at times interior exclusions or ‘holes’), real and imagined structures and walls, Shabbos boundaries and weekday spaces that make the eruvsuch an intriguing concept.

Preserving Baltimore’s First Synagogue (Part I)

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes are from “The Lloyd Street Synagogue of Baltimore: A National Shrine” by Israel Tabak, American Jewish Historical Quarterly (1961-1978); Sept. 1971-June 1972; 61, 1-4; AJHS Journal page 343. The article is available at www.ajhs.org/scholarship/adaje.cfm.

While it is not known precisely when Jews first settled in Baltimore, we do know that five Jewish men and their families settled there during the 1770s. However, it was not until the autumn of 1829 that Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, whose Hebrew name was Nidchei Yisroel (Dispersed of Israel), was founded. This was the only Jewish congregation in the state of Maryland at the time, and it was referred to by many as the “Stadt Shul.”

The original 29 members of the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation met in a room over a grocery store located on Bond and Fleet Streets (now Eastern Avenue). By 1835 the congregation occupied a one-story building on High Street and membership had increased to 55. In 1837 the congregation acquired a three-story building on Harrison Street near Etna Lane where it worshipped until 1845 when it built its new synagogue on Lloyd Street.

Rabbi Abraham Rice

Readers of this column likely are familiar with the life of Rabbi Abraham Rice from the articles “Abraham Rice: First Rabbi in America” (November 6, 2009) and “The First Rabbi in America, Part II,” December 4, 2009. Rabbi Rice, the first ordained Orthodox rabbi to settle permanently in America, became the spiritual leader of the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation in 1840.

Rabbi Rice was known for his piety and upright character and for a number of years he was probably the only person in America qualified to pasken sheilas. He became one of Orthodoxy’s foremost spokesmen at a time when it was under attack from the Reform movement.

“Abraham Rice’s place in the history of American Judaism is secure. The courage and dauntlessness with which he defended the principles of historic Judaism give him a unique place among the pioneers of Orthodoxy in America. His consistent and uncompromising stand in matters of Jewish theology was the strongest factor in stemming the tide of Reform. His devotion to the study of Torah and his depth of talmudic learning made it possible for [halachic] Judaism to gain a foothold on American soil, where for centuries Jewish life was spiritually barren and Torahless. His dedication to Jewish education and his personal instruction of many a youth in this community were responsible for a new generation of enlightened laymen to be raised up who changed the entire physiognomy and religious climate of the Jewish community of Baltimore.” (“Rabbi Abraham Rice of Baltimore, Pioneer of Orthodox Judaism in America” by Israel Tabak, Tradition, 7, 1965, page 119.)

The Lloyd Street Synagogue

Within a few years of Rabbi Rice’s arrival the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation was able to build the Lloyd Street Synagogue, the first Jewish house of worship to be built in Maryland and the third oldest surviving synagogue in the United States.

“There is no doubt that Rabbi Rice was the prime factor in the growth and consolidation of the congregation. It was under his guidance that the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation was able to build its own sanctuary befitting a Jewish community of stature and dignity. The architect commissioned to design the new synagogue was Robert Carey Long, Jr., who achieved renown for the several houses of worship he built in Baltimore at the time. In 1842, Long built the Alphonsus Roman Catholic Church; in 1843, St. Peter’s Catholic Church; and the following year, Mt. Calvary Episcopal Church and the Franklin Street Presbyterian Church. The Jewish community was sufficiently affluent to afford the services of such an eminent architect, and the Lloyd Street Synagogue was completed and dedicated in 1845.”

The synagogue building was built of brick and was sixty feet wide by seventy-five feet deep. It cost about $20,000.

The synagogue contained what was then a most innovative feature – a “Shield of David” that was conspicuously set in the main window of the synagogue above the Holy Ark, in the eastern wall, which everyone faced in prayer.

Isaac Lesser, chazzan of Congregation Mikve Israel of Philadelphia, wrote the following description of the synagogue after attending the dedication ceremonies on Shabbos Parshas Vayelech (September 26-27, 1845):

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/glimpses-ajh/preserving-baltimores-first-synagogue-part-i/2012/12/05/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: