Tag Archives: Judaism

5 Things Kids Should Know About Passover

Passover is an eight-day Jewish holiday that celebrates the story of how the Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt. Here are five things that kids should know about Passover.

  1. Passover is the oldest continuously celebrated Jewish festival.
  2. Seder, the traditional meal eaten to celebrate Passover, means “order.” Families eat very specific foods to remind them of the story of Passover. The bitter herbs are to remind them of the bitterness of slavery. The wine is a reminder of the rejoicing they felt when they were freed. The unleavened bread is a reminder that they had to leave Egypt so quickly that their bread didn’t have a chance to rise.
  3. Every seder table is set with a fifth cup of wine which is reserved for the Prophet Elijah. It is believed that Elijah will answer Jewish legal questions that the rabbis could not resolve. On the night of the Passover seder, the hope is that Elijah will return and answer the question of whether or not four or five cups of wine or grape juice should be drunk during the dinner.
  4. The last thing eaten at the seder is the afikomen, or dessert. The afikomen is hidden and the children at the meal must find and negotiate for its return. Until the afikomen is found the meal cannot be completed.
  5. During the first two days and the last two days of Passover participants do not go to school or work; instead, they say special prayers and eat meals together.

Happy Passover, and to all of you who celebrate it, “Next year in Jerusalem!”

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10 Things Kids Should Know About Hanukkah

Hanukkah begins tonight. Here are ten things kids should know about this special holiday.

1. Hanukkah means “dedication” in Hebrew.

2. Hanukkah is one of the lesser holidays in Judaism, but because of its proximity to Christmas, many Jewish parents try to make it special so their children do not feel left out.

3. The story of Hanukkah originates with an act of Jewish resistance against the Greeks who took over the Jewish Temple in 168 B.C.E.

4. The Greeks prevented Jewish people from practicing their religion. They made practicing Judaism punishable by death and tried to force people to worship the Greek god Zeus and to eat pork, two things that are forbidden in the Jewish faith.

5. When a Greek officer tried to force Mattathias, a Jewish High Priest, to worship Zeus and to eat pork, Mattathias struck back. He and his sons killed the Greek officer and then hid in the hills around Jerusalem.

6. Other Jewish people joined with Mattathias and the Jewish people ultimately won back their lands and the Jewish Temple.

7. The Jewish rebels were known as Maccabees or Hasmoneans.

8. To purify the Jewish Temple, the Jewish people decided to burn holy oil for eight days. But when they arrived at the temple, they realized that they only had enough oil for one day. 

9. The miracle of Hanukkah is that the small quantity of oil lasted for all eight days.

10. Today, Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah by eating foods fried in oil, lighting the menorah, giving gifts each night, and spinning dreidels.

Learn more about Hanukkah – and the Jewish faith – by trying some new foods, reading books about Hanukkah, and playing dreidel.

Make some rugelach or mandelbrot.

Read children’s books about Hanukkah.

And here’s how to play dreidel.

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Purim Cookie: Haman’s Ears

They go by many names – and many spellings – but the Jewish festival of Purim has one standout sweet treat in this cookie.

Hamantaschen are triange-shaped cookies that can be filled with a variety of ingredients such as poppy seeds, prunes, dates, apricots, or even chocolate.

They get their name from the villain of the Purim story, Haman, who convinced the king of Persian to allow the murder of all the Jewish people in his kingdom. The Jewish people were saved by Esther, the king’s wife, who was also Jewish, although the king did not know this until she bravely came forward.

Here’s a recipe from JewishRecipes.org that you might like to try.

There are so many ways to make these cookies that the possibilities for filling, folding, and displaying them are nearly endless. Here are some ideas to get you started.

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I also found a great article in the New York Times about one woman’s history with Hamantaschen, and her quest to make the “perfect” Purim cookie. You might enjoy reading it here.


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A New Day Begins At Sunset

I’ve always found it interesting that Jewish holidays begin at sundown the night before but I never really wondered why until recently.

According to the omniscient (and sometimes accurate) Internet, the reason dates from the creation of the Universe.  In the Torah, it was written that G-d created the heavens and the earth and evening came and morning followed, the first day.

I like this idea a lot, particularly since it means that I can cram a lot more life into my days if they begin just as my work day is ending.

Tonight, I finally pulled out the recipes I’ve been hoarding for traditional latkes.  Truth be told, it’s just a happy coincidence that my latkes attempt corresponds with the start of Passover, a holiday that retells how the Israelites broke free from slavery in Egypt.

Passover is a fascinating holiday but so many other have written so well on this topic and I have had so little first-hand experience with it that I hesitate to add anything except to say that it sounds like an amazing, tradition-fueled holiday that coincides with some interesting food.

I chose to focus on something simple:  latkes.  They were easy to squeeze in after a long day at work and I thought my son would like to help me cook.  I was right on one count, wrong on the other, but I still managed to single-handedly whip up some delicious latkes.

I had two recipes, a traditional white potato and onion latke and a sweet potato latke.

The steps were easy:  I peeled and grated about 4 medium white potatoes; I grated one-half of a yellow onion; I added some salt and pepper; one beaten egg; and two tablespoons of flour.  Once I mixed that well by hand, I heated about 3 tablespoons of oil over high heat and then carefully dropped the potato mixture into the oil.

The sweet potato latkes was even easier.  I grated one large sweet potato, added two beaten eggs (this was a larger amount of potato than my recipe called for); two tablespoons of flour; chopped green onion (about 3); and added salt, pepper, and two tablespoons of flour.  I thought the original latkes could have been improved by a little spice, so I added some paprika to this mixture but it really didn’t add much.

Of the two, my favorite was the white potato version.  I could easily see making them again and I think my son would enjoy them.  

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Hanukkah Begins!

Tonight marks the first night of Hanukkah, which means “dedication” or “consecration” in Hebrew and commemorates the miracle of the container of oil, when the lights in the temple lamp burned for eight nights even though there was barely enough oil to last one night.

Jewish families light a candle for each night of Hanukkah on a special candelabra called a menorah.  Many families also eat foods fried in oil, such as potato latkes (which are fantastic) and jam-filled doughnuts (who can argue with that).

Happy Hanukkah! Chag Urim Sameach!

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Happy Hanukkah

I admit it; I love dreidels.  It all started when one of my sister’s best friends in college invited us to a Hanukkah party.  We sat around listening to music and playing dreidel, which this Atlantic City girl was delighted to discover was actually gambling.  From then on, I was hooked. 

When my son recently came home with a handmade menorah from school, I thought the time was right to introduce him to the dreidel.

Maybe it’s not the best way to get my son interested in Hanukkah and Judaism, but it’s a start.

Dreidel:  the rules of the game

Each player starts the game with an equal number of whatever commodity you’re gambling:  coins, peanuts, gelt, etc. 

Each player puts one piece in the “pot”.  When it’s your turn, spin the dreidel.   

Nun means nothing in Yiddish. The player does nothing.

Gimmel means everything in Yiddish.  The player gets everything in the pot.

Hey means half in Yiddish. The player gets half of the pot.  If there is an odd number of pieces in the pot, the player takes half of the total plus one.

Shin means put in in Yiddish.  

The game is over when one player wins everything!


Below:  the four sides of the dreidel, from right: nun, gimmel, hey, and shin.




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