Cut & Post
No Bones About It
In this vegetarian take on the Seder plate, artist Suzanne Herzberg has substituted a blood-red beet for the shank bone. In fact, produce is her guiding design element, with apples, walnuts and cinnamon sticks (haroset), fresh horseradish (maror) and the other ritual staples making verdant appearances on the travertine-marble plate (below) she created.
Herzberg, a longtime vegetarian, felt yearly discomfort with the zeroa section of her Seder plate. When she learned that the Talmud contained a passage (Pesahim 114b) that mentioned commemorating the Passover sacrifice with a cooked beet, she was inspired to fuse her art with her vegetarianism and Judaism.
“I have gotten so much satisfaction from finally having a Seder plate that both reflects my vegetarianism and allows me to fulfill my obligations for the Seder,” says the artist.
Herzberg sells both the 12-inch square plate with five accompanying glass dishes as well as an 8-inch trivet (www.vegetarianseder.com).
The dirt will fly and the stakes will be high when Alan Schwartz hits the track at Monticello Raceway on Tuesday, April 22. The three-time champion will compete against seven to fifteen of his peers in the Passover Pace, an all-Jewish harness race now in its 10th year, for a portion of the purse and a box of matza.
John Manzi, public relations manager for the upstate New York raceway (www.monticelloraceway.com), came up with the idea, one of a number of races he runs to celebrate drivers from different backgrounds.
Schwartz, 62, will race against contestants from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Douglas King (above), 57, a forensic dentist who won the first Passover Pace in 1999.
“Everyone takes pride in a race of their own,” said Schwartz, a professional horse trainer. “It’s nice to win any race, but when it is all your own, it’s something special.”
L’Chaim! Pop Goes Pesah
With wine a singular focus of Passover, it seems an appropriate time to note the growing renown of Israel’s top wineries. Celebrated wine critic Robert Parker (www.erobertparker.com) recently tasted various Israeli vintages and placed the following bottles—not necessarily kosher for Passover—at the top of his list:
2003 Yatir Winery, Yatir Forest
2005 Golan Heights Winery, HeightsWine, Yarden
2006 Tzora Vineyards, Or Dessert Wine
2004 Domaine du Castel, Castel Grand Vin
2005 Domaine du Castel, “C” Blanc du Castel
2003 Golan Heights Winery, Katzrin Red, Yarden
2003 Galil Mountain, Yiron
2003 Yatir Winery, Cabernet-Merlot-Shiraz
2004 Carmel Winery, Limited Edition
2005 Tulip Winery, Syrah Reserve
2004 Pelter Winery, Shiraz T-Selection
2005 Domaine du Castel, Petit Castel
2004 Clos de Gat, Syrah Sycra
2005 Carmel Winery, Gewurztraminer, Sha’al Vineyard
Visit Israel in Just Seconds
Yearning to pray at the Western Wall, take in the history at Yad Vashem, marvel at Tel Aviv’s Bauhaus buildings (left) or enjoy a therapeutic mud bath at the Dead Sea? You—or the physical alter ego you create online as your avatar—can now visit your favorite Israeli hot spots with a click of your computer mouse.
In January, the State of Israel was launched in Second Life, an online 3-D virtual world boasting 12 million users, including a thriving 600-member Jewish community (www.secondlife.com).
“After visiting Israel in Second Life, I hope people will come see the real thing,” said Chaim Landau (aka Hagibor Shepherd online), who built SL Israel with the help of Beth Brown (Beth Odets), a Dallas-based artist who, in 2006, founded SL’s most active synagogue.
In addition to holy attractions, avatars can visit Eilat’s underwater observatory and dance at the Tel Aviv Opera House disco.
“It’s the fusion of the ancient and the modern,” says Landau.
“We put Israel on the map,” Brown adds.
Don’t Pass on This
If you are planning a trip to Jerusalem and want to see most of what the Old City has to offer, the Holy Pass could save you money. Visitors wishing to take in the more expensive sights, such as the City of David and the Jerusalem Archaeological Park-Davidson Center, as well as shop and dine before taking a Segway scooter tour of the Haas Promenade overlooking the Temple Mount might want to consider this new option.
An electronic smartcard valid for one week, the Holy Pass is sold at Jerusalem hotels, tourist sights and the tourism office just inside Jaffa Gate ($25 for adults, $13 for children; www.holypass.co.il) and comes with a pocket-sized travel guide. It offers priority status in booking a tour of the Western Wall Tunnel (just two days’ advance reservation required). Discounts include 10 percent off the No. 99 tourist bus and, in the Jewish Quarter, up to 10 percent savings at shops and up to 15 percent at kosher restaurants.
The House That Matza Built
Eight-year-old Molly Zuckerman of Princeton, New Jersey, has a blueprint for the perfect holiday treat: the Matza House. Last year, Molly came up with the idea while her mother, Ilona Harris, was busy cooking for the Seder. Wanting to take part in the action in the kitchen, Molly, along with sister Emma and brother Jake, created kosher-for-Passover models of the gingerbread classic. The houses were the highlight of the family’s Seder, says Harris, and the children plan to re-create their edible masterpieces this year.
Make Your Own Matza House
• 6 sheets of matza
• White frosting (creamy, not fluffy)
• Food coloring
• Candies such as licorice and gumdrops
• Coconut flakes
For a basic house, place a sheet of matza on a large, flat surface. Generously spread frosting along the edges as glue. Put a matza sheet standing upright along one edge to form a wall (use half a sheet for a shorter wall). Spread frosting on the vertical edges of that matza and begin attaching adjacent walls. After all four walls are erect, put frosting along all four edges of the remaining matza and gently place it on top to make a roof. (You can experiment with more complicated, pitched-roof models.) Decorate the house using the frosting as glue (use the food coloring to tint the frosting), the candies as architectural details and the coconut as snow.
Beating out “all natural” and “no additives or preservatives,” the “kosher” label was the most popular claim on new food products in 2007.
In a recent report, Mintel’s Global New Products Database, which tracks consumer products, noted that companies introduced 3,984 new kosher food items last year. Findings continue to show that the United States has the most developed kosher food industry outside Israel; the GNPD has tracked only 740 new kosher products in Europe in the last five years.
In polls, Mintel has determined that the popularity of kosher foods largely stems from Jewish as well as non-Jewish consumers’ belief that these products are healthier and safer than nonkosher ones. Additionally, Muslims who keep a halal diet and people on meat-free or lactose-free regimens rely on kosher labels when food shopping.
Judaism: An Issue of Respect in the FSU
Maybe it’s the belated effect of Jerry Seinfeld and Adam Sandler, but it’s cool to be a Jew in the Former Soviet Union. That’s according to a study conducted by the Institute for Jewish Studies in the Commonwealth of Independent States, which looked at how Jews in Russia and Ukraine view their Judaism.
The survey found that the majority of young FSU Jews, who did not grow up with Communism, have never experienced the anti-Semitism of previous generations. In fact, they reported that being Jewish elicits respect from their peers. However, though 45 percent identified themselves as “Jews” (without adding “Russian” or “Ukrainian”), just 17 percent saw marriage to a Jewish partner as an obligation. Also, many FSU Jews feel they belong to the Jewish people, but avoid becoming part of the local, organized Jewish community.
The findings of the study were discussed at an international videoconference in December where Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, founder of the institute, advocated for more informal ways to reach these Jews.
Strength in Numbers: Worldwide Jewish Population on the Rise
The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, an arm of the Jewish Agency for Israel, has released its annual report of world Jewry for 2007 (www.jpppi.org). Significant findings include:
– At the start of 2007, the estimated global Jewish population was 13,155,000, a rise of 0.5 percent from the previous year.
– Israel’s Jewish population grew 1.5 percent (80,000 people) in 2007, while the number of Jews in the diaspora declined 0.2 percent (20,000 people).
– Forty-one percent of Jews live in Israel.
– While Germany’s Jewish population continued to increase, there were declines in other European countries, such as the United Kingdom and France, due to emigration, death and assimilation.
– Barring major migration changes, Israel’s Jewish population will overtake North America’s in size in the next 10 or so years.
– Citing Israel’s high birthrates, the JPPPI believes the key to increasing Jewish populations is a stable nuclear family. Whileharedi women give birth to an average 4.7 children, significantly upping population figures, non-haredi Israeli women also record a higher birthrate than Jews in other Western countries, 2.7 versus 1.1 in the diaspora.