Jewish Storyteller Lifts Up The Voice Of Women And Engages The Spiritual Imagination

I first met Rabbi Sandy Sasso through her children’s books: In God’s Name and Noah’s Wife: The Story of Naamah. At that time (and still today) I was looking for books that would help me explore spirituality and G-d with our young daughter. Reading her books gave me the goosebumps because they were at once simple, beautiful and spiritual. Also, it feels so healing and vital to read midrash about the women from the Bible.

For those of you unfamiliar with Rabbi Sandy Sasso:

Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, is the Rabbi Emerita at Congregation Beth-El Zedeck in Indiana and the Director of Religion, Spirituality and the Arts, IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute.  She is the author of several nationally acclaimed children’s books including: God’s Paintbrush, Adam and Eve’s First Sunset , In God’s Name, But God Remembered and Noah’s Wife; The Story of Na’amah,  

It’s with great honor (and excitement!) that I share this interview with her.

Tell us about yourself.

From the time I was a young teenager, I was deeply interested in Judaism. When I was 16 years old, I told my closest friends that I wanted to be a rabbi. It was 1963. Because of an incredible rabbinic mentor (Rabbi Bertram Korn) and a supportive family, what was simply an unlikely dream became a reality.  

In 1974, I was the first woman ordained from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. After serving three years in a congregation in Manhattan, in 1977 my husband, Dennis, and I became spiritual leaders of Congregation Beth-El Zedeck in Indianapolis. We were the first rabbinical couple in world Jewish history. After 36 years, in 2013, I retired from the congregation to pursue my interest in writing and the intersection of the arts and religion.

I created the Religion, Spirituality and Arts Initiative at Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI), which brings together artists from diverse artistic disciplines and religions for sustained study and reflection on a select biblical text. By studying with faculty in the fields of music, literature, visual art and religious interpretation, the participants find inspiration to create new work that is later shared in a community exhibition.

After retirement, I have devoted more time to the writing of children’s books and co-founded Women4Change Indiana, a nonpartisan, grassroots organization whose mission is to mobilize women to engage effectively in political and civic affairs to strengthen democracy and advocate for the leadership and dignity of all women in Indiana.

I regard myself as a storyteller, a gather of ancient narratives and a creator of new ones. Lifting up the voices of women, providing children a language for their spirituality and fashioning new midrash are part of my life’s work.  

How did you start writing children’s books?

When my son and daughter were young, I couldn’t find anything in children’s books about faith that I wanted to read to them. There was great children’s literature, but when it came to talking about God and faith, the stories were preachy, narrow and not very engaging. I began writing stories for children because I found that in most religious institutions God was missing, at least the kind of God I could believe in. I wanted to write books that engaged the spiritual imagination of children.

When my daughter was 5 years old, she came home from a Jewish day camp and showed me a picture she had drawn of a kind looking grandfather. I asked her to tell me more about her creation. She explained that all the campers had been asked to draw a picture of God. She looked at me and said, “Don’t worry, Mom. I know God is not a man. But when I handed the counselors a blank piece of paper, they said that I had to draw something. A grandfather was all I could think of.”

At that moment, I knew that I wanted to write something about God that honored the rich imagination of children and help them see the divine in images that went beyond the graying grandfather.

I never thought what I wrote at the time would ever became a children’s book. It took six years and many rejections to finally find a publisher.

What are children’s main questions?  

Children have big questions! Why is life sometimes unfair? What happens when you die? What is real; what is true? They want to talk about loneliness, difference, and about God. Sometimes we dismiss these questions or try to avoid them. On the one hand, we do not think children are ready for that kind of discussion. On the other hand, we are not really sure what we believe, so we don’t know what to tell our children. The truth is that children aren’t as interested in the answers as they are in the conversation. They love mystery. They aren’t afraid of questions without answers; we are.

Is God an idea children can understand?

Children have a deep spiritual life. What children don’t have is the language to express it. People often think that they need to tell young people what to believe. But what is most important is to help them have a conversation about their own faith journey. That is what story does.

It is hard to use simple language to convey a complex and difficult topic. God is one of those topics. It is easy to hide behind philosophical and abstract language. But God is more than idea. God is an experience, a process at work in our lives, the hope and courage to do what we might not otherwise be able to accomplish. We should never underestimate the capacity of children to understand this.

One of my favorite philosophers, Martin Buber, wrote about the philosophy of dialogue. He spoke about the importance of relationships and connections, which he described in I and Thou. This book has had a powerful influence on me. I decided that I wanted to write a children’s book about I and Thou. I really wasn’t sure that it was possible. After God in Between was published, a Butler University professor told me ‘I read your book in class today’ I said, “You did!? Why?” and he said ‘It’s I and Thou, isn’t it?” You can have these big conversations with children. The question is the language you use. E.B. White, the author of Charlotte’s Webb reminded us “Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down.” It is a great responsibility and honor to try to do just that.

Are your books interfaith?

My books are meant for people of all faiths and those who profess no particular religious identity. There are many good books about specific religious traditions. I did not need to do that. I wanted stories that were open enough to speak to all children. To be able to engage children from different communities of faith has been an extraordinary experience. Children view the stories through their own lens. They help you see the story through their eyes of wonder.

Favorite woman from the Bible and what have you learned.

I have always been fascinated by the story of Miriam.  She teaches what it means to be a sustainer despite rejection from the very group you serve. During the long desert journey after the crossing of the sea, it was Miriam’s well that sustained the people through the wilderness. Even when she was shut out of the camp for complaining against Moses, her well continued to sustain the life of her people. She teaches us to find ways to keep our anger from destroying community.

As powerful as Miriam’s well, was her tambourine. The tambourine seems like a strange choice to carry with you when you are leaving Egypt and facing the prospect of raging sea and arid desert. The seemingly frivolous musical instrument did something that nothing else could have accomplished. It made the sound of hope. She teaches us never to underestimate the power of music, poetry and story. She had no map, but she knew what was needed at the moment.

Why is it important to give women in the Bible a voice?

When we only listen to the ways men have understood what is holy, we miss half the story, what it means to live in the fullness of the sacred. Biblical pilgrimages are always up some mountain, on a ladder, alone. It is so easy to slip with no one to catch your fall.

Allowing women to speak their stories, gives us a glimpse of other forms of sacred journeys. What would it mean to imagine what those missing voices might have said? What did the women hear at Sinai? Who was Noah’s wife, Lot’s wife? If we could hear their side of the narrative, we would learn more about ourselves and about God.

If all the voices in the Bible are male and the Bible is our sacred text, it says something about what  and who is of most value.

My work with reinterpreting biblical text about women also translates into building a contemporary community where women’s voices are heard.  

How has your relationship with God and spirituality changed over the course of writing these books?

The best way to answer this question is with a story. I was doing a workshop with a group of women. I read my book, In God’s Name, in which people name God from their experiences. Then I asked each person to choose a name for God. One woman said, “I would like to call God, an Old Warm Bathrobe.” I’ll admit that I thought that was a strange choice. But one year later that woman thanked me for the exercise. She said, “My mother died this past year, and I took her old warm bathrobe and wrapped it around me and felt the presence of God.”

Something similar happened with a young man who had just returned from the Iraq War. He called to tell me how he remembered how I had read that book to him when he was younger. Then he added, “I know my name for God now. I want to call God, a Trampoline. It was what enables me to bounce back after I have fallen down.”

God is not an idea that I need to understand but an experience I seek to name. I often tell the story of how my father used to carry me over the waves in the ocean when I was afraid of the water. His arms were like God’s arms that carry me over my fears until I am able to stand up again on my own. The question is no longer what is God or where is God but when is God.  

What about stories that make them so powerful?

Stories are the first language of religion. You cannot replicate the religious experience but you can tell its story. Story is then enacted in ritual and liturgy and later reflected upon in theology. The closest we come to the original experience is through story. Narrative is the way we make sense of our world, how we cement communal bonds. We learn facts, we remember stories.

Jerome Bruner, the noted educator, suggests that it is not just the content of stories that is important, but the very structure of narrative. It is how we frame our experiences. He reminds us of how Peter Pan pleads with Wendy to return to Never Never Land to teach the Lost Boys how to tell stories. “If they knew how to tell them, the Lost Boys might have been able to grow up.”

Franz Kafka said, ‘Books are the ax for the frozen sea with us.” Stories touch the deep places in our souls and open us up in all kinds of wonderful ways.

Did you envision the success of your books? Why do you think they resonate with so many?

I am continually grateful for and surprised by the large readership of my books. When I could not find a publisher for my first manuscript, God’s Paintbrush, I almost trashed the folder in which I stored it, but my husband encouraged me.

The time was ripe for spiritual books for children that did not give a sermon or presume to know everything about what you should believe. There were so many spiritual books for adults but few thought that children had the capacity to understand that kind of writing. I believed otherwise and took a chance. Telling stories to children, talking with them about the big questions has been a great gift that I continue to unwrap every time I have the privilege of telling a story.

Have you thought about writing about God for adults? Why? Why not?

I have written and edited for adults. My two adult books are Midrash-Reading the Bible with Question Marks and Jewish Stories of Love and Marriage (co-authored with Peninnah Schram).

The Midrash book includes theological reflection for adults. I have also authored a number of chapters in other anthologies and edited collections on the spirituality of children.

There are many wonderful books for adults about God. There are far fewer for children. I think I can make my greatest contribution in children’s literature. But children’s books are not for children only! They can help adults discover a new way of thinking about God!

What are your favorite books?

One of my favorite books is Dara Horn’s, The World to Come. It is a celebration of power of the imagination. It is an extraordinary piece of storytelling. I love the poetry of Alice Ostricker, especially the books: The Nakedness of the Fathers and For the Love of God- The Bible as an Open Book in the ways it transforms biblical tradition to gives women a voice. Judith Plaskow’s Standing at Sinai: Judaism From A Feminist Perspective has been foundational in forming a feminist theology.

Your turn:  Which part of Rabbi Sasso’s interview is the most meaningful to you?

A New Amazing Alternative to Amazon For Organic Products that Will Delight You

This may disappoint you to know this about me and I am going to come clean regardless.  I am a Amazon shopper, I often order organic products online. Another thing I admit to doing is loading up my online shopping cart on a steady basis so that when I am ready to make a bulk purchase all my things are in the shopping cart ready to go.  

Lately, I have started to feel less than good about my amazon habit because it seems like I am contributing to a monopoly and to be honest it feels a little spooky how much artificial intelligence is following me around the Amazon shop.  

The other day, I was looking for some organic cleaning supplies (I love seventh Generation products) and I stumbled on this online wholesale organic market that runs on a Costo membership model.  After doing my due diligence, I want to tell you about it.

The site is Called Live Green and here a screenshot of their homepage.

I became a member of Live Green and have been on their site loading up my shopping cart for when I come to the US this summer.  

Here is what I like about Live Green so far:

I also love that you can shop based on your dietary preferences in two ways.  First you can use the “standard” refine function and see food by dietary category like: organic, free trade, kosher, vegan, gluten free, dairy free, etc.  See screenshot.

Second you can search by brand (manufacturer) to find your favorite go-to organic products .  This is really useful when you want to find the specific product that you love and want to buy in bulk for your home.  

And get this, the Live Green donates money every time we shop to plant trees!  

All this to say that I found a positive way to find to buy wholesale organic products.   

I am in hopes that this resource supports your best intentions for health.

SPECIAL OFFER: Jewish Food Hero readers get a 14-day free-trail and exclusive discount off their first purchase. In the comments, tell us what you think of Live Green!

 

Blessings For Children (+ Beautiful Printable Children’s Blessing)

 

It is a custom in many Jewish homes that parents bless their children on Friday night during the Shabbat ritual. Most use the “Children’s Blessing”* that is written in a Shabbat prayer book. Following the blessing, some parents whisper loving words into their child’s ear. This moment is one of the most heartfelt during the Shabbat ritual. Beyond Shabbat some parents recite this blessing to mark important moments in their child’s life.   

This blessing is an emotional experience for many of us. Here are 3 short emotional stories about the Children’s blessing that have impacted me.

During my early 20’s, I lived in Colorado and was invited to Shabbat by an orthodox family. This was the first time I saw Jewish parents bless their children and it was emotional for me to watch. It brought tears to my eyes and that crying taste into my mouth. Maybe it was reading the English translation of the blessing that felt like a earnest entreaty for the child’s wellbeing (in the largest sense of the word).

May G-d bless you and protect you.

May the light of G-d shine upon you, and may G-d be gracious to you.

May G-d’s presence be with you  and bless you with peace.

Maybe it was seeing the parents so physically close to their children. The parents touching their child’s head and then leaning in to whisper private words into their child’s ear. Maybe it was seeing the children accept this public act of love and connection without embarrassment.

When my daughter was around 5 years old, we hosted a Shabbat dinner at my parents house and invited my mother’s good friend who is in her late 60’s. When she saw my husband and I bless our daughter, she got water in her eyes and covered her mouth with her hand. Following the completion of the Shabbat ritual, she opened up and told us that her grandfather used to bless her and her siblings every Shabbat when she was young girl living in Iran (before the revolution). She had not thought about the Children’s blessing since her childhood and seeing the blessing in action made her feel nostalgic and emotional.

A few years ago, I was in another Jewish woman’s house and I saw that she had framed a copy of the blessing beside the kitchen sink. I imagined her and her husband glancing at this framed Children’s blessing prayer while washing dishes every day.

The children’s blessing is one of the reasons I “do” Shabbat dinner every week. It allows me to practice important skills every Friday night.

  • Speaking out loud meaningful words to my daughter
  • Joining my partner and turning towards our child together in a spirit of unconditional love
  • Being physically close to our daughter in this ritualized way

Ritual and ceremony have been a part of the human experience for as long as communities of people have existed. However, this is something that many of us have lost a connection to and feel awkward about enacting. Ritual really means different things to different people; maybe you have preconceived idea that ritual must in some part be full of grandeur, maybe you find it embarrassing or feel like a fraud performing rituals because you are not always so clear about how you feel about G-d, faith and religion.

The children’s blessing is a simple ritual. You have the power to make it intimate, improvisational, and personal. Intimacy and closeness are easy in theory and harder to practice on a consistent basis, even in families. The children’s blessing is a way to enact intimacy every week.  

I wanted to make a beautiful printable Children’s Blessing that parents could print out and use for Shabbat, frame for their house, use as a bookmark, or simply keep on their bedside table.

I made this printable children’s blessing to warm our hearts and our homes.

This Children’s Blessing* is available for immediate download and comes in a high quality (300 dpi) PDF file for ease of printing. When you download the file you will receive one PDF that contains two children’s blessing prints. Both children’s blessings are 5″ x 7″. This way, you can keep one for yourself and give one away as a gift.

This Children’s blessing print is simple to make.

 

Download Now

You need:

  • A4 paper (I like to use a heavier cardstock paper)
  • Printer (a home printer works fine for these and going to your local print shop is also a good option)
  • Scissors
  • Frame (if you want to display it in your home). Here is a white frame and here is a black frame.

Download Now

Your turn:  Do you have a Children’s blessing memory to share with us?

*Please note that this product contains the name of G-d.  If you print it out, please treat it with appropriate respect.

What is Kosher-for-Passover in a Processed Food Society?

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Kosher-for-Passover processed foods are increasingly available. From cake mixes, candies, and snacks, a lot of these foods are junk food and playing off our vulnerability. Most of us relate Passover with food restriction and deprivation rather than food freedom.  

“Junk food” refers to low quality, low nutritional value processed foods. Junk foods contain detrimental ingredients including, but not limited to, sugars, saturated fats and sodium. More and more, we are understanding that eating processed food is an addictive experience. It is not a matter of willpower; sadly, junk food is scientifically engineered to get us hooked. Eating junk foods is a main cause of the global obesity epidemic.

This Kosher-for-Passover-processed-junk-foods phenomenon has more to do with the American food industry than with the Jewish holiday of Passover. It feels especially ironic that Kosher-for-Passover processed foods are marketed to us during this holiday of liberation where we are asked to reflect on freedom from slavery, oppression, and confinement.

It is a bit perplexing that Jewish people driven to uphold Kosher-for-Passover standards and being very diligent about avoiding whole food chametz are at the same time consuming, unconsciously, Kosher-for-Passover processed junk foods.

Here are 2 compelling reasons to Avoid Kosher-for-Passover Junk food this year:

Break Free of Our Addiction to Junk Foods

Aligned with the spirit of Passover, it is an excellent time to break free of our addiction to junk foods. As such it is a perfect time to make ethical food choices that are also healthier for our bodies. With more and more Kosher-for-Passover “junk” food available, we have to be more disciplined about our eating habits during the holidays and say “no” to foods that are not serving our bodies and our environment. Just because we can eat Kosher-for-Passover processed food, does not mean we should. Passover has the potential to be a healthy physical experience. Eating junk foods during the holiday is really a wasted opportunity to feel “free” in our own body.

Our Children

Many adults use children as an excuse to buy and serve processed junk foods. Yes, junk foods are highly attractive to children and it is our job to protect them from these types of foods. When we give our children processed junk foods we are basically promoting more diet-based health problems for our children. Obesity, chronic illness, low self-esteem, and depression can all be linked to poor diet.

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Kosher-for-Passover-processed-junk-foods are not “Kosher” as they are neither fit or proper for the human body.

As a positive alternative to Kosher-for-Passover junk foods, we can:

Cook For Ourselves

We can make our own sweet treats for Passover. Even if these foods are not as healthy as they could be, they will be healthier than store bought processed foods and since it takes time and effort to prepare them, we will eat them less.

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Here are two of my Kosher-for-Passover treats

3 ingredient date-almond balls that taste like a snickers bar

Nutty chocolate chip cookies

Enjoy Plant Foods

The modern Passover side story that we tell ourselves about food deprivation is not serving us (pun intended) in these times. Whether you follow Sephardic or Ashkenazi tradition, we can center our plates and our diet predominately around plant foods like fruits, vegetables, starchy vegetables from the squash family and roots tubers like potato and sweet potato during Passover. If we eat Kitniyot (I do and here is why) we can eat legumes and rice too.

Here are 17 Delicious Plant-Based Recipes Your Eyes, Mouth, and Gut Will Love This Passover

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These are just a few ways that we can break the Kosher-for-Passover mindset that we’ve grown accustomed to in recent years. You’ll feel much more connected to your body and the intentions of Passover when you focus on health-conscious meals for you and your family.

Do you have any more ideas for how we can break this Kosher-for-Passover processed food mentality?

If you are looking for healthy whole food plant based recipes for the Jewish holidays, you’ll love the Jewish Food Hero Cookbook: 50 Plant-Based Recipes

Jewish Food Hero Cookbook // jewishfoodhero.com

4 Natural Ways to Relieve Constipation During Passover (without taking laxatives)

Constipation is a real experience for many of us during Passover because we change our diets. When we abstain from chametz, we may be giving up our go-to favorite foods like bread and bread products, oats and wheat-based cereals, and corn and beans if you follow Ashkenazi tradition. (I decided to start eating Kitniyot a few years ago to have a healthier food experience.)

A food consequence of Passover may be that you eat more dairy, meat, and processed kosher-for-Passover products.

Eating dairy, meat, and processed kosher-for-Passover products will allow you to “keep” kosher for Passover but at what cost for your body?

Assuming that you have healthy bowel movements during the rest of the year, constipation during Passover can be caused by diet and dehydration. Of course, taking chemical laxatives will relieve any temporary constipation but they are not the most natural option.

4 Natural alternatives to laxatives and lifestyle changes that can help alleviate constipation during Passover.

Relieve passover constipation

Move Your Body

We’re free to move our bodies before, during, and after any holiday as a way of taking care of ourselves. (Here are 7 ideas for moving your body during the holidays.) Exercising during the Passover holiday is a good way to help if you experience constipation.

Eat fiber rich foods

Center your plate and your diet predominately with plant foods like fruits, vegetables, starchy vegetables from the squash family and roots tubers like potato and sweet potato during Passover.  Plant foods are filled naturally with water and fiber.  Water and fiber allow your body to naturally produce bulkier and softer stool therefore making bowel movements easier to pass.

Eat Minimally Processed Foods

During Passover (and all year long for that matter) Enjoy foods as close to “as grown in nature” with minimal processing that does not detract from the nutritional value and/or add any harmful components. There are a lot of kosher-for-Passover processed foods on the market today and none of these are as good for our body as whole foods like fruits, vegetables, starchy vegetables and roots tubers.

Drink A Lot of Water

In addition to eating fiber rich food, drinking a lot of water helps hydrate the body. Dehydration is a common cause of constipation. Quite simply, if your body does not have enough water in its system, then your body has a harder time producing soft and bulky stool. Drinking 6-8 glasses of caffeine-free liquid every day during Passover helps your bowels work properly. Still water and herbal teas are good options.  

There are so many plant based foods that can help us have regular bowel movements during Passover. Here are 17 Delicious Plant-Based Recipes Your Eyes, Mouth and Gut Will Love This Passover that you can enjoy.

If you looking for more fiber-rich plant-based Jewish recipes you’ll love the Jewish Food Hero Cookbook: 50 Plant-Based Recipes

Jewish Food Hero Cookbook // jewishfoodhero.com

Finally, the truth about how much Matzah you must eat during Passover revealed

Matzah

Passover is an important holiday. The dietary restrictions have an impact on our bodies and energy levels.

Good to know: We are instructed to eat matzah only at the Pesach seders themselves. During the rest of the holiday, eating matzah is optional.

For many of us (myself included), a little matzah is ok for our bodies but too much is not. Too much matzo causes constipation and belly aches. Instead of focusing on matzah as the main starch during the Passover seder or during the Passover week, it can be viewed as a condiment and eaten sparingly.

Our digestive health depends largely on fiber and water. The reality is that there are better foods for our guts than matzah.

For a healthy Passover food experience, focus on implementing these 4 food actions which are relevant whether you follow Ashkenazic or Sephardic tradition:

Make Your Meals Plant Centered

Fill your plate and your Passover diet predominantly with plant foods (fruits, vegetables, starchy vegetables, roots/tubers, intact whole grains, and (for those who eat them) legumes such as beans, peas and lentils). Here are 17 Delicious Plant-Based Recipes Your Eyes, Mouth and Gut Will Love This Passover.

Remember Nourishing Starches and Tubers:

Many people are still scared that starches will make them gain weight and so they avoid them or eat only a little. Healthy starches and starches are so necessary for energy. Rice (if you eat Kitniyot like I do) quinoa, potato, sweet potatoes, squash and pumpkin can be your main focus during Passover. All these starches are satiating, low in fat and filled with fiber.  

Decrease (or Eliminate) Dairy and Meat:

Due to the Passover food restrictions, many people resort to eating more dairy and meat during the holiday. For a healthier and lighter Passover experience we can eat more healthy plant-foods and healthy starches and tubers. Doing this will allow us to eat less or eliminate meat and dairy during Passover.

Drink 6-8 Cups of Caffeine-Free Liquid Each Day

During Passover when we are eating differently, water is essential to keep us feeling hydrated and energized. During the holiday, remember to drink plenty of water and herbal teas.

Beyond the Passover Seder matzah, each of us should eat the amount of matzah that allows us to feel well in our bodies.

Your turn: Tell us in the comments, how much matzah do you eat during Passover?

Longing for healthier recipes to add to your holiday table? You’ll love the Jewish Food Hero Cookbook: 50 Plant-Based Recipes

Jewish Food Hero Cookbook // jewishfoodhero.com

17 Delicious Plant-Based Recipes Your Eyes, Mouth and Gut Will Love This Passover

Eating plant based food during Passover is one way to take care of your body during the holiday.

During Passover*, we can center your plate and your diet predominately with plant foods (fruits, vegetables, starchy vegetables, roots/tubers, intact whole grains, and legumes such as beans, peas and lentils (depending on if you Kinyot or not during the holiday).

Here are 17 plant based recipes to enjoy during Passover.

Quinoa Cranberry Mandarin Salad

If you missed this delicious protein-packed salad earlier this month, have no fear! This high protein salad has it all: crunchy celery, sweet oranges and tangy cranberries. Its colorful appearance makes it a lovely addition to the meal. It is inspired by my cousin Jenny’s salad.

Vegan Rum Raisin Tapioca Pudding

This“old-fashioned” food is perfect for Passover breakfast or dessert because it is comforting and versatile. Tapioca is a lifelong food that can be enjoyed by everyone – from babyhood to old age.  It is a gooey, creamy mouth food that is eaten by the spoonful. The added rum soaked raisins makes the dessert fancy and reminds me of my grandmother’s favorite ice cream flavor.

Matzah Passover Tots

These Matzah Tater Tots are baked, giving them a nice consistency.  They are a bit crispy and  be made during passover as a “matzo nugget” dipped in your favorite oil-free sauce or served as a topping on a lovely salad.  Gluten free option given. 

Twice Baked Sweet Potato Tzimmes

Tzimmes is often part of the Rosh Hashanah meal when it is traditional to eat sweet dishes. I’ve adapted a traditional tzimmes recipe with healthy ingredients that are all plant based.

Easy No-Mayo Coleslaw

A refreshing coleslaw that is colorful and delicious. This coleslaw is healthy, as it is oil-free and mayo-free. Serve as as a side dish for lunch or dinner meals. It is a perfect salad to add to your Shabbat and holiday table. Serve cold. This salad can be made 24 hours in advance.

Sweet Potato Coconut Soup
Children and adults enjoy this soup. The recipe calls for a small amount of coconut cream – just enough to make the soup velvety. This soup can be served as an appetizer or as a main dish. This soup recipe is Pesach-friendly* and it can be enjoyed all year around.

 

Mock Chopped Liver

When people say “Jewish Food”, chopped liver is one spread that has a complicated reputation.  Most people have a chopped liver memory or story that includes their grandmother, strong smells from the kitchen, and perhaps some commentary about kosher meat. I wanted a healthy version so I’ve adapted a traditional chopped liver recipe with healthy ingredients that are all plant-based.

Zuccini Mina

This layered mina combines savory mashed potatoes with sautéed zucchini and kale for a winning Pesach dish. This dish is the size of one matzo sheet. If you’re planning on serving this dish to four people or less, make one.

Vegan Matzah Ball Soup

In this version, the matzo balls are baked, giving them a nice consistency that holds up well in the rich broth. They are a bit crispy and could be made during passover as a “matzo nugget” dipped in your favorite sauce. Make 18 matzo balls with this recipe for 3 balls per soup. If you want to make large matzo balls or have extra, consider making double.

Simple Tomato Sauce (oil free)

This tomato sauce is fresh and light tasting as it is oil free and uses all fresh ingredients. It is so simple to make that you can enjoy it with a starch and vegetables during Passover.

Vegan Oil-Free Red Lentil Soup

Lentil soup is delicious, simple to make and healthy for us. Red lentils in soup make a dairy-free creamy base for the soup, they cook quickly and I feel they are very easy to digest.

Oil-Free Healthy Baked Potato Fries

The good news about potato fries is that they are made using potatoes. Most of us love potatoes because they are a satiating starch with lots of vitamin C, B6, and a fiber rich food. I call potatoes my “happy food” because they are a good source of vitamin B6. Regularly eating minimally processed potatoes or sweet potatoes without oil/butter/margarine or cheese does the body and mind good.

Georgian Beet Chickpea Walnut Salad

I created this Beet Walnut Salad for Hanukkah after reading about the Georgian Jewish community (Georgia the Baltic state) in Gil Mark’s cookbook, Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World.  According to Mark’s, popular plant-based foods in Georgian Jewish communities include beets and walnuts. The preferred Georgia taste is sour.

Beet Fennel and Orange Salad with Maple Mustard Dressing

This salad is filled with winter vegetables. It has a crunch from the cucumber and fennel and sweetness from the beets and  oranges. The maple-mustard salad dressing is delicious and oil free. It looks lovely served over a bed of baby arugula or another green leafy vegetable of your choice.

Detox Chocolate “Milk”

This satisfying and healthy chocolate “milk” can be made with plant based milk during Passover.  It is so simple and pleases children and adults.  

Nutty Chocolate Chip Cookies

Everyone from your kids to your husband to your mother and mother-in-law won’t be able to keep their hands off these. These cookies are Pesach friendly* and you can make them with either white beans or sweet potatoes (trust me on this) depending on your dietary preference.

The recipe below yields a dozen cookies—which I can tell you from experience will go quickly—so make two or three batches for the holiday, depending on how many guests you’ll be hosting.

Sweet Date Balls

These 3-ingredient vegan and gluten-free treats are easy to make, delicious and healthy.  Your children will love them and they’ll enjoy helping to make them as well.   I make them all year long and keep them in my freezer.  They taste like a healthy “Snickers” bar.  This recipe was inspired by a treat that can be found at the Vietnamese market in Ho Chi Minh City.

If you like the above 17 recipes, you’ll love the Jewish Food Hero Cookbook: 50 Plant-Based Recipes

Jewish Food Hero Cookbook // jewishfoodhero.com

Your Turn: Which plant based passover recipe will you try this year?

 

*Pesach traditions vary widely, and some foods are eaten only in some communities on the holiday. This menu assumes the broadest definition of Kosher for Pesach ingredients.

 

Beautiful and Modern Passover-At-A-Glance Cheat Sheets To Help Your Guests Relax At Your Seder Table

Last year right before Passover a woman wrote to me asking me if I had a printable version of the Jewish Food Pinterest Pin.

She was hosting her first ever Passover Seder and was hoping to place these Passover-at-a-glance cards to decorate her table. Her idea was to place a card on each guests plate so that they could learn about the Seder by reading.

At the time, I rushed to set up the content to be print friendly and in the end I ran out of time.  This year, I am happy to offer this Passover-at-a-glance printable for our seder tables.  

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These Passover-at-a-glance cards are beautiful and practical. They add a decorative design element to your table and also give your guests a summary of the Passover ritual and the symbolism in the Seder. Of course, some of us remember all these details by heart but most of us do not. I like the idea of giving everyone a Passover-at-a-glance card so they can read silently at the table when they are unsure of something. Even though Passover is supposed to be about asking questions, it can feel embarrassing to ask questions that seem so obvious to everyone else. Placing these Passover-at-a-glance cards on each guests plate feels inclusive and will help them relax as it will orient them to the Passover experience. An added plus is that your guests can take them home with them

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The decorative element on these Passover-at-a-glance cards is a custom illustration of 4 cups of wine. Following that is an overview of the Passover holiday, the meaning behind all the food on the Seder plate followed by the specific order of the Seder ritual.

Easy Reader Version

I showed them to my father in February and asked him his opinion.  He said “How old are the people reading these?” To him the design-y feel of the smaller print is less important than being able to read the text easily.  After talking with him, I made another version (call it easy-reader Passover-at-a-glance) that has bigger font and is two-sided.   

These Passover-at-a-glance cards  are available for immediate download and come in a high quality (300 dpi) PDF file for ease of printing. When you download the file you will receive one A4 sized PDF that contains 4 Passover-at-a-glance cards.  You can print the PDF as many times as you need so that each guest at your seder has one to take home with them.

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These Passover-at-a-glance cards are simple to make.

You need:

  • A4 paper
  • Printer (a home printer works fine for these and going to your local print shop is also a good option)
  • Scissors
  • Laminator (as these Passover Prompt Cards will likely see some wear and tear, laminating it is a good idea. You can do this at your local print shop if you do not own a laminating machine. If you do own a laminating machine, lucky you!)

Download Now

To our beautiful Passover Seder tables.

Your turn:  Tell us what you think of these Passover-At-A-Glance Cards!  Feedback welcome.  A Jewish Food Hero reader send me her photos  from a vegan Seder in San Francisco.  Look how beautiful her Passover table is with the Passover-at-a-glance Cheat Sheets!

 

 

The Next Best Thing to Renting-A-Rabbi To Join Your Passover Seder (+ Free Beautiful Printable Passover Prompt Cards)

Passover Discussion Prompt Cards

One thing that makes me sad is being at a Passover table where there is not a meaningful discussion. And yet, it is hard to come up with the perfect question sometimes.  

Last year, I published this post with printable discussion prompt cards for the Passover table. These were very popular and I wanted to do this again for Passover 2018  except I want to improve.   

Wouldn’t it be terrific if each of us could include an inspiring Rabbi at our table to support us to have a meaningful Passover conversation? For many of us, including a Rabbi (one that we really like!) on our guest list is not possible so I found another way.

I asked 7 Rabbis to pose a meaningful question for our Passover discussion. You can read the Passover question posed by each Rabbi and see their photo. Below each question is the Rabbi’s respective bio in case you are interested to reach out to them. If you find the discussion prompts inspiring, you can download the Passover discussion prompts cards. You can place these on your Passover table for inspiration or choose the question(s) cards you want to include I’ve added a few blank cards as well, so you can add your own discussion prompts and personalize them for your family and guests.

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Passover Discussion Prompt Cards - Rachel Isaacs

Rabbi Rachel M. Isaacs is the Dorothy “Bibby” Levine Alfond Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies at Colby College, and the spiritual leader of Beth Israel Congregation in Waterville, Maine. She directs the Center for Small Town Jewish Life at Colby and shares her life with her wife, Mel, and two daughters, Nitzan and Hadas.

Passover Discussion Prompt Cards - Avi Killip

Rabbi Avi Killip serves as VP of Strategy and Programs and Director of Project Zug at Mechon Hadar. Avi was ordained from Hebrew College’s pluralistic Rabbinical School in Boston. She is a Wexner Graduate Fellow and holds a Bachelors and Masters from Brandeis University in Jewish Studies and Women & Gender Studies. Avi serves on the advisory boards of the Jewish Studio Project and the Shma Journal. She lives in NYC with her husband and three children. The highlight of her year is planning a new and creative family Seder.

Passover Discussion Prompt Cards

Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz is the President & Dean of the Valley Beit Midrash, the Founder & President of Uri L’Tzedek, the Founder and CEO of The Shamayim V’Aretz Institute and the author of twelve books on Jewish ethics. Newsweek named Rav Shmuly one of the top 50 Rabbis in America and the Forward named him one of the 50 most influential Jews.

Passover Discussion Prompt Cards - Sandy Eisenberg Sasso

Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, is the Rabbi Emerita at Congregation Beth-El Zedeck in Indiana and the Director, Religion, Spirituality and the Arts, IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute at Butler University. Rabbi Sasso is the author of several nationally acclaimed children’s books including: God’s Paintbrush, Adam and Eve’s First Sunset , In God’s Name, But God Remembered and Noah’s Wife; The Story of Na’amah,  

Passover Discussion Prompt Cards - David Rosen

Rabbi David Rosen is the International Director of Interreligious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee, Advisor on Interfaith Relations to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and International President of the World Conference of Religions for Peace. Among his additional honorary positions, he is an Honorary President of the International Jewish vegetarian and Ecological Society. He is the recipient of a Papal knighthood for his contribution to Catholic-Jewish reconciliations and was made a Commander of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II for his interfaith work.

Passover Discussion Prompt Cards - Adina Allen

Rabbi Adina Allen, a spiritual leader, writer and educator is Co-Founder & Creative Director of The Jewish Studio Project (JSP). Innovating an entirely new Jewish environment: part beit midrash (house of Jewish learning) part urban art studio, and part spiritual community, JSP is a Bay Area start-up that utilizes the creative arts as a tool for self-discovery, social change and for inspiring a Judaism that is vibrant, connective and hopeful. Adina is a member of the Open Dor cohort, the Upstart Fellowship and is an alum of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship. She is a proud mama to two amazing young kiddos, Remy and Tovi.

Passover Discussion Prompt Cards - Yuval Cherlow

Rabbi Yuval Cherlow is a Modern Orthodox Rabbi and Posek*.  He is a cofounder of TZOHAR, Israel.

Passover Discussion Prompt Cards - Sara Rich

Rabbi Sara Rich is the Executive Director of the Hillel of Buffalo.

These Rabbi’s Passover Prompts are available for immediate download and come in a high quality (300 dpi) PDF file for ease of printing. When you download the file you will receive one PDF that contains 7 Passover Prompt Cards that you can print out for your Passover seder.  

These Passover Prompt Cards are simple to make.

You need:

  • A4 paper (I like to use a heavier cardstock paper)
  • Printer (a home printer works fine for these and going to your local print shop is also a good option)
  • Scissors
  • Laminator (as these Passover Prompt Cards will likely see some wear and tear, laminating it is a good idea. You can do this at your local print shop if you do not own a laminating machine. If you do own a laminating machine, lucky you!)

Download Now

Your turn:  Add your meaningful Passover question in the comments below

* Posek is the term in Jewish law for “decisor”—a legal scholar who decides the Halakha in cases of law where previous authorities are inconclusive or in those situations where no halakhic precedent exists.

The Oliver Thomas Tote Giveaway: Perfect to Schlep Matzah, Gym Clothes and Lipstick During Passover

The Oliver Thomas Tote Giveaway Jewish Food Hero Blog

What does a terrific tote bag have to do with Passover? One word.

 

Every year, I “keep” Passover and abstain from eating chametz (although I decided last year to admit that I eat Kitniyot for my health)

Today, most women I know are hypermobile for work and life all the time, including during Passover.

“Passover food” schlep

During Passover, I need a bag to carry my normal life stuff plus all my “Passover food”. Most women today schlep kosher-for-Passover food for themselves and their family. My Passover food includes quinoa-cranberry-mandarin salad and for dessert a container of Tapioca rum raisin pudding.

That is a photo of me in Tokyo during Passover in 2016 holding my box of Manischewitz tam tam crackers on a pedestrian highway bridge. I carried this box of snack crackers around in my bag for 7 days and it was….well awkward.   

I need a bag for Passover that will make my life a little bit easier.  

The Oliver Thomas Wingwoman Tote

I found the perfect bag for Passover (and the rest of the year too): The Oliver Thomas wingwoman large tote.  

Oliver Thomas is on a mission to create joyful and functional and attractive bags for busy women.  

Here are a few things we like about Oliver Thomas bags:

  • Their bags are super lightweight and have a special shoulder snap strap that keeps the bag in place (tell your Mom that the Head of Orthopedic Surgery at Mass. General even validated this bag as healthy for our back and shoulders).
  • Their bags are durable, water resistant, and machine washable.
  • The tote bag has a “My Secret Stash” pouch and additional compartments in every bag to keep us organized and to give us some privacy!  
  • The bag has an internal key clip so we will not lose our keys every other minute.  
  • 100% vegan

To help us live better during Passover, Oliver Thomas is offering one lucky reader a free large Wingwoman Tote. Please note that to enter, you will need a USA shipping address. To enter, visit their site and post a comment below telling us which color tote you’d most like to wear this Passover. A winner will be picked at random on Thursday, March 16th.  

You can see all Oliver Thomas bags and accessories here. (I especially like their fun emotional badges that you can stick on your bag to express yourself.  I am waiting for them to launch this yiddish line of badges!)

Thank you for supporting the purposeful brands that support Jewish Food Hero.