From April 3, 2020
The world is kapoyer, upended, but Pesach is coming all the same, and this issue of The Weekly Reader is our way to help you prepare. No, we can’t come over with a candle and feather to search out the khomets, the last crumbs of leavened bread. But we have been doing a housecleaning of our own: scouring our collections for pesekhdike recipes, stories, interviews, and more that connect us with our past, celebrate our freedom, and maybe even make us smile, which is something all of us can use right about now.
Blaybt gezunt un shtark—stay healthy, strong, and safe, and enjoy a zisn un koshern peysekh—a sweet and meaningful Pesach!
From our Collection: Peysekh Best Sellers by Maxwell House and Planters Peanuts
In an interview for The Shmooze, the Yiddish Book Center’s podcast, Nora Feinstein, the woman behind the Maxwell House Haggadah Project, tells us how the coffee company's haggadah came to be a fixture at the American seder. She also describes her ongoing efforts to capture photos and memories related to the most famous of all American haggadahs.
In the early years of the twentieth century there was confusion about whether certain foods, most notably coffee and peanuts, were really kosher for Passover. Two of the largest purveyors of the items in question, Maxwell House Coffee and Planters Peanuts, sought to reassure potential customers. Maxwell House published its own haggadah, and Planters released Yiddish-English Passover cookbooks with recipes that made heavy use of voden? Planters Peanut Oil.
Gut gezogt—Well Said
Kosher and Treyf: Geshmak iz der fish af yenems tish (The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side)
By Asya Vaisman Schulman (From Pakn Treger, issue 67/Summer 2013)
At first glance, it may appear that the cuisines of Jewish communities in different countries have little in common. Even when it comes to ritually significant foods, the Ashkenazi kharoyses of Passover can hardly recognize its Sephardi cousin, charoset, which, though it plays the same role in the Seder, is made with starkly different ingredients.
A Happy Pesach: Family Stories from the Yiddish Book Center's Wexler Oral History Project
Drawn from our oral history interviews, this compilation explores the transmission of Jewish culture and traditions through stories about Pesach foods, seders, and songs.
Translation: “A Seder in the Taiga”
Written by Yenta Mash, translated by Ellen Cassedy
“A Seder in the Taiga,” by the Moldovan Yiddish writer Yenta Mash, first appeared in her 2007 collection, Mit der letster hakofe (The Last Time Around). It tells the story of a unique Passover meal eaten by a group of women prisoners in the Soviet gulag. Substituting a pinecone for the egg on the seder plate, they rework tradition to reflect with tart humor on their difficult circumstances.
Yiddish Haggadahs from the Yiddish Book Center's Steven Spielberg Digital Yiddish Library
A naye hagode shel peysekh (A New Haggadah for Pesach) published by the Arbeter Ring / Workmen's Circle in Philadelphia in 1948. The translations from Hebrew (and Aramaic) to Yiddish are by the noted Yiddish poet I. J. Schwartz, and the music is by Mikhl Gelbart.
Hagada in Hebrew and Yiddish, published by the Hebrew Publishing Company, 1927. The illustrations are by Lola, the pseudonym of artist Leon Israel. A prolific and gifted cartoonist for the Yiddish press, Lola's work appeared on everything from commercial ketubah designs to art books and in the pages of Der groyser kundes / The Big Stick, an irreverent Yiddish humor magazine.
An All-Star Third Seder! Sunday, April 12
Rabbi Avram Mlotek visits with The Shmooze, the Yiddish Book Center’s podcast, to talk about the tradition of the Third Seder and how, in the midst of a pandemic, he’s found a way to celebrate this tradition online. The live event, slated for Sunday, April 12, at 2:00 PM (Eastern Time), will feature a stellar ensemble of contemporary Yiddish performing artists, including Frank London, Zalmen Mlotek, Joyce Rosenzweig, Lorin Sklamberg, Susan Abbe Watts, Joanne Borts, Sarah Gordon, Michael Winograd, Shura Lipovsky, Daniel Kahn, Elmore James, and Steven Skybell. The Yiddish Book Center is proud to be a co-sponsor of the event.