Holidays Articles

Passover Hotels: A Growing Trend

pesach seder

It’s that time of year again. Magazines and newspapers catering to our community are full of advertisements touting the advantages of various Pesach programs. The variety is amazing. Depending on one’s preferences and financial ability, families can go near or far. There are programs within easy driving distance, and there are exotic locations all over the earth. Why not celebrate Pesach in Egypt? I haven’t seen that one yet, but who knows?

Each year, one also sees articles criticizing the phenomenon: If all the money spent on vacations were donated to tzedaka, they say, we could pay the rebbeim more. Or perhaps the criticism is that Pesach is a time to be at home – because how can we deprive our children of the opportunity to share in the cleaning and koshering and myriad preparations for the Holiday of Freedom? Isn’t Pesach the focus of attention by our wives? And isn’t scouring, just as our ancestors did in Hungary, or wherever, something that they hold dear?

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Chanukah in the “Good Old Days”


Nu, asked a yunger mentch (young person), how was Chanukah celebrated back in the “Middle Ages”? I assured him that we celebrated Chanukah in the same manner that he currently celebrates the wonderful holiday. However, after giving his question some thought, it occurred to me that there were some unique features to celebrating Chanukah in the olden days.

We lived in East Baltimore, and a terrible war was raging around the world, known as World War II. Periodically there were “blackouts.” Nu, you may ask, voss hayst (what does it mean) blackouts? To involve the population in the “war effort,” certain days were designated as mock air raid sessions. They were initiated by three loud siren sounds. Lights in every building were extinguished, and special dark window shades were pulled down. Walking out of doors was prohibited with the exception of the air raid wardens, who sported white helmets with a triangular emblem. If they spotted someone that fifed on (ignored) the no-light rule they fifed (sounded) their whistle with a deafening sound. Nu, if the enemy could not see buildings, they heard the whistle!


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The (Partially) True Story of the Jelly Donut


Many have asked, “Why do we eat jelly donuts on Chanukah?” To answer that question, first of all, they taste good, and now we have an excuse, since jelly donuts are fried in oil, and there is a tradition to eat oily foods on Chanukah. This tradition developed because of the miracle of the one pure jar of oil found in the Temple that was able to last for eight days, although the amount should have been enough for only one day.

Another lesser known fact is that, found alongside the oil, odd as it may seem, was enough flour, yeast, sugar, and jam to make a batch of donuts. Even more astonishingly, they all had a Badatz hechsher. This alone, however, does not fully account for jelly donuts becoming traditional Chanukah fare.

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Holy Days in the Good Old Days

rosh hashana

Someone asked recently how I remember things that occurred so many years ago. A good question! But, as any “senior citizen” can tell you, some folks remember things that happened “in Noah’s time,” so to speak, but are capable of forgetting where they placed the car keys!

The Yamim Nora’im (High Holidays) were practiced traditionally in East Baltimore, as they are practiced today, but they had a different “flavor.” To begin with, observant Yidden could be counted on your fingers. There was no large religious community spirit as there is today in Jewish neighborhoods. The rabbis who lived in East Baltimore in the 40s and 50s included Rabbi Forshlager, Rabbi Vitsick, Rabbi Levin, Rabbi Katznelson, Rabbi Tabori, Rabbi Pliskin, Rabbi Axelrod, and other prominent rabbanim.    

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What Freedom Were We Given on Passover?

seder table

Rabbi Moshe Travitsky is the founder of the Bensalem Jewish Outreach Center outside Philadelphia and the Rosh Kollel of the Bensalem Community Kollel. For more information please visit:

Passover is the holiday of freedom. In the prayers of the holiday we call Passover zman chairusainu (the time of our freedom). In the maariv (evening) service that we say every night, we mention that Hashem took us out of Egypt at this time lchairus olam – for eternal freedom. This coming Monday night we will gather with family and friends, as we mark the most celebrated Jewish occasion of the year – the seder.  Yet, as thinking people, we have to ask ourselves, what does this message of freedom mean to me?  Certainly there are people in this world who are slaves, who are denied physical freedom – but there were Jews who celebrated a seder in the most challenging of circumstances – when they certainly had no freedom. What of those heroes and heroines who recited the Haggadah in the Nazi concentration camps? Were they celebrating freedom there?

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Dress Up Your Pesach Meals with Homemade Salad Dressings

salad dressing

I know you have a zillion things to do before Yom Tov, so how dare I write an article suggesting you make your own salad dressings?!

You’ll be happy to learn that making salad dressings is, in fact, a pretty quick and simple task. It doesn’t have to be daunting at all. Most can be made with just oil, vinegar, and dried spices, shaken vigorously in a glass or plastic bottle or container.

A blogger, who calls herself the Skinny Chef, writes that preparing delicious homemade salad dressings is one of the easiest tasks that beginning cooks can quickly master. Besides, think about the control you can have over the quality of your ingredients. (You knew this was coming, given my perspective as a holistic nutritionist.) As you may have noticed, many readymade Pesach products – such as mayonnaise, salad dressing, and sauces – contain cottonseed oil. This cheap oil is used to replace the kitnyios-based oil usually used during the year. But if you make your own, you can use extra virgin olive or walnut oil, as well as other quality ingredients, like apple cider vinegar (preferably organic, although that may be hard to find on Pesach), dried herbs, and even fresh vegetables or fruits. Your homemade pesachdik dressings will have no preservatives, no artificial ingredients, no added sugar, and no cottonseed oil.

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