Ah…….Rhodes!!!!!

I have been devouring the new book I just received, Stella’s Sephardic Table, Jewish family recipes from the Mediterranean Island of Rhodes. This is a beautiful coffee table book compiled by Stella Cohen, an artist, cookbook author and proud Sephardic Jew, born and raised in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia ( today known as Harare, Zimbabwe). The book is filled with treasured Rhodesli recipes, wonderful photographs, a history of Rhodes, special holiday recipes, traditions, folk remedies, beliefs and blessings and so much more! A treasure trove for anyone who traces their family background to the glorious Juderia of Rhodes as well as those who love traditional Sephardic cuisine.

Reading the recipes, the stories, the Ladino sayings……Stella’s tale of visiting her grandchildren who, after kisses and hugs ask, “Nonna, where are the reshikas?”…things we, as Rhodeslis, can relate to! Imagine! Stella grew up in Africa, a world away from me….and her family table, recollection of family holidays and stories passed down from grandparents of the glorious Island of Rhodes….almost identical! What a joy to see these recipes, stories and reflections in print! It validates our experiences, gives voice to our traditions and helps keep our traditions alive and thriving, for our children and generations to come!

This is a ‘must have’ addition for your library! You can order it today by visiting Amazon. (order several copies…you’ll want to share them with your family and friends!! A wonderful gift!!!)

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Our son David, sent us an article that was printed in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz entitled, “Racing to save the Ladino legacy of Sephardi Jews”. The article told of an effort by a U.S. academic, Dr. Devin Naar, an assistant professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle who is attempting to collect, preserve and digitize the rich Ladino heritage of Sephardic Jews. David has had the opportunity to study with Professor Naar at UW.

The Professor notes that while Yiddish books have been collected and digitized for sometime, Ladino literature has had no such effort, and no organized depository. He is working to do just that as part of the Sephardic Studies initiative of the University of Washington’s Stroum Jewish Studies program. Our friends at eSefarad.com have reprinted his article, as well. Take a look. If you have books, leaflets or any Ladino writing you might wish to share, message us. We will be happy to pass your information along to Dr. Naar. Perhaps YOU can help to keep the beautiful Ladino language alive !

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We wish to share a bold and valuable commentary from Rabbi Daniel Bouskila speaking to the classic Sephardic worldview of modernity, inclusion and tolerance. If you have not yet had a chance to read it, please do by clicking here. And for a weekly spark of inspiration and learning, sign up to receive his weekly Torah Thoughts from the Sephardic Educational Center by clicking here.

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Finally, July 23 is a dark day in the Rhodesli world, recalling the day when the deportation of the Jews from Rhodes took place. There were about 1600 souls taken from Rhodes and the nearby Island of Kos and shipped, in the worst of conditions to the hell that was Auschwitz. Many died en route. About 1200 were gassed almost immediately upon arrival. Countless others died from starvation, exposure, torture and unspeakable inhumanity at the hands of the Nazis. Only 151 survived.

On July 23, take a moment to recall those of Rhodes whose lives were cut short by the brutality of the horrific Nazi regime.
Consider adding a book on the subject to your family or community library so the martyred souls of Rhodes will forever be remembered.
Consider one of the following:
The Juderia: A Holocaust Survivor’s Tribute to the Jewish Community of Rhodes by Laura Varon
Rhodes and the Holocaust: The Story of the Jewish Community from the Mediterranean Island of Rhodes by Isaac Benatar
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Ah, Rhodes!!!

~Bendichas Manos

Rhodes and the Holocaust

Tonight we commemorate Yom HaShoah, the day we recall the unspeakable horror of the calculated and diabolical program by Hitler and his regime to destroy, through the most inhumane means, European Jewry.

When we hear of the Holocaust we hear primarily about the deaths of Eastern Europe’s Jews in areas such as Germany, Poland, Hungary and Austria. However, the Sephardic world, particularly the communities of the Mediterranean basin, Turkey and Greece, were decimated, as well.

I want to mention here the community of Rhodes, one of the Dodecanese Islands off the coast of Turkey.

Rhodes, which had had a Jewish presence for at least 2,000 years, became home to a great influx of Jews in the years after 1492 when they were expelled from Spain by order of the Inquisition and welcomed into the lands of the Sultan, Sulieman the Magnificent, throughout the Ottoman Empire. Living cloistered behind the walls of the fortress city, their neighborhood, known as “La Juderia”, became a thriving community complete with schools, synagogues, businesses and even a Rabbinical school.

The early 1900’s saw the beginnings of an emigration from Rhodes by several young Jews to the “New World” in pursuit of new opportunities. By the year 1918, the Jewish community there numbered about 4,000 souls. Italy took possession of the Island in 1911. The mid-1930’s saw the Fascists take control of Rhodes. In 1943 the Italians surrendered to the Allies and in August of that year, the Germans occupied the Island. The end of Rhodesli Jewry was in sight.

In August of 1944, there were still 1,767 Jews living in “La Juderia”. After their deportation and brutality at the hands of the Nazis, only 151 survived.

Three events in February and March of this year brought the plight of Jewish community of Rhodes to the forefront. It is those events I want to share with you now.

In February 2012, we had the opportunity to visit Cape Town, South Africa. While there we visited the Sephardic synagogue in the beautiful Sea Point neighborhood. The synagogue follows the traditions of the Jews of the Island of Rhodes, most of her members and their families having originally come from the Island. Many had emigrated from Rhodes to the Congo, to Rhodesia, then Cape Town. The synagogue sports an incredibly interesting and informative pictorial mural in her foyer telling the story of the community. When in South Africa, do make an effort to visit.

As we talked with our hosts Mrs. Lucie Soriano and Rabbi Ruben Suiza, they told us to be sure and visit the Holocaust exhibit located in the South African Jewish Museum.

The Cape Town Holocaust Center has, as part of its permanent exhibit, an area solely devoted to the Jewish Community of Rhodes. I urge you to visit the site and to visit the Exhibit when you are in South Africa. The Sephardic community of Cape Town worked long and hard to ensure this story was told and will be there for generations to come.

A few weeks later, on March 1, 2012, the Los Angeles Jewish Journal featured an article about Sara Hanan Gilmore, a Los Angeles resident born on the Island of Rhodes who survived the horrors of Auschwitz. Her story is one that should be read.

Finally, the Sephardic Educational Center highlighted a newly released book by Isaac Benatar entitled “Rhodes and the Holocaust”. With thanks to Rae Cohen for giving me a copy, I just finished reading the 112 page book. It is compelling, tragic, horrific and hopeful. Benatar’s book and another by Laura Varon, “The Juderia: A Holocaust Survivor’s Tribute to the Jewish Community of Rhodes,” are well worth reading. Add them to your library and share them with your children, family and friends.

As always, I invite you to visit the website of the Rhodes Jewish Museum to know more about Rhodes then and now. Thanks to Aron Hasson for keeping the Museum and the website active and vital for us and for all the world to view and visit.

The Holocaust, stands as a testament to man’s inhumanity to man. It is a tale of the most barbaric depravity. We, as Jews, vow “Never Again”. Never again will we allow ourselves to be slaughtered. Never again will we allow ourselves to be people without a home, without power, without a haven and without a voice. May we always stand by Israel and keep her safe and strong.

As we recall tonight the souls of those who were savagely murdered, tortured and abused beyond belief, may our hearts and memory remind us always…..never again will the world stand silent as ANY MAN suffers the blows of hatred, cruelty and genocide. WE will not stand idly by.

May all their memories be recalled with love and may their memories be forever a blessing.

“Mos Abastava”

A few year back, my friend Murray Weiss and I were leaving a meeting and talking about the upcoming Passover holiday. Recalling our shared Sephardic backgrounds we started talking (rather singing to each other!) the various Ladino songs our families sing for this holiday.
We knew the same top choices from the Sephardic Hit Parade. Then Murray asked about “Mos Abastava”… Mos what??? Murray told me it was the Ladino version of Daiyenu. Something brand new to me!

I saw my folks later and mentioned “Mos Abastava” which they both recalled with delight, saying that it was sung at their family Seders in their youth. We have included the words in our family Haggadah for this year, hoping it will become part of our collective tradition.

At a later date, I heard a lovely tale from the brother-in-law of Ralph Amado (z”l) as to Ralph’s “introduction” of “Mos Abastava” at their family Seder.

Bits and pieces of our tradition….sometime hidden for a awhile, only to be uncovered, recalled, reclaimed and shared again.

Here are the words of “Mos Abastava”, from the Passover Agada ; according to the Seattle Sephardic Tradition, 1995:

Ladino Version

Kuantos grados buenos a el Kriador sovre nos:

Si mos kitava de Ayifto, i non aziya en eyos justicias, mos abastava

Si aziya en eyos justicias, i non aziya en sus dioses, mos abastava

Si aziya en sus dioses, i non matava a sus mayores, mos abastava

Si matava a sus mayors, i non dava a nos a sus aciendas, mos abastava

Si dava a nos a sus aciendas, i non rasgava a nos a la mar, mos abastava

Si rasgava a nos a la mar, i non mos aziya pasar entre eya por lo seco, mos abastava

Si mos aziya pasar entre eya por lo seco, i non afinkava muestros angustiadores entre el, mos abastava

Si afinkava muetros angustiadores entre el, i non abastesia maestro menester en el dizierto cuarenta anyos, mos abastava

Si abastecia muestro menester en el dizierto cuarenta anyos, i non mos aziya comer a la magna, mos abastava

Si mos aziya comer a la magna, i non dava a nos a el Shabbath, mos abastava

Si dava a nos a el Shabbath, i non mos ayegava delantre monte de Sinai, mos abastava

Si mos ayegava delantre monte de Sinai, i non dava a nos a la ley, mos abastava

Si dava a nos a la ley, i non mos aziya entrar en tierra de Yisrael, mos abastava

Si mos aziya entrara en tierra de Yisrael, i non fraguava a nos a cas de el Santuvario, mos abastava

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Sharing traditions…making memories!

Pesah Alegre ~ Moadim L’Simha!!

~Bendichas Manos

Pesah : Un Kavretiko and Kien su Piense, the lyrics

Posting the lyrics for two Seder favorites. Enjoy!!

AN ONLY KID – LADINO VERSION: UN KAVRETIKO

Un kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim, por dos levanim.
HAD GADYA, HAD GADYA!

Y vino el gato, y komio al kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre, por dos levanim, por dos levanim.
HAD GADYA, HAD GADYA!

Y vino el perro, y modrio al gato, ke komio el kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim, por dos levanim.
HAD GADYA, HAD GADYA!

Y vino el palo, y aharvo el perro, ke modrio al gato, ke komio al kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim, por dos levanim.
HAD GADYA, HAD GADYA!

Y vino el fuego, y kemo al palo, ke aharvo al perro, ke modrio al gato, ke komio al kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim, por dos levanim.
HAD GADYA, HAD GADYA!

Y vino la agua, y amato al fuego, ke kemo al palo, ke aharvo al perro, ke modrio al gato, ke komio al kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim. por dos levanim.
HAD GADYA, HAD GADYA!

Y vino el buey, y bebio a la agua, ke amato al fuego, ke kemo al palo, ke aharvo al perro, ke modrio al gato, ke komio al kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim, por dos levanim.
HAD GADYA, HAD GADYA!

Y vino el shochet, y degoyo al buey, ke bebio a la agua, ke amato al fuego, ke kemo al palo, ke aharvo al perro, ke modrio al gato, ke komio al kavretiko, ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim, por dos levanim.
HAD GADYA, HAD GADYA!

Y vino el Malach Hamavet, y degoyo al shochet, ke degoyo al buey, ke bebio a la agua, ke amato al fuego, ke kemo al palo, ke aharvo al perro, ke modrio al gato, ke komio al kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim, por dos levanim.
HAD GADYA, HAD GADYA!

Y vino el Santo Bendicho, y degoyo al Malach Hamavet, ke degoyo al shochet, ke degoyo al buey, ke bebio a la agua, ke amato al fuego, ke kemo al palo, ke aharvo al perro, ke modrio al gato, ke komio al kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim, por dos levanim.
HAD GADYA, HAD GADYA!

WHO KNOWS ONE? LADINO VERSION: KIEN SU PIENSE

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo es el uno?
UNO es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los dos?
DOS Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los tres?
TRES muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador,
baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los kuatro?
KUATRO madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y
Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los cinko?
CINKO livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los sesh?
SESH dias de la semana, cinko livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los siete?
SIETE dias kon el Shabbat, sesh dias de la semana, cinko livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los ocho?
OCHO dias de la millah, siete dias kon el Shabbat, sesh dias de la semana, cinko livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, ” Kualo son los nueve?
NUEVE mezes de la prenyada, ocho dias de la millah, siete dias kon el Shabbat, sesh dias de la semana, cinko livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los diez?
DIEZ mandamientos de la Ley, nueve mezes de la prenyada, ocho dias de la millah, siete dias kon el Shabbat, sesh dias de la semana, cinko livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los onze?
ONZE ermanos sin Yosef, diez mandamientos de la Ley, nueve mezes de la prenyada, ocho dias de la millah, siete dias kon el Shabbat, sesh dias de la semana, cinko livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los doje?
DOJE hermanos kon Yosef, onze hermanos sin Yosef, diez mandamientos de la Ley, nueve mezes de la prenyada, ocho dias de la millah, siete dias kon el Shabbat, sesh dias de la semana, cinko livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los treje?
TREJE son los Ikarim, doje hermanos kon Yosef, onze hermanos sin Yosef, diez mandamientos de la Ley, nueve mezes de la prenyada, ocho dias de la millah, siete dias kon el Shabbat, sesh dias de la semana, cinko livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Passover – Pesah 2012

With Pesah just around the corner, we have received requests for favorite holiday recipes. We are reposting with pleasure some of the more requested ones. Take a look; click on the various links, enjoy this special holiday time. Let us know how your cooking adventures turned out and please feel free to share family stories with us. We’ll look forward to posting many of them. More to come!

Happy Cooking!

~”Bendichas Manos”

Passover Megina – Meat Quajado (originally posted April 16, 2011)

One of the staples of our seder meal is a Megina, sometmes refered to as “mina”, or a “meat quajado”. My mom’s is made with crumbled matzah mixed in giving it a quajado like consistency once cooked, and able to be cut into and served in squares. The “mina” version is often made with layers of soaked and softened matzahs and constructed more like a meat lasagna. I am sharing the recipe as my mom makes it for our family and as she has taught it in community cooking classes. This is one of those dishes you can customize to your liking, adding different spices for a differnt flair ( think cumin or ‘ras el hanut’ or even cilantro instead of parsley, to name a few). This version is made with ground beef, although ground turkey could be substituted. Let us know what you think!

My Mom’s (Kaye Israel) Recipe for Passover “Megina” (meat casserole) {sometimes called Quajado de Carne or Mina}

2 C chopped onions
2 lbs ground meat
2 tblsp oil
1/2 tsp pepper (to taste)
1 tblsp salt
1/4 c parsley, chopped
10 eggs
1 C farfel (soaked in warm water, and squeezed dry) or 4 sheets matzah (soaked in warm water, squeezed dry and crumbled)
touch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Brown meat with onions in oil; transfer to bowl and allow to cool. Add salt, pepper, parsley and farfel (or matzah). Add 2 beaten eggs at a time until 8 eggs are mixed in.

Grease 9 x 13 inch pan (pyrex type) and heat in oven for 2 – 3 minutes. Pour mixture into pan. Spread remaining 2 beaten eggs to top of mix. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool. Cut into squares and serve. Delish!!!!

I am including this link, complete with some pictures, of one of our favorites, my mom’s Keftes di prassa.

What Seder would be complete without Haroset. Here is my cousin Sarita’s recipe.

We have some delicious dessert recipes in our community. Check out our recipes for some of my mom’s best: ashuplados, mustachudos (a nut confection) , masa di vino (wine cookies), and marochinos ( almond macaroons ).

I have also added the link to the beautiful Moroccan custom of “Bibhilu

Finally, a link to Yehoram Gaon’s recording of one of our favorite Ladino Pesah songs, Un Cavritico .

As with all things Passover…..enjoy the opportunity to be with family and friends. Document your family recipes and traditions, cook together, enjoy the time. With each dish we serve and each traditional song we sing, we recall lovingly those family members who are no longer with us, whose recipes and memories are present at our table, and whose names we mention at various time throughout the evening (and throughout our many family gatherings).

As we retell the Passover story, so too, we retell our family stories. I love the fact that our sons, now in their 20’s, “know” and talk about family members, several who passed away years before the boys were born…..but whose life lessons and stories are still very much a part of our family gatherings. Memories live on!

We would love to share some of your family stories with “Bendichas Manos” readers…..please feel free to send them on to us! Most important, share them at your seders. This keeps our histories and our stories alive!

A Rosh Hashana Seder

The holidays are almost here and the cooking has begun! Time for family, reflection and looking towards the year ahead.

One of the rich and unique traditions of our Sephardic families is a Rosh Hashanah Seder. It is a short service we conduct around our tables with the Rosh Hashanah evening meal, with some families doing it on both nights. Including the traditional blessings done at the holiday meal table (Kiddush, Washing of the Hands, HaMotzi), blessings are also said over symbolic foods, expressing our hopes and wishes for the year ahead. Most of the foods used are those whose names in Hebrew sound similar to one of the wishes expressed, so there is some fun associated with this!

Although primarily a Sephardic tradition, many others have begun adding the Seder to their Rosh Hashanah celebrations. My father remembers the “ratzones” from his childhood in Seattle…we began sharing the tradition with our children and friends within the past decade. Rabbi Yitz Greenberg suggests that each family add some blessings of our own, adding to our family traditions, adding puns we create around foods we include, which we have done from time to time. One of our Rebbetzins, Penina Schochet, suggested that we select a new fruit each year, having our young children be part of the process, and say a “shehecheyanu” over the addition of the new fruit, as a way to further grace our Rosh Hashanah table and include our children in selecting and trying something new.

Some families refer to this “service” as the “Yehi Ratzones”, referring to the words used “May it be Your will …” as referencing the symbolism that is to be recited. Often one hears the words “simanim”, referring to the ‘symbolic’ foods used. I will note some of the foods we eat and the translation of the blessings we say, primarily based on the materials prepared and provided by Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel (STTI) in Westwood, California, as well as materials prepared by the Maimon Family in Seattle, Washington.

Finally, my good friend, Linda Sendowski (The Boreka Diary) has some wonderful recipes for Rosh Hashana foods, specifically these symbolic foods, on her blog, which I share with you.

Check it out…and consider including some of these ideas and blessings at your Rosh Hashanah table this year.

For our Seder, we prepare a plate on the table that holds some of each symbolic food, and a prepared page for all our guests, including the blessings we will recite for the evening so all can participate. We include the Hebrew and English, and some years, the Ladino. Adapt as is comfortable for your household. We start with the Kiddush, the Shehecheyanu, Birkat Yeladim (Blessing of the Children), Washing the Hands, and the Hamotzi.

Following that, we recite a few blessings with intended good for the New Year, over some symbolic foods. The foods we use are usually plentiful during this season. Their Hebrew names, shades or colors remind us of our hopes and dreams for the year ahead. It is noted that “foods provide us an occasion to wish away our fears and verbalize our deepest hopes, as well as a chance to pun on their names in a number of local tongues”. (Source: Noam Zion in his paper Seder Rosh Hashanah).

1. Apples dipped in sugar or honey; apple cooked in sugar or honey; or candied apples:

Yehi Ratzon May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our Fathers, to renew upon us a good and sweet year, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year.

Baruch Ata Adonai Elohenu Melech Haolam Bore Peri Haetz.

2. Leeks (karti):

Yehi Ratzon May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our Fathers, that our enemies be cut off, as well as those who desire to do us harm.

(this is based on the wordplay between the Hebrew word for leek, “karti”, which is similar to the word “korat”, meaning “to cut off”)

3. Beets or Spinach (“silka” is usually identified as beets; Keter Shem Tov says it refers to spinach):

Yehi Ratzon May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our Fathers, that our enemies disappear, as well as those who desire to do us harm.

4. Dates:

Yehi Ratzon May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our Fathers, that our enemies be consumed as well as those who desire to harm us.

(this is based on the wordplay between the Hebrew for dates, “tamar”, which is similar to a word meaning to “end” or “consume”)

5. Pumpkin or gourd (zucchini or squash; “kalavasa” is often used):

Yehi Ratzon May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our Fathers, that you should tear up any evil decrees against us and let our merits be read before you.

(this is based in the wordplay between the Aramaic word for pumpkin or gourd, “kara”, and the Hebrew word meaning to “tear”)

6. Fish (pishkado):

Yehi Ratzon May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our Fathers, that our merits may multiply as the fish in the sea. Others have commented that as fish is a symbol of abundance and fertility, we ask God to Bless us with both.

7. “Ruviah”, often identified as Fenugreek, although sometimes referred to as black eyed peas or string beans. It is told that in Bagdad, it was referred to as “luviah”. Since it was similar to the Hebrew word “lev”, meaning heart, the word “ut-labevenu” (meaning “and purify us”) was added. (Linda Sendowski has a great recipe for Black Eyed Peas!)

Yehi Ratzon May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our Fathers, that our merits increase and that you purify us.

8. Pomegranates ( Used the seeds in your cooking, in a salad, or see Debby Segura’s recipe for making a Granita)

Yehi Ratzon May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our Fathers, that our merits increase as the seeds of the pomegranate.

9. Head of Fish (something from the head….in our family, my Aunt Belina Hasson used to make tongue (I cannot get myself to even buy a tongue, let alone figure out how to cook it….so, since this is based on puns, we use a “head” of lettuce):

Yehi Ratzon May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our Fathers, that we may be in the forefront as the head, and not the background, as the tail.

The festival meal then follows.

In keeping with Yitz Greenberg’s suggestions, one could add:
Peaches: May it be a “peachy” year
Dates: May our single friends have many “dates” this year
Mushrooms: May our abundance “mushroom” in the years ahead….

Have fun with this and make it meaningful to your family!

My friend, Debby Segura, combines all the symbolic foods into a beautiful and tenderly delicious salad which she serves as an early course. Her recipe for a “New Year Simanim Salad” is posted here. I have served it many times….it is enjoyed by all, and the symbolism makes it ever more special! ( Debby Segura)

Finally, I am attaching a link to a YouTube series of “The Selichot of Ezra Bessaroth”, in Seattle, Washington. It is a ten-part series of the Selichot service in the tradition of the Jews of Rhodes, led by Hazzan Isaac Azose, with many in the Congregation participating. The melodies are familiar to those of us who grew up in Rhodesli Sephardic Synagogues. There is something comforting and reaffirming in melodies, memories and flavors of our youth. I hope you will take a few minutes to listen and enjoy.

(Selichot in the tradition of the Jews of Rhodes)

Please share with us any of your own family traditions….we would love to post them. Sharing keeps traditions alive and evolving for each new generation!

From my parents, Jack and Kaye Israel, my husband Robert, and our sons, Jason and David….Tizku Leshanim Rabot…May we all merit many years; Anyada Buena….a good, and meaningful New Year to you all!

~Marcia Israel Weingarten
Bendichas Manos

From NY…..a Rhodesli Seder

Thanks to Howie Franco for posting this clip of their family Pesah Seder in New York. Howie leads the Seder with his cousin Richard Franco (thanks to Sally Mann and Rae Cohen for sharing the clips!)

I love the telling of the story…..”este es el pan di afision…..” My father, Jack Israel, started reading this in Ladino during our Seders some thirty years ago. He remembered the sound of HIS father, David Liezer Israel (z’l) {hijo di Yaaco Pasha} reading it during the Seders while my dad was growing up in Seattle. Since then, several of my cousins, our children and I have begun learning the traditional Ladino rendition. L’dor v’dor…from generation to generation…..we keep our traditions alive!!

I’ve copied the words from the ‘Agada de Pesah’ (according to the customs and traditions of the Seattle Sephardic Community), edited by Isaac Azose, August 2004. Watch the clip from the Franco Seder and read along:

“Esta es el pan de la afri-ision ke komieron muestros padres en tierra de Ayifto. Todo el ken tiene ambre venga i koma; todo el ken tiene de menester venga i paskue. Este anyo aki, a el anyo el vinien en tierra de Yisrael. Este anyo aki, siervos, a el anyo el vinien en tierra de Yisrael ijos foros.”

“This is the bread of affliction that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat of it; all in need come and celebrate. This year we observe it here; next year may we be in the land of Israel. This year we are slaves in exile; next year may we be free men in the land of Israel.”

Thank you to the Franco family! Record and share your family memories….with your families and with us. Together, we can keep our memories and our traditions alive!

“Bendichas Manos!”

Some final Pesah recipes, links and “The Blessing of Bibhilu”

A final post before Pesah. First, some links for desserts for your Seders or for during the week. Our previous posts for “marochinos” (almond macaroons), “mustachudos” (nut confections), “masa di vino” (wine cookies) and “ashuplados” (merguines), are always winners!! This year, as well, I want to share with you some great finds from some of the favorite blogs I follow.

I’m looking forward to trying this “Passover Raspberry or Strawberry Tart” by Jamie Doueck, posted on ‘The Jewish Hostess’. Also, “Matzah Toffee with Almonds”, posted on ‘Serious Eats‘ looks delicious and divine!! As always, my friends, Linda Capeloto Sendowski, is always cooking up something fun and special at ‘the Boreka Diary’ Finally, from ‘the Jew and the carrot’, a compendium of great Passover recipes from some of the best the web has to offer. Take a look and see what’s going on in the world of Passover food bloggers!!

One more tradition for Passover to mention again. My cousin Avi Abikzer, whose family is from Morocco, introduced the tradition of lifting the Seder plate above the heads of each family and reciting a blessing called ‘Bibhilu‘…. “Bibhilu yatzanu mi’mitzrayim” (in haste we came out of Egypt). {in this clip, Avi and Leah’s son, Evan, passes the plate over the heads of the guests as his father recites the Bibhilu blessing}

At synagogue yesterday, a friend asked if we have this custom, and I responded that it was introduced to us and we adopted it. She told me that they do it at her Seder table as her husband’s family came from Turkey, and it was their custom there.

A few years back Rabbi Daniel Bouskila wrote a story which appeared in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal titled “The Blessing of Bibhilu“. Perhaps it is a tradition you might choose to bring to your table.

Wishing you a joyful and meaningful Pesah, and good times with family and friends!

~”Bendichas Manos!”

Passover Megina (meat quajado)

One of the staples of our seder meal is a Megina, sometmes refered to as “mina”, or a “meat quajado”. My mom’s is made with crumbled matzah mixed in giving it a quajado like consistency once cooked, and able to be cut into and served in squares. The “mina” version is often made with layers of soaked and softened matzahs and constructed more like a meat lasagna. I am sharing the recipe as my mom makes it for our family and as she has taught it in community cooking classes. This is one of those dishes you can customize to your liking, adding different spices for a differnt flair ( think cumin or ‘ras el hanut’ or even cilantro instead of parsley, to name a few). This version is made with ground beef, although ground turkey could be substituted. Let us know what you think!

My Mom’s (Kaye Israel) Recipe for Passover “Megina” (meat casserole) {sometimes called Quajado de Carne or Mina}

2 C chopped onions
2 lbs ground meat
2 tblsp oil
1/2 tsp pepper (to taste)
1 tblsp salt
1/4 c parsley, chopped
10 eggs
1 C farfel (soaked in warm water, and squeezed dry) or 4 sheets matzah (soaked in warm water, squeezed dry and crumbled)
touch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Brown meat with onions in oil; transfer to bowl and allow to cool. Add salt, pepper, parsley and farfel (or matzah). Add 2 beaten eggs at a time until 8 eggs are mixed in.

Grease 9 x 13 inch pan (pyrex type) and heat in oven for 2 – 3 minutes. Pour mixture into pan. Spread remaining 2 beaten eggs to top of mix. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool. Cut into squares and serve. Delish!!!!

As with all things Passover…..enjoy the opportunity to be with family and friends. Document your family recipes and traditions, cook together, enjoy the time. With each dish we serve and each traditional song we sing, we recall lovingly those family members who are no longer with us, whose recipes and memories are present at our table, and whose names we mention at various time throughout the evening (and throughout our many family gatherings).

As we retell the Passover story, so too, we retell our family stories. I love the fact that our sons, aged 19 and 23, “know” and talk about family members, several who passed away years before the boys were born…..but whose life lessons and stories are still very much a part of our family gatherings. Memories live on!

We would love to share some of your family stories with “Bendichas Manos” readers…..please feel free to send them on to us! Most important, share them at your seders. This keeps our histories and our stories alive!

~”Bendichas Manos”

Our Family’s Haroset

My cousin Sarita (Hasson Fields) is a great cook! She has learned our traditional family recipes and often adds a new and novel twist to update a dish and make it her own. She just finished making Haroset for our family Seder……a gathering of about 35+ at our cousin Leon’s home this year.

I always enjoy cooking with Sarita. On occasion, we’ve cooked with my mom and pass the time telling family stories of days gone by, reflecting, remembering and laughing. At times, she and I have cooked and try adapting recipes…..sometimes more successfully than others! Always a good time together. I wish we lived closer…especially when she was cooking today, so I could have filmed and photographed her making the Haroset.

Here is her recipe for Rhodesli Haroset, as made by her mom, Belina Beton Hasson (z’l) {*similar to the recipe in the Atlanta Sephardic Sisterhood Cookbook)…..for 35 people (with leftovers, for the many who like to take some home, and spread it on matzah for a treat!!) You can cut it in half ( or quarter), depending on the size of your crowd.

50 – 60 oz pitted dates
10 large red apples peeled and chopped
5 – 6 C finely chopped nuts (pecans and walnuts)
1 1/2 C sweet red wine
1/2 C white vinegar

Place apples and dates in a pot and cover with water. Cook until soft. Drain and let cool a bit. Place apple/date mixture in food processor and puree, a batch at a time. Add wine to mixture. Add chopped nuts. Add vinegar.
(Sarita’s note…..mixture should not be watery. If it is, add more nuts; if it seems too hard, add more wine.)

It is definitely delicious. Give it a try…..and let us know what you think! “Bendichas Manos”!