The Matzoh Files

user submitted pictureSo by now you’re looking at the four extra boxes of matzoh on the counter and wondering if there might not be some other use for them, since eating even one more slab will stop you up ’til Sukkot. If you’re remodeling, you could stack them inside the drywall for insulation, å la straw bale methods. Or tile the bathroom. Or, you could break out the paint and glue and make art.
That’s what 250 New York artists did as part of an innovative, interactive project dubbed The Matzoh Files, originally located in the Streit’s Matzah factory on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and relocated to a larger gallery for the month of April (one assumes that the factory is extra busy this time of year.) Rather than displayed on the walls, much of the artwork is stored in flat file drawers to be perused hands-on by visitors. Sounds a little crumby.
We’re looking forward to going back to our chametz-lovin’ ways Sunday night, but aside from commemorating our freedom from the Pharoah, this carb-deprived holiday has an upside: we’ve lost weight. Who knew escaping the Egyptians would evolve into the Jewish Atkins Diet?

The Gospel According To Joshua

user submitted pictureWe came across a couple (1, 2) of articles about Joshua Nelson last week and were duly impressed. As a member of New Jersey’s small but strong African-American Jewish community, a Hebrew school teacher and a musical prodigy, Nelson has branded what he calls “kosher gospel,” a “rollicking hybrid of church tunes, Motown and Jewish-themed lyrics.” While this may seem incongruous with the Ashkenazic-centric image of American Judaism, Nelson proves that soul music has a valid place in Jewish history and practice.
We’ve always been attracted to the heart-rich, hand-clapping dynamic of gospel, but couldn’t get over the Jesus part of it enough to actually participate in our neighborhood church services. Now that we know there’s a Jewish answer to our hankering for revival music, we hope to catch Joshua on tour. Sing low, sweet chariot!

Little Girls, Big Questions

user submitted picture“I am not at all tired of matzos though they seem tired of me for they feel just now as if they were all sticking in a lump in my throat.”
That’s a quote from Amelia Allen, a middle-class Jewish girl writing about Passover—in 1876. The quality of matzah hasn’t improved much over the past century and a half, and neither have the challenges of being a Jewish teenage girl in America, according to Melissa Klapper, who has compiled journal entries, scrapbooks and photo albums of into a book called “Jewish Girls Coming of Age in America, 1860-1920”.
Even back then, Jewish girls obsessed about boys, pestered their parents about attending the school play on a Friday night and tackled biggies like “What is women’s role in Judaism? How important is formal religious education to the development of strong Jewish identity? How do we balance commitment to tradition with interest in modernization?”
Klapper writes: As the 350th anniversary of Jewish life in America continues, it is worth pausing to take note of how even previously ignored groups of historical figures contributed to the encounter between “Jewishness” and “Americanness.”
Definitely. And in another hundred years, Gd willing, scholars will contemplate the paradox of pink iPods containing haftorah portions and Gwen Stefani tracks,

Passover Hits Prime Time

user submitted pictureAccording to The Chicago Tribune’s Allison Benedikt, over eight million people watched the Cohen family seder on Fox’s teen soap The O.C. a few weeks back. It may not sound like a milestone considering these are the same people who brought us the nauseating phenomenon of “Chrismukkah,” but authentic representation of Jewish life on television might now finally go beyond Fran Drescher, Seinfeld shtick and the inexplicable use of the word “chutzpah.”
So kudos to creator Josh Schwartz for puttin’ on a pure Pesach for his dysfunctional interfaith family—and for refraining from coining a new momzer holiday like “Eastover.”

Short, Sweet, Chametz-Free

user submitted pictureWe’re still dealing with seder dishes while everyone else seems to be laying around in their underpants, so here’s a coupla items to keep it fresh:

*Just when you thought wet matzah plus eggs equals breakfast, here comes matzah porn (c/o Jewschool; requires membership).

*Dizzy Gillespie’s drummer Stan Levey passes on to a place where he can bang on the trap set for eternity without disturbing the neighbors.

*Britney Spears may give her spawn a “Hebrew” name like Miriam. Then again, she might name the zygote “Vegas.” What’s evreet for “doomed to retarded parents”?

Kosher Cracker Rap

user submitted pictureFans of Jay Leno were treated to a little late night nosh with the premiere of JibJab‘s latest offering: The Matzah rap video performed by none other than heeby Suburban Homeboy Smooth-E, the same talent responsible for the “Hanukkah Hey-Ya” phenomenon that was one everyone’s lips last winter.
This makes the third animated Passover parody (here’s one and two) of the season. Sensational!

In related Jewish rapper news, 50 Shekel has officially retired.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach! May your seder table be full of joy as we remember the bitter tale from whence we all came.

Not By Might And Not By Power…

user submitted picture…but by Spir-IT! alone (hoo-HA!) shall we all live in peace! If you ever attended Jewish summer camp, BBYO, Shabbat sing-a-longs or any other Reform Jewish American event, you probably recognize that song. Its author, Debbie Friedman, has sold more albums that all other Jewish musicians combined (but if we tally again next year, Matisyahu may give her a run for her money.) Her folksy original tunes are as recognizable as the traditional synagogue liturgy (she wrote “The Dreidel Song.” ‘Nuff said) and her music has been incorporated into some Reform services, which has rankled many a Reform leader. This controversy is covered by a new documentary called “Journey of Spirit” by former camper Ann Coppel, who focuses more on Friedman’s success at creating community among Jews than what detractors say about her. As far as we’re concerned, anyone who can inspire a roomful of strangers to put their arms around each other and sing transcends whatever “rules” the rabbis believe she’s breaking; it’s all about the love— for each other and Hashem.
“A Journey of Spirit” is currently making the rounds at film festivals around the country.