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PAGE 10A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 30; 2012 Crafting a memoJ', Passover with unique ritual objects By Penny Schwartz ' At the time, she and her BOSTON (JTA) To pre- pare for their first Passover seders, Zoe Scheffy, Lesley Frost and Joanna Brichetto drew on their creative in- stincts: Scheffy pulled out her knitting needles; Frost gath- ered scraps of felt, braided ribbon and tacky glue; and Brichetto rounded up house hold items, her kids' plastic "frogs and Beanie Babies. The three women, of differ- ent backgrounds, were mak- ing unique Jewish crafts that transformed their holiday celebrations from ho-hum to memorable. Their ideas and projects are now featured in books and on Jewish-Internet sites encouraging others to find crafts that enhance their Jew- ish observance of Passover, which this year starts on the evening of April 6, and other holidays. Crafting is in, says Diana Drew, an editor of many craft books, including two by style maven Martha Stewart, whether as a reaction to an overlywired, fast-pacedworld or the harsh economy.. Scheffy and Frost are among the 30 artists and craftspeople from the U.S. and Israel whose work is profiled in Drew's most re- cent book., "Jewish Threads" (Jewish Lights), which she co- authored with her husband, Robert Grayson. Passover projects include Scheffy's knit seder plate, a quilted Ten Plagues matzah cover designed by Shellie Black of Seattle, and an afikomen envelope made of fabric de- signed by Claire Sherman of Berkeley, Calif. . More than a set of how-to instructions, the book reveals the spiritual journeys that inspired the artists to create their Jewish ritual objects or communal projects. Drew and Grayson found By Ed'mon J. Rodman LOS ANGELES (JTA)-- Why is the day after the seder different from all other days? Is itbecausewe are exhausted? Or our clothes no longer but- ton? Possibly. More likely, I suspect the day after is different because of all the newly minted ques- tions that drop into ourbrains like zuzim. Hearing the Four Ques- tions the night before at the seder just gets us started, and traditionally, by the next day when we meet another Jew, we have formulated four more: * At your seder, how many peoplewere there? * Howwas the food? * What time did you eat? * How did you ever manage to stay awake? Unlike .the seder, where the Four Questions are usu- ally asked by the youngest, the apres quartet are asked by friends, family and co- workers, and you will cer- tainly want to respond with a detailed answer--a maggid, or story. To that end, here's a'handy post-seder guide: 1. How many attended? That would seem the easiest to answer; even the simple son or daughter can count. What they really want to know is Courtesy Diana Drew Zoe Scheffy's hectagon-shaped sederplate with a Jewish star in the center. a tremendous range and diversity of craft projects across the country. Drew noted to JTA the ritual ob- jects for the seder table and playful props that infuse the Passover celebration with more spiritual meaning and a personal imprint. Embellishing ritual ob- jects is nothing new, Grayson says, citing examples of cen- turies-old hand embroidered tallit and Torah scrolls, as well as communal-made wedding chuppahs. Drew says that creat- ing high-quality handmade Jewish objects reflects the concept of hiddur mitzvah, beautifying the command- ments, and will evoke memo- ries in years to come. "That is what Jewish crafts bring to a person's life and home," she said. In a conversation with JTA, Scheffy, a Boston-area mother of two with a doctor- ate in Scandanavian Sami folk art, said she was inspired to create her knit seder plate by her lifelong passion for fiber art. Rather than buy a convehtional seder plate, Scheffy wanted to create one that combined tradition and innovati,n, a reflection of her own mflticultural identity as an Aflican-American and Jewish oman. The hexagonal design of the seder plate, with six triangles, features a Star of David in the center. The He- brew words for bitter herbs, egg, shank bone and other ceremonial foods are knit into the plate in a separate color. While the idea of preparing her own sederwas daunting at first, making the seder plate was a learning experience. "I felt more prepared," she said. The project also made an impression on her 9-year-old daughter, who took an ac- tive role in last year's seder, Scheffy said. Frost, a Britain native now living in New Jersey, told JTA that craft projects such as the Passover pup- pets became a way to express herself Jewishly and to learn about Jewish holidays along with her children. After years of attending her husband's family's traditional--and lackluster--seders, Frost, a Jew by choice and an educator by training, vowed to create a more accessible and livelier seder for her family. husband were raising their children in Houston. Inspired by the Exodus story retold in the Passover Hagaddah--and recalling how crafts were an important part of her own schooling in England--the mother of two created Afiko- Man, a hand puppet made of felt and fabric. In subsequent years Frost added Moses, Aaron and Pharoah puppets that often sat on the Passover table and were used for play or a re-enactment of the Exodus story. Frost, who also made Pu- rim puppets, created sets of the puppets for her children's Hebrew school. Eventually she built a small crafts busi- ness: For many years she and her business partner sold 'their crafts at Jewish educator conferences and presented puppet shows for schools and synagogues. Thisyear, more than two decades later, she is extend- ing her tradition to afmther generation, making a new Afiko-Man puppet for her first grandchild. Raising her young family in Nashville, Tenn., Brichetto was turned off by seders where children were unengaged and in another room.Aseder atthe home of a rabbi provided an ah ha moment. He included the kids, she recalls. "I realized that seders don't have to be adult centered and boring," she said. When Brichetto's family decided to make its own seder, she and her children gathered up small plastic toys, Beanie Babies and household objects to make a crude version of a Ten Plagues bag. It was an educational way to connect, be engagedand have fun with the holiday. Over the next few years the idea took off, with more elaborate objects to repre- sent the plagues. The plague bags became such a hit that Penny Schwartz Zoe Seheffy at her home with her knit seder table runners, her first design for a knit seder plate. she and a friend went into mass production, starting a Judaica business with the plague bags and other craft projects. While Brichetto has heard occasional criticism of invok- ing humor with the plagues, she says the bags provide a good conversation starter about demonstrating c6m- passion for those harmed by the plagues. In her role as a religious school teacher and in out- reach with synagogue fami- lies, Brischetto discovered that hands-on crafts projects leveled the playing field for families from different backgrounds and religious experiences. There is value in making Jewish things with children, she said, from spending time together to educational moments to Questionitble behavior for after the seder table how many more days of this can I take? 3. What time did you eat? Sometimes known at the seder as the fifth question, the query expresses our need to compare levels of endurance. At our seder the festival meal usually isn't served until about two hours in. (Is that an "oy" I just heard from some contrary son?) In such instances, before you start, Wolfson recommends tipping off people to the length, so they can prepare. "And let them know why you are doing this," he adds. Wolfson also counsels flex- ibility. "I have seen seder leaders say it's OK if you have to go at 10," he said. He also suggests that hunger can be assuaged by using points of the seder, like eating the karpas, to also serve hors d'oeyvers. We usually serve arti- chokes. After 20 pages it's amazing how popular the pointy things become. A post-seder question about length is really about our sense of time in responding to the Haggadah's main dictate that "in every generation it is our obligation to retell th e story of the Exodus from Egypt." How successful we are in redacting the "oing Wolfson believes the seder is a"wonderful opportunity to gather people"--colleagues, friends and family who have no place to go, or who are not Jewishwand that"hospitality will hastenthe day that Elijah will come." My family has found that inviting guests beyond family has brought new perspectives, flavors and songs to our seder. And as a bonus, everyone is on their best behavior. 2. How was the food? Beyond inquiring about the specific density of the matzah balls and the Scoville (hot- ness) ratingofthe maror, what people want to know--espe- cially cooks--is whether your festival.meal escaped from the servitude of. old school Passover cuisine. Wolfson says that asking food questions after the seder is a good way for cooks to up their game. "A lot of people share reci- pes after the seder," he said. "Creative cooks are somewhat challenged by Passover. 'How" do you make a pesadik lasa- gna?' they ask." In our own home, we have found that creative uses of typical Passover ingredients like matzah, or nuts to make matzah roca, or an almond tort can help delay the inevi- (in my best Four Questions chant), whose side of the family attended, and are they the ones that on Passover eat bread? Did the out-of-town college students take a plane? . And tell me, did you invite any neighbors? Was there anyone there who wasn't Jewish? Alot of questions, but here's the key query behind them: How inclusive was your seder?" On the night of the seder we ask why we dip our herbs twice, but the next day we want to know if Uncle Herb the family atheist fell asleep, or did Aunt Phyllis show with her new partner. And what of the vegan cousins? Our tales of seder tables : filled with character relatives are greeted with grins and groans, but Dr. Ron Wolfson, author of "Passover: The Family Guide to Spiritual Celebration," with Joel Lurie Grishaver, says at his seder he purposely leaves one seat empty. "You leave an empty seat at the table for Elijah the prophet because you want Elijah to come," Wolfson, the Fingerhut professor of educa- tion at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, said in a recent interview. "Symbolically, leaving space is a metaphor for inclusivity." learn together about the holiday. In 2008, noticing a void in resources for Jewish families, Brichetto started awebsite for Jewish parents, and Bible Belt Balabusta, a blog for Jewish do-it-yourself crafts projects. Now there is an explosion of interest for Jewish family engagement and home-based activities; she's even heard from Christian preachers who use her site as a model for their religious outreach. Words of wisdom from the craftswomen? Don't be intimidated, each advised. "Jewish Threads" (Jewish Lights, $19.99), by Diana Drew with Robert Grayson. A pattern for Zoe Schef- fy's Passover table runners is available on www.sea- sideknittingpatterns.com. Edmon J. Rodman Seder guests the day after clearly will bring queries beyond the Four Questions. out" brings us to the fourth question. 4. How did you manage to stay awake? Few people actually ask this; it is more a question that every seder leader must consider. For in our "duty to tell the story of the departure from Egypt," the more one tells of the departure in an unrelatable way might itself lead to a departure if not of seder attendees, then of their at- tention. Wolfson suggests running the seder like a "committee meeting," calling on differ- ent people to participate. He advises that prior to the seder, "Give them homework, so they can have an invest- ment in the evening being a m success." Depending on Jewish back- grounds of the seder goers, "edit judiciously," Wolfson advises. "Most guests have not a clue to what's going on." At our seder, after the plagues, to give guests a clue, we get them outside where between two walls of blue tarp and while singing "Dayenu," we shpritz them with water bottles to remind them of the crossing of the Red Sea. Afterward, there are lots of questions. Edmon J. Rodman is a JTA columnist who writes on Jewish life from Los Angeles. Contact him at edmojace@ gmail.com.)