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April 11, 2014
 

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PAGE 22A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, APRIL 11, 2014 From farm to seder table: Locally grown matzah on the rise By Talia Lavin NEWYORK (JTA)--In their small farmhouse bakery in Vermont, Doug Freilich and Julie Sperlingwork round the clock producing matzah in the period preceding Passover--a matzah that feels ancient and modern at once. Using a mix of grain they grow on their own farm and wheat sourced from other local farmers, the couple cre- ate hundreds of pieces of the wholesome unleavened bread they ca!l Vermatzah. "The idea came because of our initial interest in growing grains, looking at them from the harvest to the baking in a very simple sense, and high- lighting grains that have good flavor," Freilich told JTA. "We celebrate our own Passover each year, we go through the matzah-making ritual for both the spring awakening and remembering the story- telling of this holiday." Freilich and Sperling, co- owners of the Naga Bakehouse in Middletown Springs, Vt., are among American Jewish bakers looking at new ways to create matzah in ways that dovetail with the concerns of an age of foodies and locally sourced groceries. They are joined in the process by their teenaged children, Ticho and Ellis. "Between the four of us, we are working each and every piece by hand: they are handmade with fingerprints, J-Street From page 3A can completely identify with the people who hate you and consider you their mortal enemy," he stated. Samantha Mandeles, a campus coordinator for CAM- ERA, put it this way, "That's the good Jew, the Jew that helps everyone else, who puts others before themselves, who cares more about strangers than they do about family. If a Jewish student feels that repairing the world and being a universalist and progressive is equivalent to being Jewish, then they can forget being proudly Jewish and Zionist." J-Street U can be appealing to idealistic 20-somethings who want to make the world abetter place. Butwhilebeing "gentle as a dove," one also has to be "wise as a serpent." This documentary is an eye-opener. It makes one really think. For more infor- mation about the film, please contact Sandi Solomon at 407-575-9899. 42716 98153 36548 54681 21379 79825 15937 87462 63294 9,583 7462 2197 3729 4658 6314 8246 5931 1875 and heart, and soul," Freilich said. "Our rnatzahs are tinted and kissed by the fire of the wood oven." At the end of the labor- intensive process, each matzah is wrapped in parchment paper and hand tied before being sent off-- with a bonus seed packet of wheatberries from the family's farm--to prospec- tive customers throughout the country. Vermatzah is primarily available in Vermont, New York and Massachusetts, but Freilich says a huge increase in Web orders means the prod- uct is now making it across the United States. Freilich and Sperling have been making Vermatzah for six years. Now others are beginning to embrace mat- zah's role in the farm-to-table trend. The Yiddish Farm, an eclectic collective in Goshen, N.Y. that combines Yiddish language instruction with agriculture, is producing its own matzah this year baked with grain grown in its fields. The matzah will be whole wheat and Shmurah--a ritual designation for matzah that refers to a process of careful supervision which begins when the matzah's grain is in the field and doesn't stop until the matzah is baked. The process involves planting, combine-harvesting, reaping, milling and sifting at the Yid- dish Farm, according to the Forward. The end result is alocavore's matzah dream that will travel JNF From page 2A story, especially once he said he couldn't wait to race in the handicapped race of the Jerusalem marathon with JNF as his sponsor. I had never realized how global JNF was until we tried to see Roz race at the mara- thon. I had always thought it was the U.S. and Israel with JNF but the marathon ended up having a team represented by JNF from the United King- dom. With the thousands of people at the marathon, you could see the unity of the state of Israel by one simple sport--running. There were Julie Sperling working from Goshen, in upstate New York, to Manhattan and New Jersey prior to Passover. For Anne Kostroski, the owner of Crumb Bakery in Chicago, making her own matzah has less to do with food ideology than more practical matters. "I don't like eating store- bought matzah because I think it tastes awful," she said, laughing. Kostroski, 41, has been making her own signature matzah for nearly 10 years, since her conversion to Juda- ism in the mid-1990s. "The matzah I make is made with honey, locally Naga Bakehouse the matzah dough at the Naga Bakehouse in Vermont. sourced eggs, black pepper and olive oil," Kostroski said. "It's fiat and crunchy, but not as dry as the regular store- bought plain matzah. There's a hint of heat and sweetness that makes matzah more interesting." For Kostroski, matzah making has been a part of her Jewish journey, even when she hasn't been able to attend synagogue regularly under the strain of a baker's life. Matzah creates a feeling ofconnectionwith history and tradition, she explains. And her homemade mat- zah, which she sells at farmer's markets, her Chicago eatery, the Sauce and Bread Kitchen, and by pre-order--is made lovingly and painstakingly by hand. "I make several hurdred matzahs a year, mixed, rolled and baked," she said. "One batch is maybe two dozen and it's really labor intensive." Kostroski says demand is increasing, slowly but surely, year by year. "I came across this recipe in 1995 and I started making it, and I've been making it ever since," Kostroski said. "People are not expecting different types of matzah--they expect something flavorless, and it doesn't have to be." Arab-Israelis, Orthodox-Israe- lis, secular, and people from other countries running to support Israel. For more inspiration, our group found ourselves at a youth village for refugees from around the world. It is for high school students only, but if their families manage to leave the country also, they are allowed to live in the village as well. It is an Orthodox Jewish village, even if those who come to Israel are not actually Jew- ish. Many of the refugees are from Ethiopia, Darfur, France, and parts of Asia where they are escaping from political problems, religious persecution, and general poverty. The students go through the typical high school education and then are given the option to leave the village to pursue college, move, or simply stay in the village and help new arrivals. It was incredible to see how some of these kids even walked from their own countries to Israel to create a better life for themselves. Similar to how people left Europe in the 20th century and came to the U.S. through Ellis Island, there is so much that goes into their stories that you cannot help but sympathize and then feel proud for these children who are trying to make a better life for themselves and their families. I couldn't have asked for a better spring break experience. I graduate col- lege at the end of April and enter the corporate world. I didn't think I would get a chance to go back to Israel for at least a year so I took the opportunity to go. It is never a bad idea to take a step back from your own life to help others. Toall college students--start your jour- ney to Alternative Spring Break today! You won't be sorry you went. Seder From page 20A skipping the haggadah's long midrash (homiletic stories meant to resolve problems in the interpre- tation of difficult biblical passages) that begins with "My father was an Aramean." He claims that it is not a necessary read, but rather "a model of the kind of rabbinic discussion you yourself were supposed to have" at the seder. From their experience run- ning seders over the years, Zion, Waskow, and Penzner offer a number of suggestions for molding a successful seder night: Pick the best guests you can, because you need allies who share your goal of having an interesting seder, says Zion. He notes that family members whodon'twant to be there can be abig drag. Inviting curious Christians, he says, can spice things up with new questions and put "deadbeat relatives" on their best behavior. Always assign roles to at least three or four people before the seder. "Pick the people who are not the most knowledgeable but the most energetic, dramatic, opinion- ated," says Zion. A politically interested person might talk about contemporary strug- gles for freedom, a storyteller might perform paper-bag dramatics, an artist might discuss artistic renditions of the four children, and a good cook might bring lots of hors d'oeuvres to put out at the beginning of the seder, so that there are no complaints about hunger. Don't have the same person planning the seder and serv- ing the meal, says Penzner. It's worth paying someone to help out. Plan the timing of the seder well, Penzner says. Know when you want to end, and get to the meal in time for thht. If you want to include the post-meal parts of the haggadah, you need to stop the meal early enough so that people don't leave. Encourage questioning. The ritual "four questions" are just a model. For little children, suggests Penzner, hang matzot from the ceiling with crepe paper, or shape sticky Sephardic haroset into pyramids. Penzner also likes to give out chocolate chips to anyone who asks a good question. Make sure the seder reflects the participants: If you are bringing young children to a seder that is adult focused, Zion suggests, you should ask the host for a 10-15 minute slot to do something meaningful for the children. With small children, you may want to move the first part of the seder from the table to couches and the floor. "That gave us and families with babies room to go in and out and participate as much as they could," says Penzner. Include activities that get everyone involved, like cre- ating a second seder plate. Zion suggests one plate filled with objects brought by invitees that represent the most important thing that has shaped their Jewishness. Waskow shares the suggestion ofMartha Hausman to have a "freedom plate" where "people bring some physical object from their own lives that rep- resents freedom for them, and each person gets to lift his or her own object and explain it." Zion also recommends filling Elijah's cup together--via the Ropshitzer Rebbe, he explains that as each participant pours in a little wine, they can share their hopes and dreams for "next year in Jerusalem" and for a better world.