Second night and we are ready to rock

My husband and I set the table this afternoon for our second night Seder. When we finished I realized that we were both wearing our bathing suits. He was still in his board shorts from his morning surf session and I had just returned from the neighborhood pool after swimming some laps. “Now that is being Jewish in Hawaii I thought.”

Chag Sameach to all with aloha from our Seder table to yours.


Why should this year be different from all other years?

Because Good Friday and the first night of Passover fall on the same date.

It has always been a complaint of mine that Good Friday is a state holiday in Hawaii.  It seems odd to me.

When I taught at Wai’anae High School as an employee of the Hawaii State Department of Education I did not complain.  I was always willing to take a day off, even if it isn’t my holiday.

When I enrolled my kids in a private school that promotes itself as non-sectarian and that administration continued to schedule Good Friday as a school holiday year after year, I began to get a bit ferkrimpt (that’s Yiddish for annoyed).

A few years ago somebody told me that the legislature has it off to prepare for Easter. Huh? Prepare? What do they have to do? Could they possibly be spending an entire day dying eggs in pretty colors? or putting together baskets of candy? or do they have to catch up on their sleep so they can make it to an Easter sunrise service a few days later?

Forgive me if this sounds sacrilegious, but from my perspective there is not a lot of formal observance of Good Friday.  Easter Sunday is already a non work day and most of the people I know are pretty pagan about their rituals.

Which brings me to my next point. Good Friday and the first night of Passover are on the same date this year–today. Yet few in this wonderful state of aloha have the slightest notion that Jews in the islands, and around the world, are preparing for one of most important holidays in our heritage.

Why can’t it be a state holiday for us too? We actually have a lot of preparing to do.

Admittedly, some things have changed since I moved to Hawaii over 20 years ago. Local grocery stores such as Safeway and Times Market carry traditional Passover foods such as Matzah and gefiltah fish, even in Kapolei.

I no longer  have to order it months in advance at Temple Emanu-El to have it shipped in for us.

When I went to Kapolei Safeway the other day to purchase matzah I was pleasantly surprised. They have come a long way.

Of course the Easter merchandise bombards you as soon as you walk in the door and I did  have to walk around a bit before I could find the Jewish food section. But it was there. And it was decently stocked. Just as are we Jews on the island of Oahu.

They are set up for Jews all year round which is kind of nice since we are not just seasonal residents. I noticed that they sell Yahrzeit candles which means I don’t have to order them on eBay from now on.

I can’t quite figure out why they have included mince meat and Thomas the Tank Pez in this section. If anybody has any insight into this choice, please let me know. But I have decided not to complain, it seems fairly harmless.

I’ve been enjoying all of the Facebook posts from friends and family near and far about their Passover preparation. The brisket is cooking at my sister’s house. A local Jewish woman is looking for fresh horseradish and another woman in Honolulu posted that her house smells like Passover–yum.

It makes me feel like a part of a larger Jewish community.

What many people don’t realize, is that it takes days to prepare a Passover seder meal that tastes like Bubbe used to make. We should get a day off too.

Our Rabbi posted a fun article on the Temple Emanu-El Facebook page that was published in the New Yorker that I thought was hilarious. Here is the link.

And while I don’t always enjoy the You Tube videos people post, I really like this one that Lisa Block, my Temple Beth Ohr Hebrew School classmate who lives in California, shared.

And here is the Passover greeting from my friend Beverly who lives in South Africa.

While the State of Hawaii might not realize that our holiday is important too and that many of its local community are celebrating a holiday other than Easter, perhaps the enticing smell of the chicken soup simmering on my stove on this Good Friday and first night of Passover and all of the Facebook posts from Jews around the world might influence just a bit.

We always have room at our seder table for one more guest.

A zissin Pesach to all and Shabbat Shalom.

Confessions of a Jewish Mother: I bought Easter candy at the grocery store yesterday!

I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. I don’t eat a lot of candy and I can usually pass up dessert. I am more of a savory kind of gal and I prefer salty and crunchy when it comes to snacks.

But I LOVE Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I am hard put to pass up one of those chocolate and peanut butter delights. While I would not describe myself as a glutton in this arena, you could say that they are one of my guilty pleasures.  And only Reese’s will do, other cups do not make the cut.

After my kids go trick or treating for Halloween and they leave those bags of candy in the snack drawer for weeks and months, it is not the Sour Patch Kids or the Laughy Taffy that sense my weaker moments and call me to the kitchen. I am not drawn to the Nestle’s Crunch or even the M & M’s. It is only the Reese’s that entice me.

I confess that I have been known to sneak a few from the kids’ bags on an occasion or two. They are used to it and forgive my minor transgression. While I can’t really repent, I do tell them to take the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups to school and share them with their friends. I must be saved from temptation.

What is most interesting about my predilection for this divinely scrumptious confection is that my favorite form of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups is the Easter egg version. I can’t tell you why. It’s just better.  As it happens, my second favorite is the Christmas Tree. Oh the irony.

Maybe it is the shape that affects the flavor. Or perhaps it has to do with the size that creates a different chocolate to peanut butter ratio. I’m not really sure. I know it is not a simple matter of  volume because my least favorite is the King Size version and my third favorite happens to be the minis. You can pop those in your mouth almost mindlessly while watching TV or writing a blog post. More dangerous than Halloween Candy.

Maybe it’s because they are made in a special way for a holiday that I like the Easter eggs and Christmas trees so much, even if it’s not my holiday. I only get to eat them each once a year–or more considering they start featuring them in the stores months before their respective holidays actually occur.

I’d be happy to embrace a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup dreidel. If they applied the egg to Passover and changed the packaging, I’d be totally okay with that, except for the kosher for Passover part. Maybe they could try a shofar for Rosh Ha Shanah. Now that would be a sweet way to bring in the New Year.

Bottom line is that when it comes to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups I am not picky about the holiday. I’ll eat them in pretty much any shape, size or form.

Kung Hee Fat Choy

I can’t resist a new year’s celebration. Today is the celebration of Chinese New Year, the year of the Yang Water Dragon. I don’t know a whole lot about it and the explanations that I read online are way too complicated to relate here. I encourage you to check it out.

I do know that I am a tiger.  I also know that everybody is eating Gau today so I am too. I think that is a good start. I’m pretty sure that’s how my kids’ classmates feel when I show up to their classes and bring apples and honey for the Jewish New Year! It takes a while to understand.

Kung Hee Fat Choy

We are eating right for the new year

I decided that I need to write one final blog for 2011. It has been a good year. As my friend Candy says, “We are blessed.”

Thank you to all of those who have clicked somewhere or another and found yourself reading about Being Jewish in Hawaii. I look forward to your comments in 2012 and  enjoying the conversation together.

While the East Coast is getting ready for the “Ball” to drop, we are just making dinner and settling down to an evening at home celebrating with our small family (extra small as teenager is not here.)

We invited friends to join us, but they declined. We understand. They also prefer to be at their own homes.  I don’t like to go out on New Year’s Eve. It is too dangerous. I am happy in my humble abode, safe and in comfortable clothes (notice the lack of photo.)

The star attraction of this evening is the food. Husband is at the barbecue and there will be meat to eat: chicken, ribs, and lamb (must pronounce the b.) If we don’t eat it all, no big deal, we can have it tomorrow for leftovers and you are invited (but please let us know that you are coming so we can make sure that we have enough paper plates.)

At Erev Shabbat services last night, Rabbi Schaktman mentioned recent efforts our congregation has embraced in regards to what I have heard in other arenas called “Food Justice.” We are translating it tonight by eating the peppers we grew in our yard and several other local products.

The meat we bought at Costco.

I am not in the habit of bragging, but I can’t help myself tonight. With our wonderful dinner we will be serving fresh, local, ripe Makaha Mangoes. It is the miracle of New Year’s Eve as even this transplant knows that mango season was over months ago.

But when I went to visit my friend Candy today to talk story for a bit and to share the holiday fudge that I only make once a year, along with her annual Chex mix that I love so much, she sent us home with several beautiful ripe and delicious mangoes.

Months ago, tweenager planted various seeds in the pots we have stored in the front yard. She has diligently watered them daily and the fruits of her labor became available this month. She was sure that she planted snow peas, but when we went to harvest it became apparent that they were peppers. Another miracle.

My husband picked a few of them today and mixed them in the sauce for the ribs. There will be mild, hot and fire hot on the dinner table tonight. Yum. Once again, if you will be joining us for leftovers tomorrow, just let us know.

On my way to Makaha I stopped at Tamura’s Super Market in Wai’anae to purchase some poke and fixings for salad. The line for poke was long, but worth it. We got ahi and tako poke.

As for the salad, I made sure to buy local. The Manoa lettuce was not cheap, but also worth it.

That’s about it: meat, mango, poke and salad.

I can’t imagine a better way to ring in the new year: safe at home eating right.

Happy New Year to you and your family with wishes for all good blessings.


Mele Kalikimakanukkah (Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukkah)

Everybody gets to celebrate today. Hallelujah!

My family is spending this Christmas morning delivering holiday meals for Lanakila Pacific’s Meals on Wheels program. Our Synagogue organizes an annual group of volunteers and we joined the team three years ago. We have made it a family tradition ever since.

And tonight we will celebrate the sixth night of Chanukkah with a holiday meal shared among friends at our home. I got up early to make chocolate fudge dreidles with the mold we got as a gift from my younger sister, boo. We’ll make brownies later with the other molds  she sent. Of course we will make latkes too.

Whenever I cook for the Jewish holidays it makes me think of my mom, especially when I make chopped liver. It was her specialty. She used a hand grinder to combine the liver and eggs and onions. When food processors debuted she continued to grind it by hand,  insisting that the new contraption made the liver to mushy. She put it in a circle mold and served it with mini pieces of rye bread. My dad loved it.

My mom made chopped liver for every holiday and I always helped her. Using a special meat grinder attachment to her Betty Crocker mixer, she would grind the liver and the eggs and the onions separately and mix them all together for the perfect blend and consistency. I remember one year she had me separate the egg yolks from the whites and we ground those separately so that when we combined it all together it wouldn’t be too “Yolky.”

I started making it about ten years ago for celebrations at our home in Hawaii. It connected us to her, living so far away, as she shared her recipe and techniques. It evoked vivid memories of childhood that I could share with my daughter. And now it brings wonderful memories of my mom (may she rest in peace) and makes me miss her very much.

The first time I made it, she sent me a meat grinder she  used post Betty Crocker mixer. I still use it every year. I’m willing to use a food processor for the potatoes for the latkes, but in honor of Gloria, not for the liver.

The biggest obstacles have been the shmaltz (chicken fat) and the liver. You can’t buy shmaltz in Hawaii. One year she came to visit around Chanukkah time and brought a small cooler on the plane with a jar of schmaltz just for me. Talk about the love of a Jewish Mother!

Since then, I have alternately made my own or just used Crisco.

My mom always swore that calf’s liver was the best choice for chopped liver. I have looked island wide for years, never found any and had to let chicken livers suffice. I ordered them fresh from Tamura Super Market in Wai’anae and they turned out just fine. This year I found calf liver in the commissary. Oh Happy Day.

On this Christmas day, I will grind the liver and eggs and onions as my mother has done before me.  We will fry latkes as Jews around the world have done for ages. We will start a new tradition of making chocolate dreidles for dessert.

And on this sixth night of Chanukkah, we will embrace our holiday traditions as we light the candles, say the blessings, share a meal and honor all of the miracles that people celebrate this season.

No more lau lua for kau kau at the local Jewau

When I was preparing for our Passover seder a few weeks ago, I opened the  cookbook that our Temple’s Sisterhood  published last year.

That was the first time I really looked at the book. I bought it for two reasons: to support the sisterhood and my mother’s recipes were inside. I never really imagined that I would use it.

Pressed for time, instead of digging through my recipe drawer for the index card with my mom’s hand written instructions, I got “Cooking With Shaloha” down from the shelf.

It was much more interesting than I expected. Filled with typical recipes for challah and brisket and kasha varnishkes, it is also peppered with local dishes such as haupia and mango bread and poke.

The best surprise came at the end of the book: The Juau!

I was thrilled to find this one. Contributor Jill Merl suggests a menu for a porkless luau. I thought it was hilarious.

And then I started thinking that  a Passover seder is the Jewish version of a luau–the ultimate Jewau.

I looked up the meaning of  luau on the internet and an online dictionary defined it as: an elaborate Hawaiian feast or party (especially one accompanied by traditional foods and entertainment.)

Sounds like a seder to me. Just substitute the word Hawaiian with Jewish and entertainment with telling the story and there you have it–a Jewau.

Gefilte fish fills in for poke or lomi salmon, chicken soup for chicken long rice. Eat brisket instead of kalua pork and macaroons instead of haupia! Drink four glasses with tiny bubbles…..You get the idea.

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