April 22, 2024
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April 22, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

NYS Senators Enjoy JCRC Passover Food Challenge and Trivia

During Chol Hamoed, JCRC-NY followed its virtual Purim food-tasting and holiday trivia program featuring New York assembly members with a bi-partisan state senate Passover version. Representing the entire Downstate region were Senators Jamaal Bailey, Michael Gianaris, Andrew Gounardes, Peter Harckham, Robert Jackson, Andrew Lanza, Jessica Ramos, Kevin Thomas and Alexis Weik.

JCRC’s host and CEO/Executive Vice President Rabbi Michael Miller reiterated the old story about Jewish holidays: “We were persecuted, God saved us, so let’s eat.” After a brief description of Passover, he displayed famous Haggadahs, from Maxwell House to the Hogwarts Haggadah, published by SAR’s own Rabbi Moshe Rosenberg.

Each food round began with trivia questions for the viewing audience and the senators. Citing this spring’s introduction of rank-choice voting in New York elections, many of the senators selected more than one answer and ranked them during the quiz.

The first question was which current event most resembles the Passover story: deliverance of the COVID-19 vaccine, freeing the “Ever- Given” cargo ship from the Suez Canal, college basketball’s March Madness or Israel’s elections. Senator Harckham chose March Madness because of its ultimate underdog story. Miller admitted all the answers were, in fact, correct, with 67% of viewers choosing “freeing” the ship from Egypt.

Miller added, “Deliverance from COVID-19 is kind of a redemptive experience, so we’ll go with that.”

Asking “what is matzah,” these answers were presented: flatbread that Jews made in their haste to leave Egypt, edible cardboard, salt-free crackers or super crumb-making machines. While admitting she is a big fan of matzah, Senator Weik chose “crumb-making” because she is a mother. One audience member actually chose “edible cardboard.”

Senator Ramos noted, “You’re making me eat a lot of carbs tonight. Slavery is eating all these carbs; proteins are freedom. Historically, having access to protein was seen as an elite commodity.” Upon learning that many hand matzah bakeries are in his borough, Brooklyn’s Senator Gounardes suggested they be called “artisanal” matzahs.

Answers about why we drink four cups of wine at the Seder included: white/red dry/sweet, one for each course, keeping people attentive during the long story, or symbols of four biblical promises of deliverance. Senators were offered a 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon, from the Shomron’s Shiloh winery.

Senator Ramos enjoyed the charoset and correctly named the main ingredients of apples, cinnamon and nuts. Miller added that wine is usually added. He then opened his own refrigerator to show the large charoset container he would be enjoying all week. One senator suggested that Ramos should get her own Food Network show for her skills.

No senator answered this question correctly: What cheese might one want to eat on Passover? Forgoing their Italian heritage and original answers, Senators Harckham and Lanza joined their colleagues who chose their personal favorite, Gouda. JCRC’s intended answer was “matzah-rella,” although the senators believed their answer was a ‘“gouda” one.

Rounding out the food segment were traditional Pesach desserts including seven-layer and rainbow cakes, as well as Pesach muffins. Senators learned these muffins are made from potato starch, and why. Senators also tasted three types of macaroons; two of these were Ashkenazic coconut-based and the other was a Sephardic almond-based one. Senator Ramos applauded the re-purposing of crushed matzah becoming matzah meal.

In the holiday trivia segment, quizmasters asked the number of plagues, but included the Mishnaic numbers retold during the Seder as additional choices. They also asked if Moses was a patriarch, a prophet, a shepherd or the mastermind of the Cross Bronx Expressway.

In the geography segment, participants learned that Egypt Park is adjacent to Rochester and Pharaoh Mountain is far upstate near Schroon Lake in the Adirondacks. Staten Island’s Senator Lanza explained that Mount Moses (named for New York’s master-builder Robert Moses) is part of the island’s Greenbelt Conservancy. The man-made site was created at the highest point on the eastern US seaboard from the rubble of Moses’ grand construction. Miller compared its view of New York City to Mount Nevo, where Moshe viewed the Promised Land across the Jordan River before he died.

The program ended with Miller suggesting afikomen-like bits of matzah and wishing all “Next Year in Jerusalem.”

By Judy Berger


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