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It's Passover at PSJC

The most important thing about Passover is not to panic. Though there is a lot of work in preparing a seder or ridding a house of Hametz, a critical aspect of the weeks leading up to Passover is to pause and consider the personal preparation that we must do at this time of year, the process of ridding our own hearts of Hametz (of those things that keep us enslaved and unable to reach our absolute potential). So don't forget to take a break between the cooking and the shlepping, the cleaning and the searching, to consider how this ancient and ever-present story of enslavement and freedom can touch our lives today.

I have included on this page a number of guides to Passover preparation and celebration. Feel free to contact me with any questions you might have. 

May this Passover (April 19-27) be a time of growth and community as together, we move through the narrow places of our lives towards freedom and celebration.  

Hag Kasher v V'sameach!                                         
Rabbi Carie Carter

let all who are hungry come in and eat

Passover is a time of gathering with family and friends, neighbors and strangers alike. It is a time when Jews around the world gather for Seder and recite: Let all who are hungry come in and eat! Let all who are in need share our Passover with us. Sedarim are only enriched when we share them with our neighbors. At PSJC, we want to try to make it so that everyone in our community has a Seder (or 2) to attend this year. 

If you have an extra seat at your Seder table on either the first or second night of Passover, please fill out this form and we will contact you with the name of a guest.

If you are looking for a Seder to attend on either of these nights, please fill out this form by Friday, April 12, and while we cannot always make a match, often we can.

Here is a list of Communal Seders in NYC that you might want to attend. 

If you have more questions, email the office.

Ritual Preparations


Bedikat Hametz | The Search For Leaven (Thursday evening)

Bedikat Hametz, the search for leaven, is traditionally done the night before Passover as soon after sunset as is possible Thursday, April 18, 2019. Using a wooden spoon, and a candle (or, even better, a flashlight), we search our home to insure that even after the house has been cleaned, no leaven has been accidentally left behind. The blessing for Bedikat Hametz is recited. The formula reads as follows: All of the hametz that I have not seen or have not destroyed shall be as naught and as the dust of the earth.  


 Mechirat Hametz | Selling of Hametz
Because the prohibition against Hametz during Passover is so severe, we do not limit ourselves to simply cleaning our homes of leaven for these days. We also "sell" Hametz to a non-Jew who will "own" that Hametz throughout Passover. To facilitate this transaction,
youmayappointRabbiCarter as your sh'licha (emissary) in this mitzvah. The form giving Rabbi Carter power to do this is available on our website and in paper form at PSJC. Please fill it out online or come to the synagogue by Thursday, April 18 at 12:00PM to give it to Rabbi Carter or to leave it with the office if needed. If you mail it to the synagogue, please drop Rabbi Carter an email saying it is coming as our mail is unreliable, and we have, in the past, received forms after Passover begins.  

Rabbi Carter will be at PSJC to help you sell your hametz at the following times: 
March 31 | 9:30AM-12:30PM
April 7 | 10:00AM-12:30PM; 3:30PM-5:30PM
April 9 | 4:00PM-6:00PM
April 11 | 12:00PM-2:00PM

April 14 | 10:00AM-12:30PM
April 16 | 2:30PM-6:00PM
April 17 | 4:00PM-6:00PM
April 18 | 1:00PM-2:00PM

If you have questions, please contact Rabbi Carter

The (Friday morning) Siyyum B'chorim | Fast of the First Born first born (of a mother or a father) should fast on the day before Passover in commemoration of the deliverance from  Egypt in which the first born of Egypt died. It is the custom for synagogues to make a Siyum (a public completion of a text) on the morning before Pesach. The Siyum is followed by a Seudat Mitzvah (a festive meal following the performance of certain mitzvot).  A first born who is present may eat, and having eaten, need not fast on that day. This Seudah could also be in conjunction with a Brit Milah or other celebratory occasion, but those are harder to arrange in advance.

At PSJC, morning minyan will be held on Friday, April 19 beginning at 7:00AM followed by a siyyum and a light breakfast. Then we will take out the blow-torch and burn our Hametz.

Note: All Hametz should be eaten by 10:40AM Friday morning. (4 hours [past sunrise)
All Hametz should be burned by 11:47AM
 Friday morning. (5 hours [past sunrise)

Feed Me! The ins and outs of Passover Food

Passover is fast approaching, and it is time to think about kashering our homes.  This guide was prepared in accordance with recommended guidelines issued by the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly. If you have any questions as you set up your home for Passover, please feel free to contact Rabbi Carter ( 

During the eight days of Passover, the ownership and eating of hametz is forbidden. Because hametz does not lose its identity in an admixture, the most minute amount of hametz renders the whole admixture hametz. However, during the rest of the year, hametz follows the normal rules of admixture (i.e., it loses its identity when it is less than 1/60th the volume of the mixture). This lets us differentiate between foods purchased before and during Passover. Read below for specific information on food that is permitted during Passover, foods that do not need a Kosher for Passover label, foods that require a Kosher for Passover label, and restrictions on medications during the holiday. 

Foods that Are Permitted

An item that is kosher all year round, that is made with no hametz and is processed on machines used only for that item and nothing else (such as ground coffee) may be used with no special Passover supervision.

Foods that do not need a Kosher for Passover label: 

These foods require NO 'Kosher for Passover' labelwhether purchased before or during Passover: 

eggs; fresh fish and fresh or frozen meat (other than chopped meat); whole (unground) spices and nuts; pure black, green or white tea leaves or Fresh fruits and vegetables

teabags; Nestea regular and decaffeinated unflavored tea; coffee (unflavored regular); baking soda and bicarbonate of soda; Grade A butter, extra virgin olive oil, whole or half pecans (not pieces), whole (not ground) spices and nuts.

Powdered and liquid detergents DO NOT require a kosher for Passover label. Nor do non-food-stuffs such as isopropyl alcohol, aluminum products, coffee filters, baby oil, powder, contact paper, or plates. 

These foods require No Kosher for Passover label only if purchased PRIOR to Passover:  

White milk; pure fruit juices; filleted fish; frozen fruit (with no additives); pure white sugar (no additives); unsalted Grade A butter, non-iodized salt,; quinoa* (with no additional ingredients). 

*Sometimes grains are mixed with quinoa. It is best to get quinoa with Kosher for Passover label. If this is not available, consider purchasing Bolivian or Peruvian quinoa, marked "gluten free". 


Foods that require a Kosher for Passover Label:

These foods require a Kosher for Passover label, whether purchased before or during Passover: 
flour, matzah, cakes, matzah (All baked goodsfarfel, matzah meal, any products containing matzah); herbal teas; all frozen processed foods; wine; vinegar; liquor; oils; dried fruits; candy; non-Grade A butter; frozen uncooked vegetables; all cheeses; chocolate milk; ice-cream; yogurt; decaffeinated coffee and tea; and soda; canned tuna. 

Of course, home preparation with Kosher for Passover food and utensils is always possible. Pure vegetable prepared baby food that is kosher year round is fine for Passover. Most infant formulas are made from soy, and the use of Baby food with a Kosher for Passover label is sometimes availablekitniyot does not apply to infants. Even if you do not eat kitniyot, it is acceptable for babies.  

Medication on Passover

Prescription medicines are permitted. Non-prescription pills and capsules are permitted. Please discuss liquid medication with Rabbi Carter.

Click here if you need more information about foods that are prohibited.

Passover Resources


Creating Lively Passover Seders: A Sourcebook of Engaging Tales, Texts and Activities by David Arnow

Leading the Passover Journey: The Seder's Meaning Revealed, the Haggadah's Story Retold by Nathan Laufer

The Women's Seder Sourcebook by Sharon Cohen Anisfeld, Tara Mohr & Catherine Spector

A Different Night Haggadah by Noam Zion

The New American Haggadah by Jonathan Safran Foer

Please consider using and selecting Park Slope Jewish Center to purchase any of these resources.

Online Resources

My Jewish Learning

United Synagogues of Conservative Judiasm

Interfaith Family: Supporting Interfaith Families Exploring Jewish Life

Gateways to Jewish Education

Do you have additional resources you'd like to share? Please email the office and we will try to get them up to share.

Social Action Resources

Pesach is a tremendous opportunity to speak with family and friends about the very real needs of our world.  Here are some great sites filled with readings and information to help those conversations and actions along.

Repair the World and HIAS have developed special material for Seder night to help us respond to the current refugee crisis in our world through the eyes of our own story of escape from Egypt and wandering to freedom in the Promised Land. 

Religious Action Center site contains a huge array of material on social justice issues related to Passover.  Including a series of Themed Haggadot (such as: Invisible: The Story of Modern Slavery, A Social Justice Haggadah; a Hunger Seder Haggadah, an Earth Seder Haggadah.

This site also shares the stories behind some new/modern additions to our seder plate including:  Potatoes, Miriam's Cup, an Orange, Fair Trade Chocolate or Cocoa Beans, Tomatoes.  See the site for the story behind many of these additions.   

American Jewish World Service has powerful readings and other material about social justice. Includes some beautiful resources for helping children develop empathy for others during Passover.

COEJL has materials on Judaism and the environment

HAZON has resources around:  Sustainable Pesach Tips for creating vegetarian or vegan seder Chocolate Seder for Worker justice  - "The Fastfood of Pesach"

Truah:  The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights has resources and readings for around worker's rights in America, Slavery, Fair Trade, and other ways to bring human rights into your seder. 

Kol Dichfin Yeitei Vayeichul "Let all who are hungry come in and eat" 

PSJC Pre-Passover Food Drive: Don't throw away your unopened boxes of pasta or cans of beans. Bring them to PSJC and let us make sure they reach individuals in need this Passover. We will be collecting food until March 25.

Volunteering at Masbia, a local kosher soup kitchen, feeding hot, nutritious meals to hungry men, women and children is a great opportunity. Masbia distributes $80,000 worth of Passover food to those in need, and it needs volunteers for Passover Distribution.  

An easy way to help the hungry and homeless is to donate to MAZON:  A Jewish Response to Hunger.  Consider donating enough to pay for one more guest at your seder.  

Help people become more self-reliant by donating a goat, a lamb, etc. to a family in need in a developing country through Heifer International.

Consider a donation to Leket Israel-Israel's National Food Bank. Leket Israel is the largest food rescue organization in Israel. It works to alleviate the problem of nutritional insecurity among the growing numbers of Israel's poor. With the help of 400,000 volunteers, Leket Israel rescues over 700,000 meals and 21 million pounds of produce and perishable goods a year. Leket Israel also supplies over 1.25 million volunteer prepared sandwiches to underprivileged children.  

Social Justice Resources

Kol Ditzrich Yeitei Vayifsach "Let all who are in need come and celebrate"

Donate an individual Seder Package to an American Jewish soldier overseas through METNY.

Help your neighbor through Rabbi Carter's Discretionary Fund The high cost of Passover supplies makes this a difficult time for many Jewish families.  Donations to the Rabbi's Discretionary Fund at this season are used for Ma'ot Chittin-to provide matzah and other Passover items for those in need. Just write a check to PSJC Rabbi's Discretionary Fund and put Ma'ot Chittin in the memo, and Rabbi Carter will make sure it goes to those in need.

Hashata hacha, l'shanah haba'ah b'arah d'Yisrael "This year we are here, next year in the Land of Israel"

This year, support an organization that promotes co-existence in Israel.  The New Israel Fund supports many wonderful organizations and efforts dedicated to this important work.  

Hashata avdei, l'shanah haba'ah b'nei chorin "This year we are slaves, next year, may we all be free."

Learn more about modern-day slavery at Free the Slaves

See also Made by Survivors to learn how you might help support the victims of human trafficking.

T'ruah offers: The Other Side of the Sea: A Haggadah for Fighting Modern Slavery.  This is downloadable as a full haggadah and as a page by page supplement on the T'ruah website.

4 (or 5) QUESTIONS we must ask ourselves this Pesach: 
1. Why on this night are some people still enslaved today?
2. Why on this night do so many remain hungry in the world?
3. Why on this night do we invite the hungry and lonely to share our meal?
45. How can we eradicate hunger and homelessness tonight and every night?

A Fifth Question:  Why is this night no different from all other nights?  Because on this night millions of human beings from around the world still remain enslaved, just as they do on all other nights.  As a celebration of freedom, we remember those who remain enslaved.

(Taken from

Kitnyot: little things that create big problems

According to halacha (Jewish law) there are 5 grains-and 5 grains only-that can ferment and become hametz (leaven).  These are: wheat, barely oats, spelt, and rye. Interestingly, these are the only grains that can be made into matzah.  During Passover, we are forbidden from eating, owning, or deriving benefit from these five grains in any amount and in any form (other than baked into matzah).

For the past 700 years, Ashkenazic Jews have added to that list of forbidden foods, prohibiting rice, millet, and legumes. These are known as kitniyot, from the Hebrew word katan, meaning little.

Although the earliest mention of the custom to prohibit kitniyot dates from 13th Century France, the discussion concerning their use goes back to Tanaaitic times when second century Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri argues that rice and millet are close enough to the 5 grains that one could use them for matzah (and therefore one would be prohibited from eating it in its leaven state). After a long debate, Rav Ashi concludes: "We do not pay attention to the opinion of Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri".  (Babylonian Talmud, Pesachim 35a, 114b)

Despite Rav Ashi's words, by the 13th century, many Ashkenazic leaders had begun to prohibit the eating o fkitniyot during Passover. One suggested that because kitniyot and hametz are boiled similarly, some might be confused if we ate one and not the other. Another pointed to kinds of "bread" made from kitniyot. Rabbi Yaakov ben Asher (14th century) suggested that grain might be mixed with kitniyot during storage.

But clearly the custom of forbidding kitniyot during Passover was not accepted across the board. Sephardim never adapted this custom. But even within the Ashkenazic Jewish world, the custom was challenged. Rabbi David Golinkin (Israeli Masorati-Conservative-rabbi) points out that this custom stands in direct contradiction to the opinions of the Talmud, and that more than 50 different early rabbis reject it outright. 13th century Rabbi Samuel b. Solomon of Falaise considered it a "mistaken custom" while others called it "a superfluous stricture" or even "Minhag Shtut-a stupid/foolish custom". 18th century Rabbi Jacob Emden wrote that he would have abolished the custom had he had the authority to do so.  In the 19th century, Rabbi Israel Salantar (founder of the Musar movement in Lithuania), publicly ate kitniyot on Pesach during a time of scarcity to demonstrate that kitniyot were not in the same category of prohibited food as hametz.

One of the most compelling teshuvot (responsa) I have read on the subject of kitniyot was published in 1989 by Rabbi David Golinkin of the Va'ad Halacha of the Rabbinical Assembly of Israel.  After laying out the history of the custom of prohibiting kitniyot on Passover, he states: "In out opinion, it is permitted (and perhaps even obligatory) to eliminate this custom."

He then proceeds to lay out his argument for eliminating this custom: The main halakhic question in this case is whether it is permissible to do away with a mistaken or foolish custom. Many rabbinic authorities have ruled that it is permitted (and perhaps even obligatory) to do away with this type of "foolish custom" (R. Abin in Yerushalmi Pesahim, Maimonides, the Rosh, the Ribash, and many others). Furthermore, there are many good reasons to do away with this "foolish custom": a) It detracts from the joy of the holiday by limiting the number of permitted foods; b) It causes exorbitant price rises, which result in "major financial loss" and, as is well known, "the Torah takes pity on the people of Israel's money"; c) It emphasizes the insignificant (legumes) and ignores the significant (hametz, which is forbidden from the five kinds of grain); d) It causes people to scoff at the commandments in general and at the prohibition of hametz in particular - if this custom has no purpose and is observed, then there is no reason to observe other commandments; e) Finally, it causes unnecessary divisions between Israel's different ethnic groups (where Sephardim eat kitniyot and Ashkenazim do not)*

On the other hand, there is only one reason to observe this custom: the desire to preserve an old custom. Obviously, this desire does not override all that was mentioned above. Therefore, both Ashkenazim and Sephardim are permitted to eat legumes and rice on Pesah without fear of transgressing any prohibition. Undoubtedly,there will be Ashkenazim who will want to stick to the "custom of their ancestors" even though they know that it is permitted to eat legumes on Pesah. To them we recommend that they observe only the original custom of not eating rice and legumes but that they use oil from legumes and all the other foods "forbidden" over the years, such as peas, beans, garlic, mustard, sunflower seeds, peanuts etc. Thus they will be able to eat hundreds of products, which bear the label "Kosher for Pesah for those who eat legumes." This will make their lives easier**and will add joy and pleasure to their observance of Pesah. (accepted unanimously by the Vaad Halacha 5749)

Golinkin emphasizes this point, arguing, in fact, that at a time when there is so much tension and causeless hatred between Sephardim and Ashkenazim, it is our obligation to eliminate this custom and to take this opportunity to be "goy echad ba'aretz (a united people in the land).

Though America is predominantly Ashkenazic, unlike Israel, this reasoning may still be quite compelling.  For those of us who live outside of Israel, perhaps eliminating this custom of not eating kitniyot on Pesach is a way to show our unity with the people of Israel (Sephardim and Ashkenazim alike).

A wide range of food in Israel is marked Kosher L'Pesach l'ochlei kitniyot bilvad-for eaters of kitniyotonly.

A Final Word About Kitniyot

It is important to understand that while one is prohibited to use, own, or benefit from hametz, the custom of avoiding kitniyot applies ONLY to eating. One need not sell one's kitniyot along with one's hametz. Furthermore, one can use cornstarch-based bath powder and even medicines that use corn starch s a binder.

In Israel, where there is a substantial Ashkenazic minority,kitniyot can be a very divisive issue.  North America has far fewer Sephardim, but the question of kitniyot can lead to serious divisions among Jews.  Therefore it is critical to understand that one who does not eat kitniyot may still eat from the dishes of someone who does.  While it is good and appropriate to be strict on Passover, we must be careful not to allow "little things" to create big divisions between us.

Thu, December 5 2019 7 Kislev 5780