Thursday, March 24, 2011

New Maxwell House Haggadah out for Passover

By LEANNE ITALIE, Associated Press
via Salon.com

From the White House to the Schein house, Passover is good to the last drop thanks to the Maxwell House Haggadah, lovingly passed down through generations, red wine splotches and gravy smears marking nearly 80 years of service at American Seder tables.

The coffee company's version of the text used at the holiday meal has been offered free at supermarkets with a Maxwell House purchase since the early 1930s. Now, more than 50 million copies are in print.

They even turned up when President Obama hosted his first Seder in the family dining room of the White House two years ago.

The company is issuing a new edition this year in time for the start of Passover, which begins the night of April 18.

"I feel like I'm passing on a piece of my childhood. They're familiar and comfortable," said Lisa Zwick, 44, of Laguna Hills, Calif. Her family, starting with her parents, has used the Maxwell House books for 37 years to tell the story of the Jews' exodus from Egypt.

For that, Maxwell House owes a debt to Joseph Jacobs Advertising and the Orthodox rabbi it hired back in 1923. The rabbi confirmed that the coffee bean is not a legume but a berry instead, so OK under the dietary rules observed by some Jews during the holiday.

The Haggadah giveaway began about a decade after the rabbi decreed that coffee was kosher for Passover as a way to clear up lingering consumer confusion and end the dip in coffee sales that had been observed each year around the eight-day celebration, said Elie Rosenfeld, who works on the Haggadah account at Joseph Jacobs.

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Jewish Texts Lost in War Are Surfacing in New York

By Sam Dolnick
New York Times, March 7, 2011

In 1932, as the Nazis rose to power in Germany, a Jewish librarian in Frankfurt published a catalog of 15,000 books he had painstakingly collected for decades. It listed the key texts of a groundbreaking field called the Science of Judaism, in which scholars analyzed the religion’s philosophy and culture as they would study those of ancient Greece or Rome. The school of thought became the foundation for modern Jewish studies around the world.

In the tumult of war, great chunks of the collection vanished. Now, librarians an ocean away have determined that most of the missing titles have been sitting for years on the crowded shelves of the Leo Baeck Institute, a Manhattan center dedicated to preserving German Jewish culture.

The story of how the hundreds of tattered, cloth-bound books with esoteric German titles ended up in New York includes impossible escapes, careful scholarship and some very heavy suitcases. And while the exact trails of many of the volumes remain murky, they wind through book-lined apartments on the Upper West Side, across a 97-year-old woman’s cluttered coffee table and into a library’s cavernous stacks.

For Jewish scholars, the collection of Science of Judaism texts (in German, Wissenschaft des Judentums) is a touchstone marking the emergence of Jewish tradition as a philosophy and culture worthy of academic study.

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