Library News

It’s hard to believe that Passover is approaching at the end of the month.  For something different this year I am writing about an article I read in the Forward of May 13, 2016 and saved to share at the appropriate time, which is this month.

I am grateful to Rabbi Mahler for passing along issues to the library, as I enjoy perusing articles about films and other matters of Jewish interest. I am always catching up, so there are many back issues. Anyone is welcome to read the Forward when you are hanging out in the library.

The title of the article is, “So, Why on That Night of All Nights, Did We Eat Those Fruit Jelly Slices?” by David Zvi Kalman.  It gives a short history of sugared candy.  Several paragraphs stood out to me and I quote them here.

“…Many candies die out; the fruit jelly slice-which is too delicate for easy transportation-should have gone extinct in the mass market long ago. What saved it was a gelling agent called agar-agar; it’s used in jelly slices and little else. Normally this would be academic, but on Passover it makes all the difference: Since agar-agar is derived from seaweed, it’s okay to use.”

“…Though Passover is ostensibly about eating matzos, much of the de facto Ashkenazi Passover diet comprises ingredients that the rabbis of antiquity either rarely ate (sugar, seaweed), had never heard of (coffee), or were cultivated in places that the rabbis didn’t know existed (potatoes, chocolate and quinoa all originated in the Americas).  The success of the fruit jelly slice is the production of a moment in time when Jewish legal interests and American industry accidentally collided.”

Personally, I am not a fan of jelly slices, but obviously many people are, or they wouldn’t continue to be sold.  If you would like to read the entire article, it will be on the main desk of the library.

Don’t forget- if you are purchasing new Haggadahs for your seder, there are many single copies in the library to help you choose one that is best for your family. Happy Passover!


— Paula Altschul, Librarian