April is a time of renewal and ritual. Passover at 92Y brings families together for reflection, celebration and tradition with communities new and old. The seder meal pays great attention to ritual and oral tradition, and reminds us of the importance of sharing customs and celebrations.
Congregation Tifereth Yisrael, founded in 2000 and located on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, is the first and only Yemenite synagogue in New York City. Rabbi Yair Yaish leads an active community of over 300 members in holiday, life-cycle and daily-life traditions.
According to Professor Ephraim Isaac, a prominent member of the Yemenite Jewish community in New York, the Henna ceremony is an ancient Jewish ceremony mentioned in the Talmud. The crimson Henna paste is applied to hands and feet as decoration during celebrations and ceremonies. Some say the Henna has magical properties to divert evil from the bride, while others consider it to be a sexually arousing cosmetic. Middle Eastern Jewish communities, especially the Yemenites, still perform the custom today at important life-cycle events such as weddings.
Congregant Dalia Krinsky shares this very old Yemenite recipe, used for Passover and other traditional holidays and celebrations.
- 1⁄2 lb walnuts
- 1⁄4 lb almonds
- 1 tsp black pepper (ground)
- 1⁄2 lb dates
- 1⁄2 lb raisins
- 2 Red Delicious apples
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ginger
- 1⁄2 cup dry red wine or sweet red wine (plus more to taste)
Grind all in blender, grinder or food processor until blended into a grainy paste. Mix in 1⁄2 cup wine to create a loose paste that you can pick up on a piece of matzah (add wine as necessary for desired consistency). Yemenites wrap a leaf of Romaine lettuce around a piece of matzah and make a “Hillel” sandwich at the seder table. Freeze what you leave over or distribute among family and friends for the seder. Enjoy this charoset or “dukeh” throughout the holiday. Recipe can also be divided in half.