My name is Joshua McGilly and my Graduation report is on Jewish foods.  You may wonder why I chose this topic.  The answer is I like food.  I will discuss some of the different types of food that Jewish people eat on certain holidays and the Sabbath and why foods are kosher or not kosher.

I’ll start with Purim.  Purim is a very festive holiday when Jews celebrate their victory over Haman.  The traditional food we eat is called Hamentashen.  The shape of this pastry is the shape of Hamen’s three-cornered hat.  My favorite filling is apple.  If there aren’t apple Hamentashen, there should be.  Let me turn to Passover.

During Passover, Jews traditionally have a seder which includes some of the following foods.  First, there is Matzah, or unleavened bread.  The reason we have unleavened bread is because when the Israelites fled Egypt, they had no time for their dough to rise.  We also eat Bitter Herbs to symbolize the bitterness of slavery.  Horseradish is traditionally eaten as the bitter herb.  It is bitter, but I like it.  Another Passover food is Charoses, which is apples, nuts, wine and cinnamon, to remind us of the mortar used by the Israelites in the construction of buildings as slaves.  There is a Roasted Egg on the seder plate to symbolize life, but we eat hard boiled eggs.  By the way, I don’t like eggs.  Parsley represents hope and is served with a bowl of salted water to symbolize the tears we shed in slavery.  A lamb shankbone is the symbol of a sacrifice made.  We drink four cups of wine and even the kids can drink wine.  The other foods served at Passover are usually matzah balls, matzah brie, chicken, vegetables that have roots and many different types of cakes and cookies.  Jews of different origins such as European, North African, and Asian have their own traditional Passover foods.

On Passover, we hide the afikomen, the middle matzah which is broken in half.  If you are the person who finds the afikomen, you get a prize.  Passover is my favorite holiday.

I’m now going to talk about the fall holidays.  Rosh Hashanah starts the Jewish New Year in the fall.  It’s a little odd that the New Year isn’t at the beginning of the calendar.  A traditional food is apples dipped in honey.  The reason we eat this is so that we will have a sweet year on our lips.  A round challah is also popular so that we have a full life.  Some families in Israel have a meal where they eat a head of fish so that they will always be in front and not at the end.  They also eat pomegranates so that their year will be as full as the many kernels in a pomegranate.  Another traditional food is carrots, cut into coin shapes so that you have prosperity in the new year.

Yom Kippur is the holiday called the Day of Atonement when Jews think about what they have done wrong in the past year.  That can be a long holiday for me.  A traditional meal eaten the afternoon before the holiday consists of a low salt, high carbohydrate foods.  This is so you are not rushed eating.  You are supposed to drink plenty of water.  The meal is usually poultry, not meat, soup with kreplach filled with potato, so that you have hope covered with kindness.  A challah is also served with honey, but no wine is served.  Many people fast from sunset until the next sunset.  The fast is broken after the first star shines.  The meal usually starts off with a hardboiled egg which represents a new beginning and continues with a dairy meal.  I haven’t fasted yet.  Maybe some day.

Succot, a holiday that is very similar to Thanksgiving, is celebrated eight days after Yom Kippur.  At Peretz, we build a temporary hut called a sukkah.  I don’t know of any special traditional foods for this holiday, but dairy is a popular meal as is winter squash pie.

Hanukkah is a special holiday that some people refer to as a celebration.  We light candles for eight days to represent the story of the oil burning for eight days many years ago.  We eat latkes and donuts that are fried in oil to remind us of the story of the oil.  Each year, the Peretz school makes latkes in this room and I make and eat them at home.

Many Jews observe the Sabbath on Friday nights until the following Saturday evening.  They light candles and then eat a meal which starts with a blessing over the challah.  They share the challah among all at the table.  There is also a wine blessing at the Sabbath dinner and everyone gets to drink from the wine cup.  The meal is traditionally chicken, kugel and veggies.  I like both potato and noodle kugel.

The next part of my report deals with kashrut or kosher.  I am going to talk a little what makes foods kosher or not kosher, what foods are kosher, and also about foods from different countries.

The word kosher means fit or proper in the kosher laws.  It means that the product has permission and is acceptable to be kosher.

As for meat, only meat from mammals who have cloven hoofs and who eat their cuds are permitted.  Chicken, ducks, and turkeys are the only fowl permitted.  Kosher slaughtering is the only way a mammal or fowl can be killed in order to be eaten.  They are slaughtered by a trained kosher slaughterer called a shochet.  The animal is severed with a special razor across its throat causing death quickly with little or no pain to the animal.  After the animal is inspected, the organs are checked for any problems.  If everything is okay, the animal is considered kosher.

Shellfish is not considered kosher at all.  Only fish with fins and scales are kosher.  The kosher laws state that one should not eat milk products with meat products and that all milk and meat dishes, pots and pans, and utensils should be kept separate.  Washing dishes is also done separately in two different sinks.

This is my report on kosher foods, the Jewish holidays, and what you eat on those holidays.  There is a saying that summarized many Jewish holidays and points to the importance of Jewish food.  I leave you with that saying.  They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat.  Thank you.

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