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Jewish eating traditions? And general info

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Tue Mar 19, 2019 3:42 am
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AmadeusW says...

I'm writing a story that contains a Jewish family of which I need assistance making sure that I'm depicting these traditions and daily routines correctly instead of basing it on internet and/or Wikipedia.

Some things I am specifically wondering about are the different religious holidays and traditions, the various foods and when and why they are eaten, and just some basic tidbits about daily life and whatnot.

Thanks :D
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Sun Apr 14, 2019 5:11 am
EditorAndPerks says...

As a quick message to start your research, here are a few things to consider.

Passover is a very important holiday that brings its own set of traditions to a typical Jewish household, from celebrating the plight of the Israelites from their Egyptian captors, as detailed in the book of Exodus. This is a wikipedia link, but you could possibly use some the hyperlinks referenced at the end of the page to help you: (

I tried searching for some typical foods, looked at some links:
- ... wish-foods
- ... r-recipes/

I think getting a whole list of the entirety of holidays can be found here here, so maybe you can determine how traditional this household would be and then go from there, as in do they celebrate the largest one in a specific way while looking at other holidays differently, if that makes sense.

Good luck with this story.
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Sun Apr 14, 2019 6:47 pm
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alliyah says...


I'm not Jewish, but study religion, so going to add a couple notes here.

First and most importantly, you might want to specify your question about what time-period, region (ie. America, Israel, Asia - whether or not they are in a place where Judaism is persecuted or a minority, will make a big difference in their ability to openly observe different festivals and eating restrictions I would think), also religiosity & Jewish sect of your Jewish characters should be indicated - because each of those aspects would likely have a huge difference in observance.

No one can say, "this is what this particular religion always does" because religions are diverse in how people observe their religion, even if the "official" rule is consistent. Also "Jew" can refer to someone who is just ethnically Jewish, just religiously Jewish, or both - so you'll want to clarify that.

Just like most religions there's going to be a whole range of how people observe the religion, with some maybe observing full-kosher eating and some just following the observations for major festivals.

Most of the festivals, which you can look up, and also read about how they came about via history & scripture - have special food observations or traditions that go with them.

Passover has a whole host of symbolism with each part of the food that's eaten during the meal for instance. And fraey gave some details about that,
I'd suggest looking around online for an explanation of Passover eating from a Jewish source, because the symbolism of each food is really intricate and goes along with different readings even too.

Purim is a really fun one too, I was invited to celebrate Purim with some Jewish folks one year, and it involved quite a lot of drinking and eating, because it's a celebratory festival remembering how Queen Esther stopped Haman's plot to kill all of the Jews. And the festival involves a dramatic retelling of the story - which you can find in a Hebrew or Christian scripture book if you're not familiar with the story.

And then there are the regular Kosher eating restrictions - which are informed by a set of rules about "clean" and "unclean" foods that one may eat that are given in Leviticus & Deuteronomy - that's probably as much as I can say, since I think some of these understandings may have shifted in modern times based on how observant different Jewish groups are and their understandings of how "strict" their Kosher eating would be. The best answer you could get, is likely from a Rabbi.

It might seem a bit odd if you read through the list, and find foods that you normally do eat. But many religions have official considerations of foods that are permitted/not permitted ever or during certain times - like many Muslims will only eat permitted "halal" foods, many Eastern Orthodox Christians observe strict fasting guidelines during certain periods of the year and pre-communion, along with some observant Catholics and Protestants, and some Buddhists and Hindus also have religious beliefs regarding which foods are permitted/not permitted. It's just a way of life for a lot of people, and also shows how their religion or God is intended to influence every sphere of their life and people will have diverse reasons on why they personally observe eating restrictions.
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Sun Apr 14, 2019 8:48 pm
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Holysocks says...


I'm technically not a Jew- (because I have no Jewish blood in me to my knowledge, and have never converted to a sect of Judaism simply because there's never been a sect that believes quite like my family), however, I did grow up celebrating Jewish holidays at home, instead of the common holidays that most people celebrate. Soooo still do your own research and stuff, because I can't guarantee that all that I'm going to say is completely correct. But I do know some things.

Let's talk about some holidays!

Passover 'Pesach'- is nearly upon us! I actually need to do some Passover cleaning as we speak! So basically, Passover or 'Pesach' (which is the Hebrew name) is kept because of what happened in Exodus. If you've read it- there was a bunch of plagues that Elohim inflicted on Egypt through Moses. And the last Plague (I believe it was the last, correct me if I'm wrong), was that all the first born people in Egypt died. And then it was commanded that all Jewish (Hebrews) were supposed to keep the Pesach each year so that the angel of death (which I'm not sure if that's what it translates to from Hebrew) 'passes over' their houses, and spares them. We used to call it the angel of death growing up, but I'm not actually sure if that's what the Jewish people call what happens or what. I'm not entirely sure what different sects eat for the Passover meal, as ours was always fairly different from theirs. But it usually has lamb and some sort of bitter herbs, and unleavened bread called 'Matzo'.

The Days of Unleavened Bread are sort of tacted onto Passover, and are the seven days that follow. During Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, we're not supposed to eat any leavened Bread. Some Jews - most Jews I think - believe that you're not supposed to eat anything leavened. So like if it has yeast in it or baking soda or baking powder- stuff like that.

Anyway, so we eat up all our leavening in the weeks before Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, and then we clean everything. We take everything out of the cupboards, wipe/wash them out, clean the fridge, the stove, the toaster (which my family actually puts in a box and sticks out on the porch for this time because it's nearly impossible to clean all the crumbs out of those completely. We vacuum everything, make sure there's no crumbs in our butter, etc, etc, etc. We put spring cleaning to SHAME. lol

And THEN we get to baking us some unleavened bread. Our family recipe is just like, flour, butter, and salt. And then you poke holes in the bread so it doesn't puff up or get any bubbles in it (though some bubbles are inevitable). My family also will make a dessert Matzo which just has sugar sprinkled on top, but I don't know if that's something other Jews would do. And I know Matzo sounds kinda boring, but it's actually quite yummy. I love to eat mine with cheddar cheese on it, like crackers! Or just plain! And you're supposed to eat some unleavened bread every day- which I don't find difficult at all!

Purim- This is a really fun one. I think alliyah already touched on the background of Purim, so I'm just gonna concentrate on the celebration! On Purim, it's really common to dress up- I think most Jews stick to dresses up as people from the story of Esther/Hadassah, but my family likes to dress up as whatever crazy stuff we can think up- though we did collectively agree not to dress up as demon/devils/zombies etc a while ago! As for food, there's one food that I know if traditional for Purim, and that is Hamantaschen- which is a triangular cookie filled with jam! (it's SUPER YUMMY) I think the idea behind this cookie is that it's supposed to be the Bad Guy Haman's hat. That's what I've heard anyway. We just think they're nummy. Also we tend to give gifts at this holiday- and I think the reason the dressing up aspect of Purim started as because people wanted to give gifts anonymously.

Sukkot- This is a holiday that my family does a lot different from most Jews. Most Jews build a sort of square hut kinda thing- called a 'Sukkah'. Honestly, my knowledge on what Jews do for this one is fairly limited, I do have the basic idea down, but it might be best if you hear this from someone that keeps it this way, or do your own research. Andddd my family's version is quite far off the way most Jews do it, so I don't think it's really necessary to put it here! However, it is quite a fun festival- though I'm not sure that many Jews really enjoy it quite the way my family does.

Hanukkah- This is actually not a super big deal in my family. It's not so much a holiday that we find is one we're supposed to do- we just kinda do it because it's a fun tradition- and it's a good way to celebrate having the freedom to practice our own religion. There's two Hanukkah stories. The main one that inspired the celebration of Hanukkah is called the Book of The Maccabees. Basically there were some people that were trying to assimilate the Jews (convert them by force) and the Jews didn't want to do that. And the Maccabees were a brave (small) group of Jewish fighters that eventually saved the day. And when they went to rededicate the temple, they found that there was only enough oil for one day (?) to keep the Menorah lit for, but miraculously the oil lasted for EIGHT days! Thus, we celebrate for eight days/nights (mostly nights- that's primarily when the Hanukkah celebrations take place) and we eat a LOT of deep fried food, because oil!!! So traditional foods are Latkes and Sufganiyot. Latkes are deep fried potato pancakes (kinda like a hashbrown) and they're SUPER yummy! And they're usually eaten with sour cream and applesauce (it sounds weird but it is oh-so good). Sufganiyot is basically a jelly-filled donut! So also very num. My family will make just about any deep-fried food we can think of that time of year. Although, sometimes we have to think about our gallbladders.

Also, we light a special Menorah for Hanukkah, called a Hanukiah. The usual Menorah has seven arms/candle holders on it, and the Hanukiah has nine. Eight arms for each day of Hanukkah, and one arm for the Shammash candle, which is also called the 'servant' candle, which is used to light the other candles. We don't like all the candles each night, but instead light each candle as the nights progress through Hanukkah. So on the first night, we use the Shammash to light the first candle. So there's just two canldes burning that night. Then the next night we use the Shammash to light two candles- so then there's three candles burning that night. And so on and so forth until on the last night, ALL the candles are lit.

We also play a game with a sort of top called Dreidel. The Dreidel has four sides, with four Hebrew letters on it: nun, gimmel, hay and shin which stand for the saying 'Nes Gadol Haya Sham', which means: 'A great miracle happened there'. Dreidel is like gambling for children! Basically, you spin the top/Dreidel, and the letter facing up determines whether you put chocolate coins (gelt!) into the pot that anyone can win from, or take gelt out of the pot for your own personal stash.


That's all I'm going to say on the holidays/feast days/festivals right now. If I think of anything I've forgotten, I'll try to add those. But I wanted to briefly touch on Clean and Unclean foods, and Kosher.

So alliyah mentioned a bit about this. Basically there's certain things that we're not supposed to eat, and stuff we are allowed to eat. And there's actually a fairly basic guideline as to what those things are.

Fish- for fish, in order for us to be able to eat it, they have to have BOTH fins and scales. That means shellfish is off the menu, aswell as shrimp (is that shellfish? IDK), squid, sturgeon, catfish (I believe), and lots of other things. BUT there's tons of fish that we can eat.

Livestock- for sort of plant eating animals or mammals I guess, the guidelines are we can eat animals that have cloven (split) hooves, and chew their cud- but they have to do both those things. So, in case you're not aware, animals that chew their cud have two stomachs- one that the food goes in straight away when they eat it, mostly un-chewed, and the other one is for the chewed food! So basically, animals like sheep will eat a bunch of grass super fast, and then later on while they're laying down and resting, they're regurgitate it and chew it up! Animals like sheep, cows, goats, giraffes, are technically animals that we can eat. However horses, dogs, bears, and the infamous pigs are not considered animals that we can eat. Pigs are especially a big no-no. (and you'd be surprised how many things pig products are in! They make a lot of gelatin out of pig products, which goes in a ton of processed foods, and they also use it for capsules for pills, casings for sausages, Jell-O, gummies, etc, etc, etc.

Birds- The text for this part is apparently hard to translate. So there's some birds that we're kinda iffy about (or, my family is). But we do know we can eat Turkey, Chicken, quail, I think most pheasants. I think we're technically allowed to eat some song birds too, but I'm not sure which ones...

Bugs/lizards and such...- pretty much all of these things we can't eat. The only thing we really can eat are grasshoppers and locusts. I haven't ever been that hungry ever, yet, thankfully! 0_0

So 'Kosher' is a term that a lot of Jews use. And basically from my understanding, Kosher food is food that is blessed by a Rabbi- and they get a Rabbi to watch and see how the food is prepared and such to make sure it's been done in a way that's 'clean', I believe. I think most Jews only eat food that has been marked 'Kosher' by a Rabbi, but I'm not entirely sure. Although I do know that the majority of Jews only eat meat that has been specially slaughtered and butchered. We're also not supposed to eat blood, and have specific instructions on how to slaughter animals so that the blood drains out well.

Anyway, I hope this was somewhat helpful! I gotta get to my Passover cleaning now!
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