2016-04-13 / Home

Which 3 items would you put in a Passover box?

By EDMON J. RODMAN JTA

LOS ANGELES—

Can the essence of Passover fit into a box? Fans of Manischewitz and Streit’s will undoubtedly answer, “Yes, in a matzah box.”

But a successful Kickstarter campaign called Hello Mazel aims to reinvent that box, promising a package filled with Passover-related “Jewish awesomeness” that will be delivered to your door (or someone else’s).

The project was a smash on Kickstarter, to the tune of more than $152,021 with 1,395 backers.

Investors who pledged a minimum of $45 will receive a box containing “three twists on the tastes of Passover, a Haggadah like none you’ve ever used, and a seder plate that is not a seder plate,” says the enigmatic pitch.

Thinking inside the box, I wondered what would go into a box of my own creation. Perhaps a jar filled with the essence of full-strength maror to revive them to the awe of liberation. Also a seder clock; one that doesn’t mark the time but rather the steps of the seder, so that people who had wandered off could find their place. Also, something to clean wine stains from my shirt—that alone would be worth 45 bucks. I already have plenty of packaged Passover foods that twist my insides, a box of Haggadahs I only use once a year and so many seder plates we have a “discussion” each Passover on which one to use. So I was curious about what Hello Mazel was really offering. Was it basically just a Jewish take on the trendy subscription boxes of artisanal what-have-you? Or was this a box that could also feed the soul?

Most of all, I wondered: What could a box filled with Passover stuff do to actually bring Jews together?

To get a better understanding of the Hello Mazel’s Passover box—one of four promised packages that Hello Mazel plans to deliver this year—I spoke with Yoav Schlesinger, executive director of The Kitchen, the San Francisco-based, rabbinically led spiritual community that is putting the project together.

The Kitchen, which describes itself as “a religious startup,” says on its web site that Judaism is about “provoking awe and purpose.”

To that end, they had to “rethink what might go in a box of Jewish stuff,” Schlesinger explained. As a goal, they wanted something that was “unexpected and inspirational,” he said.

Speaking about the box’s mix of food, ritual object and text, Schlesinger says he hopes the food will provide an entry point to the Jewish content, and the Jewish content will provide a “framework in which to understand why the foods are relevant.”

Moving beyond “symbolic ethnicity”—a term coined by sociologist Hebert Gans describing a nostalgic relationship with Judaism that relies on a “love for and pride in a tradition that can be felt without having to be incorporated in everyday behavior”— Schlesinger said one question driving the project was: “How do we get Torah to more people and into more people’s hands?” .

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