Mar 28, 2012

A Children's Song for Passover: Make Room for Matzah

from Sammy Spider's First Haggadah

by Sylvia Rouss

This is one of many fun songs from Sammy's haggadah! Great to teach to kids to give surprise command performances during the seder!

Song: Make Room for Matzah
(to the tune of “On Top of Old Smokey”) 

Let’s clean all the cupboards

And sweep every floor

Let’s toss all the bread crumbs

Right out of the door.

A week without bagels,

And pasta and bread

We’ll eat crunchy matzah

For eight days instead.

Mar 26, 2012

The Secret to Great Matzah Balls with Recipe

Like any comfort food, everyone has a different favorite way to enjoy matzah balls. Some cooks like to make them large, small, densely packed, light enough to float, with schmaltz, boiled in broth and everything in between. Just about every cook has a secret or two for making "the best" matzah balls.

My husband's grandmother, Elisabeth (but to him, Oma) had the secret that I like best out of all the ones I've read or heard about. Slight in stature, making matzah balls in a large pot required a step ladder. She would climb it and watch the tender dumplings as they cooked, talking to them about how they would be perfectly delicious before she covered and simmered them.

How do you like your matzah balls best? What is your secret for making them delicious?

E-Z Matzah Balls

What you need:
2 tablespoons oil
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup matzah meal
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon water

measuring cup and spoons
fork, spoon
plastic wrap
large pot with cover
pot holder
What you do:
1. Mix oil and eggs together in a bowl.
2. Add matzah meal and salt. Mix well. Add water and mix again.
3.Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1/2 hour.
4. Fill a large pot with 6 cups of water and bring to a boil.
5. Wet your hands and take about a tablespoon of the mixture and roll into a ball. Drop into boiling water. Reduce heat to a slow boil. Cook covered for 30-40 minutes.
6. Remove from water and serve in chicken soup.

(from Matzah Meals, A Passover Cookbook for Kids by Judy Tabs and Barbara Steinberg)

Mar 21, 2012

It's Marcel Marceau's Birthday, and We're Giving Away a Gift!

It's Marcel Marceau's Birthday!
Let's celebrate with a book giveaway!

One lucky winner will receive a copy of Marcel Marceau, Master of Mime!


Leave a comment on this blog post or Tweet the post to win!
Winner selected on 3/23 at noon, Central time.
by Gloria Spielman
illustrated by Manon Gauthier
From the age of five, Marcel Marceau knew he wanted to be a silent actor, just like Charlie Chaplin. When World War II intervened, he joined the resistance, helping to get young Jews to safety during this dangerous time. But Marcel never forgot his dream of being a mime artist and entertaining the world.
A Sydney Taylor Notable Book
A National Jewish Book Award Finalist

Afikomen Presents - A Top 5 List

Does your family have a tradition of Afikomen gifts? Whether you give to the winner who “ransoms” the Afikomen or to all who look, here are ideas for kids of all ages. Finding the Afikomen is so much fun, that we even have a book about it--Afikomen Mambo!
5. Cookbooks – Matzah Meals and Tasty Bible Stories are two terrific titles for children who are inclined towards cooking. A bonus gift would be hosting the budding cook in your kitchen one day to try out a couple recipes.

4. Jewish Sports Stars is a great read for kids 10 and up, especially reluctant readers who happen to like sports.

3. You can’t forget the wee ones, even if you think they’ll be asleep by the time to look for the Afikomen. Board Books are the perfect gift, and a perennial favorite is The Colors of My Jewish Year.

2. For kids who like to move, the Alef-Bet Yoga for Kids book is really fun. It teaches yoga poses and the Hebrew alphabet! Add the poster, too!

1. The ultimate, maybe extravagant, but definitely packed with educational value and Jewish learning gift: The Sammy Spider Complete Book Set, which includes 12 different Sammy Spider books!

Sammy Spider plush toys make great gifts, especially at each child’s place setting with a Sammy Spider Haggadah! What a special kids' table that would be!

What is the Afikomen present tradition in your family?

Mar 14, 2012

Interview with Award-Winning Author Anna Levine

Anna Levine was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada and grew up in Montreal, Quebec. At the age of eighteen she decided it was time to leave home and she immigrated to Israel to work on a kibbutz. After a few years of picking apples, and discovering her fear of climbing (and falling) off ladders she moved to Jerusalem where she studied English literature at the Hebrew University. Today, Anna lives in a suburb of Jerusalem and writes about her life in Israel. As a writer, she looks through her Middle Eastern window with Western eyes. Anna says, “Writers are always being told, ‘write what you know.’ There is so much about Israel that I still don’t know! I use my writing as a way to discover more, to understand the past, cope with the present, and imagine the future.”

Anna has written award winning short stories and poems, Freefall (Greenwillow/HarperCollins) has just won the Sydney Taylor Honor Award and her picture book Jodie’s Hanukkah Dig was awarded a Sydney Taylor Notable Award. Anna’s latest book is Jodie’s Passover Adventure.

KAR-BEN: Why did you want to become an author or illustrator?
ANNA: I write to make sense of the world in which I live.

KAR-BEN: Do you have any advice for future authors or illustrators?  
ANNA: Persistence! Attention to detail. And in the words of Isaac Bashevis Singer, “The whole world, all human life, is one long story.” And we are the ones who must find a way to tell and share these stories.

KAR-BEN: Where did you get the inspiration for your latest book, Jodie’s Passover Adventure
ANNA: From where I live, which is here in Israel. Israel is a constant inspiration for my books and stories. My family has also inspired many characters and plots.

KAR-BEN: What are you most excited about promoting in your new book?
ANNA: The fun of archaeology. The adventure of discovery and the possibilities of uncovering the unknown.

Anna at an archeological dig!

KAR-BEN: How do you hope your book will impact the Jewish life of a child?
ANNA: By learning about our history this gives the child a sense of his/her roots and also, since my stories are set in Israel, a connection to modern Israel.

Get Anna's new book, Jodie's Passover Adventure!
Young amateur archeologist Jodie invites her cousin Zach on a Passover adventure to explore Hezekiah’s Tunnel in Jerusalem, the famous secret water tunnel. Sloshing through the long, creepy, dark, wet passage, they solve “the riddle in the middle” and find a shiny treasure!
Available in hardcover and paperback

Mar 13, 2012

Why is this Children's Book Different from All Other Children's Books?

by Tami Lehman-Wilzig, Kar-Ben author and guest blogger

Can you name the first Jewish children's book? My guess is that it's the Haggadah. It educates. It deals with four different types of children. It contains supernatural elements that wow the reader, and even includes some fun songs at the back of the book. It has all the ingredients of a best seller (which it is), but, yawn, it needs something to keep kids' attention until the very end.

What to do? Incorporate customs from Jewish communities across the globe into your Seder, plus create a few of your own and you'll have a page turner. 

Jews coming from Turkey, Iraq and Kurdistan jump start the Haggadah with a quick one-act play. It goes like this: While the Seder leader breaks the middle matzah in half, a designated participant leaves the table to dress up as one of the Children of Israel (home-made costume, of course). S/he knocks on the door, the Seder leader opens it and the play begins. “Who are you?” asks the Seder leader. Answer: “I'm one of the Children of Israel.” Next question: “But I thought you're a slave in Egypt.” Reply: “I was. Now I am free.” Question: “Where are you going?” Answer: “To Eretz Yisrael – The Land of Israel.”  “Welcome,” says the Seder leader. “Come sit at our table before you continue your journey.”
Everyone applauds, but the play doesn't have to end here. Remember the section dealing with the five rabbis staying up all night? How about writing a contemporary dialog that will be easy for kids to say?  Next act: The four sons. Don't be gender specific. Have a configuration of boys and girls dress up as the four different types of children, each explaining who s/he is. This leads nicely into a  home-made 10 plagues bag, which can then segue into a wonderful Persian custom – hitting your neighbor with the long hollow leaves of a scallion at each repetition of the word Dayenu. The reason behind this “madness”? To remind us of  the whips that hit our ancestors when they were slaves.

Aha! Now we're into props.  Here are two more suggestions. Decorate your seder table with gold and silver jewelry as a way of recalling the precious metals Egyptians gave the Israelites before the 10th plague. That's what Hungarian Jews do.  Next, forget about your gorgeous dining room set. Tunisian Jews use mattresses instead to create an authentic experience by “comfortably” sitting on the floor. Don't like that idea? Try what Jews in Casablanca do. Place a large ornamented chair with brocaded pillows next to the table for the Prophet Elijah.
Getting the picture? Like all good playwrights you decide how much drama your audience can take. The authors of the Haggadah have already supplied you with the cast of characters and the backdrop. Now it's your turn to get a handle on how to make it fun, relevant and compelling -- the reason why this children's book is different from all other children's books.

About author Tami Lehman-Wilzig

Born in the United States, Tami Lehman-Wilzig now lives in Israel. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature and an M.A. in Communications from Boston University. She is one of Israel's leading English language copywriters. Her children's books include Tasty Bible Stories, Keeping the Promise, Passover Around the World, Hanukkah Around the World and Zvuvi’s Israel. She lives in Petach Tikvah, Israel.
Visit Tami's website.
Read Tami's Jewish Holiday Customs Blog
Read Zuvuvi's Blog (Zvuvi is the star of Tami's book Zvuvi's Israel.)
Get all kinds of great Passover ideas from Tami's book: Passover Around the World

Mar 12, 2012

Four Questions About Haggadahs: Choosing the Right One

There are an incredible number of Haggadahs available for use during the seder, and the variety is wide. From cartooned children’s Haggdahs to Kabbalah influenced ones, feminist Haggadahs, ones with commentary from famous rabbis,  to highly visual, art-inspired Haggadahs to those that connect social issues to the Exodus story and those for Sephardic, Russian or contemporary American Jewish people….the list goes on and on. Selecting the best Haggadah can be a daunting task. Consider these questions as you determine which Haggadah will work best for your group.

Who is the audience?
Diversity of age, level of observance and even religion can be factors in making a selection. A haggadah is a tool for storytelling, recounting the history of the Jewish people. The experience of storytelling is most powerful when the audience is actively engaged. For this reason, selecting a haggadah that is too difficult or dense for many participants will not be as successful as using one that informs and holds everyone’s interest.

What level of observance does it fulfill?
While most Haggadahs include the same basic elements, some are designed to take 30 minutes or less, while some can be many times longer than that.  Is it important to you that the seder includes Hebrew or English? Does your family value new traditions like the ritual for Miriam’s Cup?

How does creativity fit into my family’s traditions?
Some families incorporate songs, skits, finger puppets or paper bag puppets, costumes and even new media, like YouTube clips and mp3s. Is this in line with your vision for an ideal seder, or is your approach much more traditional? 

From Sammy Spider's First Haggadah, as only the fabulous Sylvia Rouss and Kathy Janus Kahn could imagine!
What about Kar-Ben Haggadahs?
Kar-Ben has several different haggadahs, made with families in mind!

A Family Haggadah I is aimed at families with younger children than A Family Haggadah II. This is evidenced in the level of and type of discussion questions and seder enhancements that appear on the left hand pages of the two editions. Both include the blessings and major parts of the seder in both Hebrew and English, and the telling of the Passover story in English only.

A Family Haggadah I includes a seder checklist. A Family Haggadah I includes more songs appropropriate  for young children, including Let My People Go, The Frog Song. A Family Haggadah I has short version of Birkat Hamazon. The ritual for Miriam’s Cup is also included.

A Family Haggadah II has more detail in telling of the Passover story. A Family Haggadah II has the complete Birkat Hamazon. The ritual for Miriam’s Cup is included.

The My Very Own Haggadah is a great supplement for children in addition to whatever Haggadah your family uses. It tells the story of Passover in a simple way and includes pictures to help young children understand. But, what is the greatest about this particular Haggadah is that it is actually a coloring book, a terrific way to occupy squirmy little people during a seder.

Sammy Spider's First Haggadah also tells the story of Passover, and includes lots of Passover songs sung to popular tunes (like “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”) that everybody at the table – Jews and non-Jews, observant or not --will know and can sing along. Invite this spider to any seders with small children, or to seders with many young-at-heart. 

Let My People Go presents the story of Exodus with a Readers’ Theater format. Divvy up the parts and jazz up your seder to make it one for the memory books.

Have a question about choosing the right Haggadah for your family? Call 1-800-4KARBEN to speak with a customer service representative about Kar-Ben’s family of Haggadahs.

What is your favorite Haggadah? Why?

Mar 5, 2012

Happy Purim Memories of Sparkly Princesses, Carnivals and Giving

By Jennifer Bjork

One of the things I love most about Purim is that we get the chance to really let loose. I love the noise, the food, the drinks, and especially the costumes. It’s the one time of year when Jewish people get to have a really good party that feels like a mix of Halloween and New Year’s Eve with all the sparkle, noisemakers, and candy.

Artwork by Peter Church from The Purim Surprise
Playing dress-up was a frequent childhood pastime and I was exuberant at the chance to legitimately dress up in my fanciest costumes. I snatched at the opportunity to be a sparkly princess for three straight but glorious years. I have very strong memories of myself sashaying down the hallways of my synagogue during the Purim carnival, waving as elegantly as I could at my royal subjects.
Throw in my family’s fantastic hamentashen, getting to scream in the sanctuary during the Megillah reading, and carnival prizes; my parents ended up with a very happy kid.
And as any decent member of royalty knows, doing mitzvot during Purim is very important to show that the Jewish community remains strong despite Haman’s bad deeds. My Hebrew school class would always devote a class period putting together mishloach manot full of hamentashen to give to our family members and gather donated non-perishable goods from them to give to the local food shelf.
While I have graduated from the dress-up days, I am very much looking forward to this year’s carnival and watching all the new, young sparkly princesses (and princes!) enjoy themselves. I’ll be the one serving nachos.
What are your favorite Purim costumes? How does your community give mishloach manot?

To help your kids learn about Purim, dress up in your best Purim costumes, grab a copy of  The Queen Who Saved Her People and put on a play. If you need some inspiration, read about how the characters of  Barnyard Purim stage their own play!

Mar 2, 2012

Barnyard Purim Book Trailer!

Make a video of your own at Animoto.

We hope you think it's snazzy and that the music is rather jazzy!
Check out this zany, fun, ridiculous, pitch-perfect for Purim book: Barnyard Purim!