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Close the Passover Social Distance with Warmth
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Close the Passover Social Distance with Warmth

Our annual guide to cool and meaningful holiday gifts takes on a new urgency amid the coronavirus.

Sandee is the arts and culture editor at the Jewish Week.

Passover greeting card by Galia Goodman
Passover greeting card by Galia Goodman

This year, Passover will be different from all other Passovers. Although the coronavirus is affecting how we prepare, shop, gather, celebrate and share our joy at the beginning of this new season, we can still partake of the spirit of the holiday, perhaps in new ways.

Passover Greetings

Galia Goodman is a Jewish environmental artist in Durham, N.C., whose beautiful art graces the timely and thoughtful new Haggadah by Rabbi Ellen Bernstein, “The Promise of the Land: A Passover Haggadah” (Behrman House). Golan, who has been hiking the Appalachian Trail for the last six years and has covered about half of the trail, was one of the organizers of the first Earth Day 50 years ago. For Passover, she has created a set of six cards in striking original designs of scenes in nature, many based on her wanderings. Most are paper-cut collages with painted backgrounds. She is also available to do commissions and has fine prints for sale.

$15 for six cards, Galiagodman.com, galiaarts@gmail.com. “The Promise of the Land: A Passover Haggadah” (Thepromiseoftheland.com), $9.95 (discounts of orders of 10 and more), Behrmanhouse.com.

Shifting Seders

Doina Bryskin runs one of the last Judaica stores in the city, Judaica Classics by Doina, with a wide selection of elegant as well as practical ritual items of many materials, as well as books, jewelry, games and seasonal items. Bryskin, who has been in business for 36 years, including the last six at her Lexington Avenue location, is also something of a Judaica consultant to the neighborhood — people stop in with all sorts of questions. Among many seder plates, one new one that is outstanding, particularly this year, is Laura Cowan’s traveling seder plate, made of stainless-steel small trays that can be stored in a small box. The shape is inspired by the gentle curves of the desert.

Seder Plate by Laura Cowan, $300 (free delivery for orders over $100), Judaica Classics by Doina, 1248 Lexington Ave. (84th Street), (212) 722-4271 or doina@judaicaclassics.com.

Turn to DIY

Craft and fiber artist Cathy Perlmutter brings origami, the Japanese art of paper folding, to contemporary Jewish life with her creative instructions for making paper kippot. Her book, “Yarmulke-Gami: E-Z Paper Fold Jewish Art Hats” suggests varieties that can be made out of artisan paper, maps, newspapers, recycled papers or photocopies of matzah, with ideas for customizing them with collage, rubber stamps and personal artwork. They can be made in bulk for celebrations. Perlmutter, who has long enjoyed all sorts of crafting, also includes instructions for turning the paper scraps into place cards, notebooks and, for Passover, models of Egyptian pyramids.

Etsy.com, $5.95.

Better Connections

Rabbi Yael Buechler presents the Kvell Phone stand, which will keep phones steady for more comfortable video calls for families and friends who can’t be together in person this holiday season. She was inspired to design the stand a few years ago when she had her first child, and wanted to be able to Face Time with her grandparents (who had upgraded their phone for the purpose of daily contact with their first great-grandchild).

$14, Midrash Manicures.com.

‘Miriam, Quarantined’

Erika Dreifus’ first book of poems, “Birthright” (Kelsay Books), includes the very timely — and timeless — “Miriam, Quarantined,” in which the poet imagines what the biblical Miriam might have been pondering while in quarantine. “Dayenu” inspires readers to think anew of the four children mentioned in the Haggadah. And “A Single Woman of Valor” is a brave and beautiful work. Her reflective poems are stories, some based in her study of Jewish texts, all informed by a deep engagement with Jewish life.

$17, Bookshop.org (an online platform that supports independent bookstores).

Send a Cake and More

Jonathan Hartig runs “pop-up foodie Shabbat dinners” for young professionals around the city, caters events, teaches cooking classes and serves as a personal chef. For Passover, he offers a flourless chocolate cake as well as apple cinnamon and orange ginger cakes. Send one to a friend you’ll miss seeing this Passover, or serve it at your seder. He also offers seder packages with full meals including most seder plate items for one person or a group. Hartig describes the dishes of his and Jonathan Schechter’s catering business Jsquared Food, which are prepared under kosher supervision, as emphasizing local, seasonal ingredients and providing “modern takes on classic flavors.”

Cakes, $20; Passover package for one, $30 or $40. (No delivery fee for New York City.) Jsquaredfood.com or info@jquaredfood.com.

Retelling Miriam’s Story

Jane Yolen has written almost 400 books for children and along the way has won just about every major award for children’s literature and received six honorary doctorates. Her newest book has a Passover theme: “Miriam at the River” (Kar-Ben), with illustrations by Khoa Le,  looks at Miriam’s role in the story of the Jewish people. Yolen tells of the inner life of the young Miriam, who saved her baby brother as she placed him in a basket in the Nile. Le’s depiction of the river, the light and landscape are sumptuous.

$17.99 hardcover, $7.99 paper, Online bookstores and karben.com.

Smart Games

How Jew You Do: Jewish Experience in a Box is out in a Passover edition, with playing cards posing challenging and entertaining questions (Rohr Jewish Learning Institute). And the board game Monopoly’s Jerusalem edition will keep many aspiring realtors, tycoons, strategists and lovers of Jerusalem engaged.

“How Jew You Do,” $20; Monopoly, Jerusalem Edition, $60. Judaica Classics by Doina, 1248 Lexington Ave. (84th Street), (212) 722-4271 or doina@judaicaclassics.com.

‘Let All Who are Hungry Come and Eat’

No matter where our seders are this year, we’ll chant the line, “Let all who are hungry come and eat.” Help make that a reality in these challenging days. Please send donations to local food banks. Consider Masbia, an organization that feeds needy New Yorkers. It is now sending nutritious kosher food packages to people in quarantine and will offer Passover meals (masbia.org). Keep in mind the many in the theater and music industry who are out of work (actorsfund.org). And please reach out to help restaurant workers now out of work through your local restaurants or the Restaurant Workers Community Foundation Emergency Relief Fund (restaurantworkerscf.org).

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