Tag Archives: jewish custom

Jewish Tradition for Passover

Text: During Passover, which lasts for eight days, there are a couple dietary restrictions observed by Jews. Foods containing leavened grain products such as wheat, rye, barley, oats, and spelt are prohibited, as these items could become chametz if they come into contact with water for longer than 18 minutes. Ashkenazi Jews also abstain from eating kitniyot—foods like rice, beans, legumes, and corn—during this period. Traditional Passover meals include matzah, which is unleavened bread made simply from wheat flour and water and is prepared so that it does not rest for more than 18 minutes to prevent leavening. Other staples of the Passover diet include matzah ball soup, various meat dishes, and fruits. The origin of these practices dates back thousands of years to the biblical Exodus from Egypt. According to the story, after God inflicted the tenth plague on the Egyptians, killing the firstborn sons, the Israelites had to leave in haste. This urgency meant they did not have time to let their bread dough rise, resulting in the creation of matzah. The dietary laws observed during Passover serve to commemorate this pivotal event in Jewish history and the haste with which the Israelites fled their enslavement.

Context: The informant is half Jewish and has been doing this ever since he is a kid. He doesn’t keep up with some Jewish traditions but he does do this one since, in his words, “it is only once a year”. He believes in god but does not believe traditions like this holds relevance in gods eyes and he does it just to maintain his culture.

Analysis: The Jewish people are a small group of people throughout history but they have also maintained much of their culture over a great many centuries. The informant participating in the tradition and seeing the importance of carrying it shows the cultural value in judaism of preservation and survival. The jewish people have undergone suffering throughout much of their history and it is very important to remember these time periods and honoring it like in the story of exodus. this can also be seen in Hanukkah which was persecution under the greek Seleucid empire.

Jewish Tradition for Rosh Hashanah

Text: Every Rosh Hashanah, the informant throws a piece of bread into a body of water, which Symbolizes getting rid of their sins. When the informant does this ritual, which he has always performed with his immediate family, you talk about what you did wrong last year and what you’re going to try and do better next year. Rosh Hashanah is the new year and when Jews are supposed to be cleansed. He said it is their way of communicating our sins and regret for them to god. This usually falls in late fall or winter. 

Context: He’s been doing it ever since he can remember, he doesn’t feel that it does anything of significance in terms of good standing with God but He likes to be with his family at this time and feels that it helps him grow and be a better person

Analysis: The practice of casting bread into water as a symbol of casting away sins embodies a communal approach to repentance. While the informant expresses skepticism about the ritual’s direct impact on divine judgment, their continued participation highlights a personal and cultural commitment to the values of family unity and personal growth. The secular shift towards these traditions could be a reflection of the more secular shift which happened to many jews after the holocaust. This suggests that, within this cultural framework, traditions serve not only religious purposes but also support social cohesion and individual self-improvement.

Jewish Friday Night Tradition in College

Text: Every Friday evening at sundown, the informant and his friends, many who are non Jewish, gather at USC Hillel, the Jewish center, for a communal dinner. Before eating, they recite two traditional prayers: the Hamotzi over bread and the Kiddush over wine. The meal typically includes chicken, challah bread, wine, and vegetables. This dinner marks the beginning of Shabbat, which lasts from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. During Shabbat, observant Jews refrain from work-related activities, including turning lights on or off. The informant participates primarily in the dinners rather than observing the full Sabbath restrictions. This weekly observance commemorates God’s creation of the world in six days and His rest on the seventh, serving as a time of rest and rejuvenation for the community.

Context: The informant does this for fun and because it’s nice to not pay for food in college sometimes, as he puts it. He started doing it once he got to USC and started bringing his friends who weren’t Jewish because they also wanted free food and were allowed to go as well. He doesn’t participate because its too much work to stop everything for a day but he likes being around other Jewish people and sharing it with his friends

Analysis: The communal Shabbat dinners at USC Hillel highlight the adaptive and inclusive nature of cultural traditions within a modern context. These gatherings, which blend traditional Jewish prayers like the Hamotzi and Kiddush with the practicalities of college life, showcase how cultural practices can serve both religious and social functions. The inclusion of non-Jewish friends in these dinners emphasizes the role of folklore in building community and fostering intercultural understanding. While the informant participates more for social and economic reasons than religious observance, this adaptation of the Shabbat tradition underscores the flexible ways in which individuals can engage with cultural heritage. This practice not only honors the historical and spiritual significance of Shabbat but also adapts it to contemporary settings, making it accessible and relevant to a broader audience.


Background: Informant is a 19 year old student. Their parents both grew up in Venezuela. Their mom’s side is Spanish and Italian and their dad’s is Spanish and Israeli. Informant is from Texas and Miami and now resides in Los Angeles. They identify as Latin American and Jewish.

Informant: My Jewish family, everytime we’d move or anytime we’d go somewhere new, like before we came to our new house we’d say this prayer: “Shehecheyanu.” Which is a Jewish prayer for gratitude whenever you experience something new and you need to bless it. So everytime we did something for the first time we’d say it together as a family. 

Reflection: This was a really nice one to hear as it had both cultural and familial significance for the Informants life. This prayer is unique as it is said in different places and at different times to check in with the world and remember to practice gratitude. I loved hearing how the informant has used it throughout their lives, specifically when moving to a new place so they can bless the home.

Foreskin Burial

Background: Informant is a 19 year old, Jewish American college student from New Hampshire. They shared this story about their family and how it relates to their Jewish tradition and culture. The informant has been through Jewish education and experiences the holidays every year.

Informant: So, in Jewish mysticism and some spiritual mysticism more broadly, there’s a tradition in which foreskin of a child, of a newborn is buried next to a forefather. So, when my cousin gave birth to her child not really sure… second cousin once removed I believe? They flew from Florida to Massachusetts to bury the foreskin next to my grandfather. It had something to do with the wellbeing of the child and honoring the forefather.

Me: Can you tell me a little bit about the Jewish tradition of circumcision? What does it symbolize?

Informant: The bris is 8 days after a boy is born, male assigned at birth, if you will. It has a relationship to the lilith which is a separate story, but it’s one of the ways to protect from the lilith. Their foreskin’s cut off, not really sure why. I actually have no idea why. I just know it’s a tradition. 

Reflection: This tradition was really fun to hear as it’s obviously a kind of bizarre idea to those who aren’t within the culture. However, it was so enjoyable to hear the informant give their account of the tradition, and you could hear in the tone of their voice how they felt. This experience gives us an idea of how multiple cultures can exist within one person. In this example, the informant had a bit of shame surrounding the tradition as it would be frowned upon in Western culture. However, there is also a sense of pride in their culture as they describe it’s significance.