Tag Archives: jewish


Context: This testimony given by SS is a former Los Angeles high-school student who shared with me her reflections on a semester spent in Israel as part of a 10th grade educational program. Her testimony sheds light on the programs commitment to the students safety, and their willingness to use realistic stories to deter the kids on the trip from misbehaving.

Text: “At my high school in 10th grade you can apply to a program and spend your second semester of 10th grade in Israel. And because there’s a lot of freedom given on the trip and you are at such a young age, there’s a strong emphasis on not being able to drink or smoke or do anything like that. When we went out we would need to be chaperoned by a madrichim which was a live-in councilor for the trip. This was always a rule but we were told it became more strongly enforced after an incident that allegedly occurred more than 5 years prior to when I went. Certain weekends would be referred to as open shabbat because you would have the option to stay with a nearby family in Israel, and a girl during this free weekend drank and got alcohol poisoning and needed to have her stomach pumped at a local hospital. As a result of her actions, she was supposedly kicked off of the program and had to immediately go home. Looking back I think they only told us this story to keep us in check and scare us out of doing anything crazy” 

Analysis: I believe the purpose of this testimony serves as a cautionary tale, aiming to teach a lesson through the consequences that the alleged girl who got alcohol poisoning suffered through. The alcohol poisoning serves as a warning to other students about the health risks of engaging in the prohibited behaviors, whilst the girl being kicked off of the trip works to further deter students from following in her actions, as that would result in them being flown back to Los Angeles from Israel and presumably additionally failing the semesters classes.  At its heart, I believe it serves as a mechanism for social control which works particularly well amongst the high schooler demographic, especially when paired with the aim to establish the authority of the madrichim by painting them out to be both guardians of the students and enforcers of the program’s rules.

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.

Matzah Hunt


During Passover, the informant’s grandparents would hide two pieces of matzo (one for him, the other for his sister) that they would then search for. Sometimes, this would involve a game of “hot or cold”. If they found the pieces of matzo, they would get a bit of money as well.


The informant is not Jewish, but rather considers themself a mix of various ethnicity, citing Jewish as one, but mentioning that he was mostly Christian and Scottish, with a bit of Native American ancestry.


When looking further into the matzah hunt, I found out that there’s quite a bit of history and symbolism behind it. The bread is part of a group of three matzo, and the one that’s hidden is broken off from the middle one of the three pieces. It is then wrapped in a napkin and hidden somewhere in the house. In terms of symbolic importance, it’s referred to as either representing the sacrifice that was once offered at the temple in Jerusalem, which speaks to the historic and cultural importance of the activity. Alternatively, it can be seen as a way of representing how one must set aside a portion of what they own for the less fortunate. With such an important symbolic represented here, it’s interesting to see it applied to a game for children to play. Judging by the informant’s recollection of the event, I can’t imagine the player of this activity has much awareness of its importance. As a result, they just see it as a game they can earn something from if they win. Perhaps this can be seen as the way folk practices apply in different ways to different people. While the children see a fun game, the adults see a piece of symbolism that represents them as a people, and said children do not learn such symbolism until they are much older.

Purim Jewish Religious Festival Celebration


Collector: “In your childhood, have you participated in any specific rituals or festivals?”

Informant: “I did a lot of Jewish religious holidays as a kid. During Purim at my temple — Temple Israel of West Hollywood— we eat different religious foods. There’s a cookie called the Hamantash which is like a triangle-shaped shortbread, filled with jelly. It’s so good. And then you have to do certain prayers and like community activities. The celebration is obviously like about one of the many genocides of the Jewish people, we overcame that, let’s party. And part of it has to do with this woman named Esther. Basically, she had to disguise herself as like, not being a Jew. So part of the ritual is to dress up in costume. So it’s like the Jewish Halloween!”


The informant is a female Jewish undergraduate student at the University of Southern California who grew up in Los Angeles. She regularly attends on-campus Jewish religious events at Hillel. 


Learning more about my friend’s religious traditions showed me how different my religious celebrations are in comparison. The costume ritual stood out to me the most. To make a Purim feel like a distinctly special day, inverted social rules are applied. People are expected to dress differently than in their everyday life. The Hamantash cookies were another tradition that piqued my interest. Indulging in this treat is reserved/associated with this special holiday. In my religion, I can’t recall any treats that have the same significance.

Right Foot First and say “דַּיֵּנוּ (Dayenu)”: Jewish Air Travel Ritual

Original Text Pt. 1: דַּיֵּנוּ

Transliteration: Dayenu

Translation: it would be enough/sufficient

Original Text Pt. 2: “I am a Jew, and before we get on a plane, we get on with our right foot and we say ‘dayenu’. If you don’t, the plane is going to blow up and you’re going to die. And that’s just always been the thing, I don’t know, I’ve done that every time I’ve ever gotten on a plane. Anytime I don’t do that or I forget, I spend the whole plane ride like ‘fuck, I’m going to die’. It’s just this cute little tradition we do in our family. My parents introduced it to me, and their parents probably introduced it to them.” 

Context: The informant is 18 years old, a first year at USC, and a Jewish female. “Dayenu” is a Hebrew word that holds significance in the Jewish community. The informant says her “parents introduced it” to her, and that her grandparents probably introduced it to them. The informant still practices this ritual today and feels distressed if/when she forgets to do it. It makes her feel connected to her family when traveling far away and to the larger Jewish community.

Analysis: “Dayenu” translates to “it would have been enough” in Hebrew. It is the name of a song traditionally sung at Passover. The song itself references all the gifts God gave the Jewish people, and that even if he had given them just one gift “it would have been enough”. Saying “dayenu” before traveling is a tradition in Jewish culture. Perhaps it is a way of giving thanks to God before embarking on a potentially dangerous journey for good conscience and protection. The right side is associated positively, while the left is associated negatively in Jewish culture, explaining why using the right foot to step onto the plane would magically give someone protection. This ritual has ancestral wisdom and the weight of religion behind it, which adds to why the informant trusts it and continues to practice it. 

Danielle Slutsky, and Misha Slutsky. “Dayenu with English Hebrew and Transliteration | Passover Haggadah by Danielle & Misha Slutsky.” Haggadot, https://www.haggadot.com/clip/dayenu-english-hebrew-and-transliteration.