March 21, 2002
Pesach at the Grocery Store
Passover preparation can be crummy (pardon the pun), and Passover shopping confusing.
Sure, the supermarket designates a "Passover Section," but the marked aisle is usually stocked with Manischewitz matzah, jarred gefilte fish and other glaringly obvious kosher-for-Passover items. But what about the gray areas?
Can you use an unopened role of aluminum foil for the holiday leftovers, or is it only good for making tinfoil balls? Do you have to spend a fortune on specially designated household cleaners, or can you use a new bottle of an everyday soap? The Orthodox Union (OU) answered these and other burning questions on its annual Kosher for Passover Supermarket Tours.
A joint endeavor of OU and Ralphs, the annual tours calmed Passover fears across the Southland. Rabbi Alan Kalinsky, OU's West Coast director of synagogue services, and Rabbi Reuven Nathanson, OU's West Coast director of kashrut, led Los Angeles Jews through eight Ralphs stores, aisle by aisle, separating the OKs from the uh-ohs. The tours explored Ralphs from Pico to Westwood to Torrance and also hit the Encino and Canoga Park stores, both which brag of kosher butcher shops.
"Kashrut support and awareness is a key objective of our organization. So these tours fulfill our mission to educate the community," Kalinsky said. The tours, in their 15th year, attract repeat and new consumers from all movements and age groups. There are up to 50 people per tour -- men and women; Orthodox, Conservative and Reform; young and old alike. They arm themselves with shopping carts and shopping lists and take the stores by storm.
Ralphs, supportive of its Jewish customers and their quest for Passover answers, joins in the fun, offering kosher-for-Passover taste tests, raffles and clearly marked shelf signs. "It teaches our customers what to buy for Passover and teaches our employees what's OK to sell," said Ralphs spokesman Terry O'Neil. "We want to keep our Jewish customers happy, while learning how to better serve them," he added.
Kalinsky and his store tourists appreciate the service. "It's a Passover kickoff event. Stores start displaying Passover food before we even get past Purim; it can be so overwhelming. The tours are a way for people to gain focus," he said.
While this year's tours have already wrapped up, frenzied shoppers need not fret. You can call the Orthodox Union at (310) 229-9000 with specific questions or to obtain a Passover pamphlet. -- Carin Davis, Contributing Writer
Cedars-Sinai Celebrates Passover
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles starts preparing for Passover four weeks before the holiday.
The kosher kitchen is cleaned and readied. All nonkosher-for-Passover foods are isolated, removed from the premises and sold. All Passover meals are then prepared from scratch in the kosher kitchen and frozen for distribution throughout the medical center. Patients can request Passover meals from four kosher menus: regular, therapeutic (for diabetics and others on special diets), pureed and liquid. Last year, more than 2,200 Passover meals were served during the holiday.
"The Passover seder is probably the oldest continually observed ritual in the world, and is an important observance for Jews," said Rabbi Levi Meier, Jewish chaplain at Cedars-Sinai. "This can be particularly uplifting to someone whose health is compromised."
The center also provides seder plates and haggadot to patients so that they can celebrate Passover in their rooms, together with their families.
On Thursday, April 4, the last day of Passover, Meier will conduct a Yizkor (memorial) service in Cedars-Sinai's chapel for patients and their families. -- Staff Report