Learning Ahead: Spring Traditions & Celebrations

Exploring Culture through Food, History & Art:
Easter & Passover

The reemergence of flora and fauna in the outdoor world gives cause for celebration as the months turn warmer and new life abounds. For many, it is a time of celebration linked to spring’s seasonality as reflected in the types of food prepared in holiday celebrations, including Easter and PassoverRead the rest of this entry »

Yiddish Language & Culture Celebrated at the Yiddish Book Center

Family Passover Celebration Connects Community to Jewish Culture & Heritage through Yiddish!

Learning about Jewish culture and history often leads parents and children to conversations about their own family’s history, culture, and traditions. In celebration of Passover, families can connect to Jewish culture or personal Jewish heritage by speaking Yiddish!

How do you think? Do your thoughts take the form of words, images, a combination of the two, or something else? In all likelihood, much of your thought processing takes the form of words. Even when you are not thinking in sentences, the syntax of your native language may influence the way you perceive the world around you. The idea that native language structure affects thought is known as the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis.

In English, for example, our sentence structure and patterns of speaking often ascribes an agent for a given action or event. If an object accidentally breaks, we may say something like, “She broke the plate.” In Spanish or Japanese, however, a native speaker may say something more akin to, “The plate broke itself.” (This Wall Street Journal article provides many more examples of linguistic differences and their affects.)

There is a chicken-and-egg problem with the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. Does language really affect the way we think, or does the way we think influence our language?  Read the rest of this entry »

HFVS Passover Episode with Guest DJ, Mama Doni (Radio Show/Podcast)

Listen to Podcast:


Saturday from 9-10am & Sunday from 7-8am
April 7th & 8th, 2012
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA

Featured Video:  “Mission Immatzoble” Passover song by Mama Doni  – www.mamadoni.com

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  • Marlo Thomas – “Free To Be You and Me” [Free To Be You and Me]
  • Mama Doni – “Rasta in Pasta” [I Love Herring & Other Fish Shticks For Kids]
  • Elizabeth Mitchell – “This little Light of Mine”
  • Funky Monekys – “Let My People Go” [Jewish Till Your Satisfied]
  • Listen King Pharoah – “Shirah Kline” [Shir Lala Pesach]
  • Ten Plagues – “Blueridge” [Side By Side]
  • I’ll Have Another Piece Of Matzo – “Louie Miranda” [Jewish Fiesta]
  • Four Questions – “David Gould” [Feast of The Passover]
  • Mama Doni & Eric Lindberg – “Four Questions & My Yukeleleh”
  • STORYTIME: The Little Red Hen and The Passover Matzah By Leslie Kimmelman
  • Mama Doni – “Bubbie’s Tupperware” [I Love Herring & Other Fish Shticks For Kids]
  • The Barry Sisters – “Passover Medley” [The Very Best Of]
  • The Soup Dragons – “I’m Free” [Played In Full: The 90’s]
  • Jimi Hendrix – “Freedom” [Best Of Jimi Hendrix]
  • Cat Stevens – “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out” [Gold: Cat Stevens]
  • Bill Withers – “Lean On Me” [The Best of Bill Withers]
  • Mama Doni – “Mission Immatzoble”

Passover is one of the most important Jewish holidays of the year, and is all about being together with family, eating matzo, having a ceremonial meals called the Passover Seder. At the Seder, we tell the story of the Jews liberating from Egypt and being free from slavery, and reminisce with friends and family, tell stories, sing, and ask questions.

Passover is about getting through the tough times in life, and celebrating our freedoms in life! It is a time to remember that our freedom to be ourselves is so special and awesome, and we should all look around and be grateful for all of the freedoms we have in our lives. For 8 days Jewish people do not eat something called “Chametz”, food like bread, pasta, or even pizza! We eat lots of matzo and get to eat things like Matzo Pizza!

Check out my recipe for Matzo Pizza from my upcoming book that I wrote with “Recipe Rachel” coming out next fall called “Get Cooking! A Jewish American Family Cookbook & Rockin’ Mama Doni Celebration.”

Mama Doni’s Matzo Pizza

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 matzos
  • 1 cup pizza sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • 1cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • Herbs: grab your favorite spices like oregano, garlic powder
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Place 1 matzo on a baking sheet
  3. Spread some olive oil on the matz.
  4. Spread Smear 1/2 cup of tomato sauce on the matzo
  5. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese
  6. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese

Repeat steps for the second matzo. You can leave it beside the first one or make a double decker pizza and put it on top of the first matzo!

Bake for 15 minutes.

Go to www.behrmanhouse.com/get-cooking for more passover recipes!

Suggested Events for April 7th-13th, 2012

Discover fun and educational events happening this week in Western Mass, along with announcements, upcoming events, links, resources and the HFVS podcast.


Along with the yellow bloom of Coltsfoot, the white bloom of Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) is one of the first wildflowers to appear in April. Take your family on nature scavenger hunt along one of our Western MA rivers and streams this weekend and see what you can find. Click on the image to find out about nature scavenger hunts. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Suggest EventIf you have a family friendly event or educational program happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, post your event on our “Suggest An Event” page. The events below are “suggested.” Please take the time to confirm that these events are happening, along with time, place, age appropriateness and costs before attending.

Enhanced PublicityServing Western Massachusetts since 2005, Hilltown Families supports development and enhancement of our local economy and community. Local businesses, individuals, schools and non-profits are encouraged to partner with Hilltown Families through sponsorship and advertising. Let us help get the word out about your after school class, event, camp, workshop, fundraiser, business/school, service, open house or general announcement. Deliver your message to thousands of families living throughout Western Massachusetts while supporting the work of Hilltown Families. Click HERE to find out more.


Easter Events in Western MA

During Easter many towns host egg hunts for their residents. Find an egg hunt nearest you, along with Easter craft opportunities, brunch and Easter Bunny appearances.

In Hampshire County on Saturday, April 7th at 10am  – SATURDAY  MORNING MUSIC PARTY:  The Flywheel Arts Collective, an Easthampton-based, volunteer-run music and arts venue, along with the Hilltown Families and No-Nap Happy Hour, invites families with kids of all ages to a free pancake breakfast followed a family dance party by local kids performers R.O.C.K. (Royal Order of Chords and Keys)! 43 Main Street. Easthampton, MA. (<$)

In Berkshire County on Saturday, April 7th from 10am-4pm – ANIMAL ADVENTURE: Today is the first day of Hancock Shaker Village’s annual Baby Animals on the Shaker Farm event! Visitors to the village can meet tons of different baby animals, such as calves, chicks, piglets, lambs, and ducklings. There will also be activities for kids that involve both art and learning about history, such as weaving on a loom and basket making! 413-443-0188. 1843 West Housatonic Street. Pittsfield, MA. ($) 

Giveaway: Crimson & Clover Farm ShareIn Hampden County on Saturday, April 7th from 11am-3pm – YARN BOMBING: Yarn bomb the Storrs Library today! Yarn bombing, a recently growing craze, is when knitters create flat knit pieces and use them to cover things like lamp posts, fences, railings, etc. Today, the Storrs Library invites kids to cover their book carts with their own handmade yarn bombs. Kids can practice their knitting and/or crocheting skills and will get to share their creations with the community! Call to register. 413-565-4182. 693 Longmeadow Street. Longmeadow, MA. (FREE)

In Franklin County on Saturday, April 7th from 1-4pm – COMMUNITY SERVICE: Help give the Greenfield Energy Park a good spring cleaning. There will be lots to do, including cleaning up debris left by winter storms and gardening in the park’s beds. BYO garden tools and gloves. Families can work together to help prepare the park, a great community resource, for the season! 413-772-1533. Miles Street. Greenfield, MA. (FREE)


Spring Vacation Week: April 16th-20th: Many students get the third week of April off from school, and parents will be looking for activities for their children to enjoy during the break. There are many opportunities to be found in the region, with several boutique options to choose from, including nature, art, sports, ballet, history, gymnastics, stewardship, outdoor adventures, among others. Check out our post, 15 Camps for Spring Vacation Week in Western MA for some highlights of events and week long camp opportunities happening during Spring Vacation Week right here in Western MA. Some options are for the entire week, while others allow you to choose your days and have full day or half-day options. Then be sure to check back next week for our comprehensive list of Weekly Suggested Events for events happening during Spring Break!


SHOW Circus Studio CIRCUS ARTS CLASSES: A new session of week day kid’s circus classes will begin on April 9 at SHOW Circus Studio in Easthampton. Participants will work on trapeze, fabric, juggling, tumbling, human pyramids, tight wire, rolla bolla, globe and more. Circus is a great way to increase self esteem, have fun, get in shape, improve focus and learn new skills.  Classes are available for new and continuing students during after school hours. Students may come 1-3 times per week with a final show for parents and friends. Visit www.showcircusstudio.com/Classes.html for info and to register: Not sure if circus is right for your child? Try free circus classes on April 7 and find out! Class is free but registration is required. More info at www.showcircusstudio.com/Trial.html

SUMMER CAMP: Are you looking for a great summer experience for your kids? Check out our post Summer Camps and Programs in Western MA which highlights opportunities happening throughout the region. With a great variety of themes, there are many summer camp/programs your family can choose, including: farm & gardening, music, art, technology, nature, personal development, science, theater, sports, ballet, preK, college… as well as a good old fashion summer camp! Discover what’s being offered near you, and find out how you can add a camp to this growing list too!

SPONSORSHIP & ADVERTISING: Reach thousands of families in Western MA while supporting the work of Hilltown Families. See your event, camp, workshop, business featured here in the bulletin board section of our list of Weekly Suggested Events and eNewsletter! Find out more about our Enhanced Publicity options and how we can help with your marketing.

JOIN OUR TEAM OF CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: Interested in becoming a Contributing or Guest Writer for Hilltown Families? We welcome writings that reflect the community building and educational efforts parents, teens, teachers, artists, activists and community leaders work towards and accomplish and how that affects, supports and empowers our families. All writing styles welcomed, including DIY posts, seasonal cooking, and community-based educational opportunities. Send your query to hilltownfamilies@gmail.com.

VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY: Individuals of all genders, sexual orientations, races, religions, abilities, ages, and income levels are encouraged to apply for volunteer positions at Everywoman Center. Educator Advocates work to prevent sexual violence and relationship violence on campus and in the community by facilitating workshops, discussions, and events on sexual assault, consent, and bystander intervention. Counselor Advocates support and advocate for people who have experienced sexual, physical and emotional abuse or violence. Academic credit available to volunteers (optional). Apply Online: www.umass.edu/ewc/work.  For more info: visit www.umass.edu/ewc, or email ewcmail@admin.umass.edu.

April 6th-13th, 2012


Suggest an Event | Forecast | Museum Passes
Weekly eNewsletter | Events for Working Parents | Workshops for Parents

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Passover: A Celebration of Freedom

Not Your Grandparents' Shtel: Exploring Jewish Culture in Western Mass by Amy Meltzer

Passover: A Celebration of Freedom

The Passover seder is part holiday dinner, part ceremony, part experiential activity. At the meal, foods that symbolize bondage are served: salt water to represent tears; horseradish to represent bitterness’ a paste of fruit and nuts called haroset to represent the mortar slaves used to build bricks; and matzoh, representing the flat bread baked during the escape to freedom.

The central story of the Torah, the Hebrew bible, is the the long and sometimes arduous journey of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to freedom. Moses, an Israelite raised in the palace by Pharoah’s daughter is called by God to lead the slaves out of bondage. He and his brother Aharon plead with Pharoah to release their people. When Pharoah refuses, God sends a series of plagues against the Egyptians; finally, Pharoah relents. The Israelites hurry to pack their belongings and flee before Pharoah changes his mind, which he invariably does, his army chasing the Israelites to the banks of the Red Sea. The Torah explains that in their haste the Israelites did not have even enough time to let their bread rise. Instead, they packed up the dough and let it bake on their backs under the hot desert sun. For a more detailed version of the story, try the picture books Why We Celebrate Passover for very young children or A Picture Book of Passover by David Adler for older children.

Jewish tradition mandates that we never forget that our ancestors were once strangers in a foreign land. The holiday of Passover is devoted to not only learning about the experience of slavery, but actually reenacting it. We are enjoined to relive the story – to consider that we ourselves were once slaves, and more importantly, to have our children do this same.

How do we teach our children this important lesson? We begin with the Passover seder – a holiday dinner/ceremony/experiential activity. At the meal, we eat foods that symbolize bondage – salt water to represent tears, horseradish to represent the bitterness, a paste of fruit and nuts called haroset to represent the mortar slaves used to build bricks, and matzoh, representing the flat bread baked during the escape to freedom. Throughout the seder, we tell stories, sing songs, and give thanks for our freedom. Children play a central role, launching the service by reciting the Mah Nishtana, the Four Questions, and ending the meal by finding a piece of hidden matzah known as the afikoman which is eaten as part of the dessert (Here’s a video of my kindergarten students practicing the Four Questions.). The holiday continues for eight days, when traditional Jews do not eat any “leavened” products – just lots, and lots, and lots, of matzah.

There are few community seders taking place in Western Massachusetts as well as a few other Passover activities. Passover is typically a home-based holiday, so your best bet to experiencing a seder is to wrangle and invitation to a friend’s house!


Amy Meltzer

Amy is a Kindergarten teacher at Lander-Grinspoon Academy in Northampton, MA, and the author of two children’s books, A Mezuzah on the Door, and The Shabbat Princess. She writes the blog Homeshuling for Beliefnet, and a monthly column for the Jewish parenting site Kveller.com. Amy lives in Northampton, MA with her husband and two daughters.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Matt DeTurck]

History, Celebration and Symbolism of Passover

Passover 2009

Passover Dinner

Seder foods for Passover. Read what each food symbolizes below. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

In 2009, Passover is observed from sundown April 8 to sundown April 15. Annually, Passover starts at sundown on the 15th day of the Jewish lunar month Nissan, which typically falls in March or April. The year 2009 translates to the year 5769 on the Jewish calendar.

Passover is an eight-day religious celebration symbolizing the Jewish people’s freedom from slavery and exile in Egypt in 1300 BCE. It is a celebration not just of a specific historical event, but of freedom itself. It is also a time of thanksgiving, spring renewal, and family and community solidarity.

Read the rest of this entry »

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