Many Jews in North America are Ashkenazic, descended from the Jews of Eastern Europe, France, and Germany. Notably absent from this European theater are the Sephardic Jews, who come from southern European countries, particularly Spain and Portugal. Historically, these Jews had strong cultural ties to Northern Africa and the Middle East. In fact, the word “ashkenaz” refers to Germany, while “sepharad” refers to Spain.
The Sephardic community includes the Mizrachim, descended from Jews who remained in the Holy Land, and those who migrated less extensively into North Africa. As you probably know, Spain expelled its Jewish population in 1492 and many of them joined Mizrachi communities rather than migrate to the colder Northern climes.
Different Ashkenazic and Sephardic Passover Traditions
The two communities differ in a few ways. For one thing, Ashkenaziks make up a lot of the Reform and Conservative communities, while most the Sephardic follow Orthodox tradition and have not organized into different movements.
During Passover, Ashkenazic Jews do not eat rice, corn, peanuts, and beans, while Sephardic Jews do. This probably stems from their different histories. Ashekenazic Jews were often segregated into Jewish Quarters and had good reason to be wary of the larger Gentile communities around them. It’s easy to see that some would go further to isolate from foods that could be ground into flour (chametz) during Passover.
Sephardic Jews, though, were spared the pogroms and faced less oppression and forced segregation. They felt little need to expand the list beyond leavened products.
Our Passover Catering Honors Sephardic and Ashkenazic Tastes
If you are curious to try a different flavor this Passover, take a look at our Passover catering menu. You’ll see examples of the different Sephardic and Ashkenazic cuisines in our entrées:
- Fish: We offer two kinds of salmon (an Ashkenazic treat) and Moroccan tilapia
- Meat: Our large meat menu includes traditional Ashkenazic roasted chicken and beef kebobs; roast brisket and sweet and sour meatballs
- Side dishes: How about balsamic grilled vegetables along with the carrot tzimmes?
As we follow COR standards, we keep all chametz off our Passover menu.
Everyone Agrees Eggs are Central to Sedars and Passover
Personally, I was relieved when the news came out that eggs aren’t the cholesterol threat we’d been told they were. Take away the yolk, and there’s no cholesterol at all. The Mayo Clinic says that if you don’t have diabetes or heart disease, you can even have an egg a day without concern; in fact, some studies hint that this can prevent stroke. Go figure.
Both the Ashkenazic and Sephardic traditions have eggs front and center for Passover. While the former feature boiled eggs, the latter have created a dish called Huevos Haminados, or brown eggs in Ladino, the Hebrew-Spanish language that’s comparable to Yiddish. These are eggs that are placed in onion skins with tea leaves or coffee grinds, and simmered in low oven heat overnight. The result are tender eggs with a yummy oniony taste. Greek Jews call them Salonika Eggs, while Italian Jews refer to Turkish Eggs (clearly, Jewish grandmothers around the world purposefully confuse traditions and nationalities).