Passover is a time of celebration for the Jewish community. The 8-day festival, also known as Pesach, takes place each spring and commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from generations-long slavery in Egypt.
“There are two kinds of kosher—the kind that is observed year-round, and the kind that is observed at Passover.”
It is said that when the Israelites fled Egypt, they left in such a hurry that the bread they prepared for the journey didn’t have a chance to rise. To honor this during Passover, observant Jews don’t eat bread products that have been leavened and instead eat matzah, flat unleavened bread.
“There are two kinds of kosher—the kind that is observed year-round, and the kind that is observed at Passover,” says Rabbi Jason Weiner, senior rabbi and director of the Cedars-Sinai Spiritual Care Department. “The kosher rules for Passover are much stricter.”
In addition to avoiding breads that have risen, leavened grains and foods that have any trace of wheat, barley, oats, spelt, or rye are forbidden. These foods are known as chametz.
To prepare for Passover, many Jews rid their homes of chametz and thoroughly clean their kitchens to remove all traces of chametz. This process is called kashering.
“The instruction to clean the kitchen and remove all leavened products or leavening agents comes directly from the Torah,” explains Rabbi Weiner.
Cedars-Sinai has a kosher kitchen to prepare food for patients who keep kosher, and it too is prepared for Passover.
During kashering at Cedars-Sinai, the entire kosher kitchen, including appliances, dishes, utensils, pots, pans, and counters are rigorously cleaned. Once that is complete, a rabbi from the Rabbinical Council of California uses a blowtorch on the metal surfaces of the kitchen.
“Everything is burned and heated until there is no possible residue left behind,” says Leron Zaggy, administrative dietitian of the kosher kitchen.
After the preparations are complete, the cooking for Passover begins.
“Because we are a Jewish hospital, honoring these traditions is an important part of our identity and mission to the community,” says Rabbi Weiner.