Freedom’s Bounty
Wed, 03/13/2013
Jewish Week Book Critic
“One Bead,” the first CD by Epichorus
“One Bead,” the first CD by Epichorus

Celebrate freedom, the beginning of spring and the great joy of family and friends coming together in this annual holiday tradition. Share gratitude in reaching this season again with some thoughtful gifts that honor memory and fine craftsmanship. Some are also fun.

For a beautiful new take on Shir HaShirim, the Song of Songs — chanted on the Shabbat of Passover (in the Sephardi community, these verses are recited every Friday night) — listen to “One Bead,” the first CD by Epichorus, a group that infuses Jewish prayer and mystical poetry with rhythms of Arabic and world music. The lyrics for two of the songs are drawn from Shir HaShirim. Zach Fredman, who is finishing up his rabbinical studies at JTS and leading the New Shul in Greenwich Village, wrote most of the music and produced the CD. He explains, “I find that states of the heart, whether being in love or in the pains of love, generate good music. For words that speak to those feelings, Shir HaShirim is the perfect text.”

CD, $20, epichorus.bandcamp.com/

Or join them for their New York launch performance, Saturday April 6, 9 p.m., 92YTribeca, 200 Hudson St., Manhattan, $12

Malvern Shekede dreams of being able to afford to buy his family a home. Since he was a young teen in Zimbabwe, he has carried the burden of supporting his extended family. A craftsman, he now works in Cape Town, South Africa, and produces objects for African Home, a fair trade organization promoting environmental awareness. His great-looking washing cup, or vasser cup, as it’s known in South Africa, is ideal for the seder and other times as well; it is made from recycled Coca-Cola bottles and copper wire. (Coca-Cola too is part of Passover tradition. Rabbi Tobias Geffen was told the secret ingredients of the beverage, and then worked with the company to find suitable substitutions — Coca Cola has been kosher and kosher for Passover since 1935.)

$40, fairtradejudaica.com

At the seder, drip your wine 10 times onto these whimsical and colorful coasters representing the 10 Plagues. The lightweight coasters are made in South Africa of compressed wood chips, hand painted and sealed.

$25 (set of six coasters), fairtradejudaica

(Fair Trade Products purchased by Tuesday, March 19 will arrive before Passover.)

Store bottles of wine in a handmade wine rack, above, hat evokes memories of the textile and garment industry. Repurposed textile spools from a cotton factory in Georgia are handsomely weathered and crafted into a two-level rack by artist Robbie Cook.

$275, uncommongoods.com

Read “The Elijah Door: A Passover Tale” aloud to a young friend. The book by Linda Leopold Strauss (Holiday House), named a Sydney Taylor Award Honor Book, tells of two families in a small village who “raised their children, pulled their beets and shared the holidays” until a feud pulled them apart. Illustrating this story of love and forgiveness are Alexi Natchev’s magnificent hand-colored block prints, inspired by traditional 18th-century Eastern European folk art.

$16.95, at bookstores

From the Italian design house Alessi, a stainless steel square matzah holder is cut out to reflect the image of cactus in the desert, recalling the exodus.

$120, The Jewish Museum Shop, Fifth Avenue at 92nd St., or shop.thejewishmuseum.org

Remember the frogs! Add some whimsy to your seder and clink glasses with frog-shaped ice-cubes.

$18, J. Levine Judaica, 5 W. 30th St., Manhattan, levinejudaica.com

Eat, pray, laugh (you’ll need to do the praying on your own) with this basket of goods from the hit Broadway show “Old Jews Telling Jokes,” now at the Westside Theater in Manhattan, and Gefilteria, the Brooklyn-based artisanal purveyor of Old World Jewish foods reimagined. The package includes a copy of “Old Jews Telling Jokes” in book form, an apron with the show’s logo, Gefilteria’s highly-rated 24 oz. premium gourmet gefilte loaf and jars of carrot citrus horseradish and sweet beet horseradish, all kosher for Passover.

$54, Passovergiftbox.com. For tickets to the show, visit the box office at 407 W. 43rd St., or oldjewstellingjokes.com (Orders for the gift box placed by March 20 will arrive in time for the first seder)

Think “Lotsa Matzah” and enjoy the rhyming beat of Tilda Balsey’s board book for young kids, illustrated by Akemi Gutierrez (Kar-Ben).

$5.95 at bookstores

Penrose Gallery Judaica is a newly-founded collection of finely designed and original handcrafted Judaica available on the internet. The “Uncommon Seder Plate” is one of the most interesting and stunning to behold: A multi-layered sculpture tells the story of the Exodus from Egypt. Each piece is one-of-a-kind, made of copper and brass with sterling silver figures by a husband-and-wife team who operate “Winged Camel Metalworks” in the foothills of the Adirondacks in upstate New York.

$900, penrosejudaica.com

Dip greens (or potatoes) into salt water in this iridescent alabaster bowl that suggests the Roman amphitheater still standing in the ancient port city of Caesarea, Israel. The glass sides of the bowl, cast using ancient processes by Hudson Beach Glass, a design studio in New York’s Hudson Valley, were inspired by the idea of tiered seating in an amphitheater.

$60, penrosejudaica.com

Grow your own herbs for the next round of holidays. This organic herb garden for wine lovers includes seeds, garden stakes and directions for planting and harvesting herbs selected to complement a wide array of food and wines:  Greek oregano, basil bouquet, garlic, chives, English thyme and Italian parsley.
$18, moderntribe.com

On the edge of Mount Carmel in northern Israel, the village of Kfar Tikva, or Village of Hope, is home to about 200 people with special needs. In 2003, the Yitzhaki family established a boutique Winery, Tulip, employing community members with disabilities to help make the wine — and enabling those people to make a living and realize their potential. For several years, the Yitzhakis worked to get kosher certification, a challenge because of their special workforce; they received it in 2010. This year, six Tulip kosher red wines are available in New York for the first time, from Royal Wine Corp.

The Tulip Syrah Reserve, made of Syrah grapes from vineyards near Metula, with 5 percent Petit Verdot, was aged for 18 months in French and American oak barrels. The rich, spicy and fruity wine has been highly praised by critics and wine lovers.

$38.95, Skyview Wines, 5681 Riverdale Ave., Riverdale