Rice Now Kosher for Passover

Apr 21, 2016
Pass the rice, please
The Last Supper
ARLINGTON, VA – Kosher dietary laws are pretty strict, dictating what observant Jews are allowed to eat and what they are not, and they get even stricter during Passover, the annual weeklong Jewish holiday that commemorates the Jews’ flight from Egypt and features two ceremonial feasts, or “seders.”  (By the way, one of the most famous Passover seders of all time is also known as the Last Supper.)

During Passover, Jews are not allowed to eat anything leavened (risen). That’s likely bread, but is extended to anything made with wheat, barley, oats, rye, or spelt.  

In the 1200s, rabbis in France added rice, millet, and legumes to the list of Passover “no-nos” largely because they felt cross contamination was possible, even likely, given milling technology at the time.  The ruling stuck – but only with Jews of European descent, known as “Ashkenazi.” Jews of Middle Eastern or African descent, known as “Sephardic,” never banned rice during Passover.  

Which made for some interesting, if tense, Passover seders when both wings of the faith were present.  So much so that several years ago, rice was cleared for Passover use in Israel where Sephardic and Ashkenazi live side by side and often marry.
But now, after some 800 years, the Conservative Jewish movement has said, “enough” for Jews everywhere else.  Citing today’s milling, packaging, and food standards practices, along with an effort to unite these two wings of the Jewish faith, rice can now be considered Kosher for Passover for everyone.

“I’m Ashkenazi and would never have dreamt of having rice on Passover, but my husband is Sephardic and he grew up with rice during the holiday,” said Ilisa St. Pierre, a Conservative Jew in Washington, DC, who took to Facebook to discuss the issue.  “I’d usually let him have his rice and I wouldn’t partake, but I guess now I can.  It will take some getting used to, but I’m willing to try it, since I do love rice.”

This year Passover will be observed from April 22 through April 30.