GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Tasked with preparing thousands of Passover meals this week the staff at the Seashore Gardens Living Center took a blowtorch to its kitchen.
And it was all done under the supervision of a rabbi.
The Jewish holiday of Passover begins Monday night, so on Thursday the staff at the senior home — which provides a kosher kitchen — was busy thoroughly scrubbing all of its stainless steel appliances. Then Rabbi Aaron Gaber of Congregation Beth Judah in Ventnor arrived with a propane tank and blowtorch and touched every piece of metal with the flame.
The fire sanitizes the material so it can be cleaned and ready to use for Passover, Gaber said. The measure also represents a spiritual cleansing all Jews undergo during the holiday, he said.
The holiday of Passover commemorates the ancient story of when the Jews were slaves in Egypt and God inflicted 10 plagues on the Egyptians so King Pharaoh would allow them to leave. The Jews left so quickly they did not allow their dough enough time to rise. It instead baked on their backs in the form of a flat unleavened bread called matzo.
During the holiday it is customary to eat matzo and refrain from eating any leavened food — or using dishes or silverware that were used to prepare those items. In many Jewish homes, families have separate sets of kosher-for-Passover cookware, dishes and silverware, but at a place like Seashore Gardens that prepares about 1,000 meals a day it would be too costly to use a new utensils.
Therefore Gaber came by with the blowtorch, which sanitizes all of the stainless steel. Some people pour boiling water on the metal for the same effect.
“We’re getting rid of all the chametz,” Gaber explained using the Hebrew word for leavened bread. “We start (Passover) as clean as we can be with a clean slate. We get back to the things that are important. One of the ways we do that is we think about the stuff we put in our bodies. That touches into our spirituality and creates a sense of holiness.”
Passover is eight days long and will end after sunset April 2. The first two nights feature seders in which people gather together to tell the story of the holiday and the exodus from Egypt.
Seashore Gardens will host about 200 people for each seder and will serve kosher-for-Passover meals throughout the holiday. The kitchen includes four convection ovens, two six-burner stoves, and 20 refrigerator units — which is comparable to the main kitchens at some of the casinos, said Galloway resident Jill LaBoy, the building’s food service director.
The staff spent the entire day making sure all of the appliances were as clean as possible. Thursday was not a day for any staff members to call out sick, she said.
“They work really hard.” She said. “This oven is 10 years old but it looks brand new.”
Making the kitchen kosher is important not only for the residents but other Jews in the community that receive Passover meals from the organization, said Seashore Gardens Executive Director Janice Cambron.
“It’s such a procedure,” she said. “But it’s needed. We’re the only kosher (for Passover) place in the area.”
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