following is intended as general guidance for observing Passover according to
normative Conservative guidelines. Different families have different traditions
and if you have a family tradition that may be more stringent on a particular
question, it is always permissible to be strict. It is not a violation of
Jewish law to avoid taking leniencies even if they are legally permitted.
Observing the dietary restrictions of Passover
is not always easy, but it is made even more complicated by misunderstandings
and misinformation, both of which are rampant. To help you in your observance,
I have prepared this Pesach Guide, trying to be as straightforward as possible.
In doing so, I have consulted the Rabbinical Assembly Pesach Guide, but I alone
am responsible for the rulings and conclusions contained herein. This guide was
revised in the spring of 2016 to reflect the recent decision of the Committee
on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) of the Conservative Movement to permit the
consumption of kitniyot. It was further revised for clarity and style in 2018
and again in 2019
(“leaven”) is the product of five specific grains: wheat, barley, oats, spelt
and rye. Once these grains come into contact with water for eighteen minutes
they are considered chametz. These are the same five grains which can be made
either into bread which requires the hamotzi blessing or into matzah. We are
forbidden not only to consume these products during Pesach, but even to own
them or derive benefit from them in any way. Obvious examples of chametz
include bread, cakes, cereals, pasta, and most alcoholic beverages other than
wine. Only products made from these five grains can become actual chametz.
However, once these grains have been made into matzah they are no longer
subject to becoming chametz, and thus we can use matzah meal or crumbled matzah
for all kinds of different Pesach products.
Note that the
issue of chametz, despite popular misconceptions, has nothing to do with the
presence or absence of yeast. Crackers, pasta, pita, and flour tortillas
contain no yeast, yet they are still chametz and forbidden for Passover use.
II. What are
of products which Ashkenazi Jews historically did not use for Pesach is
kitniyot (“legumes.”) This category in essence consists of things which can be
ground into flour. The most common forms of kitniyot are corn, rice, and beans.
Ashkenazi authorities, fearing that people might accidentally use wheat flour
while thinking it was corn or rice flour, banned the use of these products on
Pesach as well. Sephardic communities never accepted this prohibition and thus
Sephardic Jews have always been free to eat these products on Pesach to their
In December 2015
the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) of the Conservative movement
passed two responsa permitting the consumption of kitniyot by all Jews. Of
course, just because consumption of kitniyot is permissible does not mean it is obligatory
and if changing your family custom makes you uncomfortable you are free to
continue to observe it.
A couple of things are worth noting here:
a.) There was
never a prohibition for Ashkenazi Jews of owning
kitniyot on Pesach or having them in your home. While actual chametz needs to
be disposed of or sold through the agency of the rabbi and locked away, this is
not necessary with kitniyot for those who continue to refrain from them during
communities in Europe followed different practices with regard to what was or
was not considered kitniyot. Some products which have different status in
different communities are garlic, mustard, and string beans. If you maintain
the practice of avoiding kitniyot during Pesach, you should follow your
family’s tradition as to whether or not a particular food is to be avoided.
Products Require Kosher for Passover Certification?
Another area of confusion is what products
require certification, and why some products may be purchased without
certification before but not during
During the year, an accidental admixture of
forbidden foods which is less than 1/60th of the total is considered nullified.
This would also apply to any accidental addition of chametz in an otherwise
Kosher-for-Passover product. That is the reason why we formally nullify any
overlooked chametz both the evening and the morning before Pesach. But during Pesach,
even the tiniest amount of chametz cannot be nullified.
example of this type of product is orange juice. Orange juice is a product
which in the normal course of things is chametz-free. But suppose it is
produced in a factory which also produces chametz-containing products. There is
a remote possibility that some small amount of chametz might accidentally wind
up in our orange juice, but if we bought the juice before Pesach, this would be
nullified. If we buy it during Pesach, the miniscule amount of chametz is not
nullified, and thus juice bought during
Pesach needs certification.
The following foods do not require Kosher for
Passover certification if purchased before
or during Pesach, i.e. they are always acceptable without special Passover
fruits and vegetables, eggs, fresh kosher meat, fish.
The following foods do not require Kosher for
Passover certification if bought before
Pesach but require certification if bought during
caffeinated coffee (flavored, instant and decaffeinated coffees require
certification), sugar, pure tea (not herbal or decaf), salt, pepper, natural
spices, pure fruit juices, frozen uncooked vegetables, milk, Grade A butter,
hard cheeses, frozen uncooked fruit (with fruit as the only ingredient), and
The following foodsrequire Kosher for Passover certification whether purchased before or during Pesach:
baked products (matzah, matzah meal, cakes, cookies, etc.), processed foods,
wine, vinegar, liquor, oils, dried fruits, candy, flavored milk, ice cream,
yogurt, soda, decaffeinated coffee or tea, herbal or flavored tea, and canned
and dried beans should either have Passover certification “for those who eat kitniyot” or else they must be sifted through
before Pesach to find and dispose of any possible grains of chametz which might
have become mixed in. Processed kitniyot (such as canned beans) require
Passover certification as does any other processed food because of the
complexity of the manufacturing process. It is never a good idea to simply rely
on the ingredients listing to determine if a product is kosher for Pesach.
IV. Pets and
problem with pets and Pesach is not a question of animals eating chametz or
non-Kosher food. Animals are not subject to the mitzvot and there is no problem
with them eating anything. The issue is that Jews are forbidden to own or benefit from chametz during Pesach.
The problem can be dealt with in one of three
1. Feed your pets Kosher for Passover table
scraps during Pesach if that is possible.
2. Scrutinize pet food labels to make sure they
contain no chametz (kitniyot and non-kosher meats such as pork or shrimp are
not a problem).
3. Include your pet and its food in the sale of
Conservative Jews and Kitniyot
The 2015 decision of the Conservative Movement’s
CJLS to permit the consumption of kitniyot by all Jews during Passover has had
a mixed reception. Some follow it, some reject it, and some follow a middle
want everyone to be comfortable eating at our synagogue at all times, I have
decided not to permit consumption of kitniyot or kitniyot-containing products
at Kehilat Shalom during Passover.
For those of you who may wonder about my
personal practice: as noted above, rice and beans to be consumed during Pesach
need to be sifted through before Pesach to make sure that no grains of actual
chametz have become mixed in (unless the rice or beans have reliable Kosher for
Passover certification). Because I view it as unlikely that people will really
do this, I do not recommend consumption of actual beans or rice during Pesach
and I do not consume them myself.
However, on occasion one finds products with
reliable certifications “for those who eat kitniyot” coming from Israel,
France, Mexico, or other countries. I recommend these products if you are
comfortable eating kitniyot, but I reiterate that you are perfectly free to
continue avoiding kitniyot if that is what makes sense to you.
for Passover Certification:
When looking for products which require Kosher
for Passover certification, it is important to make sure that the certification
is actually printed on the label or bottle cap and not just a sticker which is
handled at the retail level. There is no guarantee that the sticker was applied
to the proper product.
Similarly, do not assume that just because a
store stocks something in the Passover section that it is actually kosher for
Passover. Neither the supermarket clerks nor their managers are experts in
Jewish religious practices, and it is not uncommon for “Jewish” foods which are
not kosher-for-Passover to be placed in or near the Passover section. It is
your responsibility to check for appropriate Passover certification. Earlier
this week in the Goshen Plaza Giant, I found Kosher-for-Passover chicken stock
right next to chicken stock which is kosher but not for Passover, and both were
stocked in the store’s Passover section along with hamantashen left over from
Purim. I am sure that the stores are acting in good faith but you must exercise
It is not uncommon to find matzah which is not
Kosher for Passover -- it will state “Not For Passover Use” on the label but
you must look for it. Some people eat matzah year-round and these products are
not produced using the special Passover stringencies.
We are fortunate to live in an age when many
kosher products, both for Pesach and year-round, are available even to Jews who
live in areas with relatively small Jewish communities. Gone are the days when
kosher-observant Jews subsisted on matzah, potatoes, cheese and eggs during
Pesach. I hope that this guide makes your Passover observance more meaningful
and less stressful. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.