The aha moment
Hi! I’m Ellen Zimmerman. Jewish Holidays in a Box sprouted and took root when my daughters were eight and six.
At that time, I was pondering how to make Jewish holidays come alive in our home. Gradually, I began to wonder, “How can I help your family enjoy Jewish celebrations more — with more joy and less stress?”
So here’s the story of where we started — and why we are passionate about what we’re building. For our family. For your family.
I was leaning on the kitchen counter peeling carrots on the morning of our Seder when I had an AHA moment. The Haggadahs (the booklets that take you through the Seder step-by-step) we’d been using for years weren’t kid-friendly. And they didn’t truly tell the story of Passover, with its wonderful drama and symbolism.
Dropping everything, I moved to the computer and started to draft a shorter, much more descriptive Haggadah – even though the kitchen was nagging at me.
We’ve personalized our Seders, weaving in interactive moments, ever since. We colored shoeboxes to look like bricks so our daughters could get up from the table and carry the “heavy” loads on their backs, imagining that they were slaves in Egypt.
We used massive construction paper to have our daughters “split the Red Sea” and allow our tribe to cross.
Slowly, the concept evolved
The idea to create holiday kits that would help other families bring their Jewish celebrations to life kept simmering, while work and life took top priority.
We began to call this concept Jewish Holidays in a Box.
For 25 years, I’ve run my marketing/consulting firm focusing on strategic planning, advertising, public relations and internal communications, largely for clients in the education, healthcare and manufacturing sectors.
Really, it’s not a big leap to Jewish Holidays in a Box — because my passion is finding creative ways to educate and inform, while generating enthusiasm.
And to make the connection even more natural, my daughter grew up to be the perfect business partner when she became an early childhood teacher.
Laura Pajor, a graduate of Washington University with a degree in education, is a Nationally Board Certified Early Childhood Teacher, with experience molding the minds of little ones in public and Jewish day schools, as well as in Sunday schools. Laura also holds a master’s degree in education with the designation of reading specialist. (Yes, she’s the sweet little girl lighting the menorah!).
She has great expertise in creating innovative activities for her students and helping Moms and Dads engage in lively conversations with their children.
Tailoring celebrations to your family
To this day, we customize the holidays, while carrying on traditions built up over the years.
A few years ago, for example, we discovered that Afghan and Iranian Jews put scallions on their plates to serve as symbolic whips. We adopted this Sephardic tradition on the spot.
And one year, we introduced a bit of bluegrass music to our Seder – perhaps a first in Jewish history!
Don’t get me wrong. I love tradition. I love hearing melodies that come into our lives once a year — like the Barbra Streisand version of Avinu Malkeinu. I love the smell of potato kugel baking. I love setting the table in special ways. But as our family expands, we look for ways to embrace the new members. And as we discover new customs, we’re willing to explore them. There isn’t just one right way to hold a Seder, do a Tashlich cermony, sing Shabbat songs. The diversity of Jewish custom is, perhaps, one of the greatest riches we have!
Maybe like yours, our family represents a huge diversity of backgrounds. Actually, what amazes me is how it is hard to find people with exactly the same history.
So let’s help each other find solutions, provide encouragement and identify resources that enable us to delve further into whatever piques our curiosity.
Take a look at the games, kits and guides what we’ve put together for you — with our love.
How you are helping
From the beginning, NW Works — providers of vocational training and employment opportunities for adults with disabilities — has been the perfect packing partner for us.
When I walk into the building, I am greeted by smiles and waves.
And I’ve watched as the NW Works clients assemble our games and kits so carefully – from folding the bright blue boxes to tucking colorful dreidels into mini ziplock bags to affixing the labels that let you know what you’re getting.
Our Hanukkah Family Fun Kit alone has over 30 individual components.
So every time you buy a game or kit from us, please know that I thank you and that NW Works thanks you — and that you are helping to provide jobs for these wonderful people.