Writings from the Rabbis

Passover Guidance—A Message from Our Rabbis
Apr 19th 2016

A Passover Kitchen

The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) of the Rabbinical Assembly recently released some decisions regarding the consumption of kitniyot on Pesaẖ. These decisions have already generated significant press, and have led to many questions within our community. On a recent Shabbat, we had the pleasure of discussing our approach to this subject and now share our position with the community at large. 
What are kitniyot?
Foods derived from five grains—wheat, oats, spelt, barley, and rye—are prohibited on Pesaẖ unless they were made into matzah or its derivatives (matzah meal, farfel, etc.). Ashkenazi Jews also have a 1,200-year minhag (custom) of not eating legumes during Pesaẖ. Our ancestors worried that one might confuse a food product prepared from one of the five grains with something made from kitniyot. Others were concerned that prohibited grains might easily become mixed with kitniyot. Either situation would lead to serious, although unintentional, violation of Pesah.
What do the teshuvot say?
The recently passed teshuvot (rabbinic decisions) argue that the original justifications for the custom of banning kitniyot no longer apply. They contend that there are ample reasons (cost, health, etc.) why the custom should be lifted and conclude that Ashkenazi Jews may consume kitniyot which are supervised and designated as kosher for Passover.
What do we recommend?
The CJLS is an advisory body to Conservative rabbis. Each Conservative Jewish institution has a mara d’atra (legal authority) who determines the official practice of the community. Rabbi Frydman-Kohl, who has served for two decades on the Law Committee, fulfills that function for Beth Tzedec,
Rav Baruch voted in favour of one of the opinions permitting the consumption of kitniyot because he accepted its reasoning and recognized that, within the pluralistic framework of Conservative Judaism, there is room for differing positions. However, he also signed a dissenting opinion contending that kitniyotshould not be permitted wholesale, since this has been a long standing and widely held Ashkenazi custom. He and Rabbi Cutler agree that the prohibition on the consumption of kitniyot by Ashkenazi Jews should continue for most people.

There may be personal reasons to add kitniyot to your Passover diet. You may have extenuating circumstances (vegan, allergies, travel, children, etc.) that might provide special justification for the personal suspension of this custom (minhag). Please contact either of us regarding whether kitniyot consumption may be appropriate for you or your family.

For all Ashkenazi Jews, liquids derived from kitniyot, usually oils, are kosher for Passover when bearing labels indicating that they are “Kosher for Passover for Sefaradim" or “Kosher for Passover for those who eat kitniyot.
As always, we are available for personal guidance about halakhic or interpersonal issues.
Best wishes for a wonderful Passover, a Hag Kasher v’Sameah.

Rabbis Baruch Frydman-Kohl and Adam Cutler

For further reading:
David Golinkin, "Rice, beans and kitniyot on Pesah - are they really forbidden?"
Amy Levin and Avram Israel Reisner, "A Teshuvah Permitting Ashkenazim to Eat Kitniyot on Pesah"
Miriam Berkowitz, Micah Peltz, Baruch Frydman-Kohl, David Hoffman, Noah Bickart, "Dissenting Opinion - Kitniyot on Pesah"
What foods are considered kitniyot
Foods included within the category of kitniyot have changed over the years. A contemporary list is available here.

Black eye peas
Flax Seeds
Poppy seeds
Sesame Seeds
Snow Peas
Soy (Edamame)
Sunflower seeds