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Matriarchy of Marzipan: A Purim-Inspired Poem 

Poet Deborah Leipziger shares a look at the “alchemy of Purim” through marzipan. 

By Jewish Arts Collaborative

Published Mar 20, 2024


While hamantaschen are the iconic baked good of Purim, this poem by Deborah Leipziger takes a different sweet tact on this holiday that’s about “crossing boundaries.” 

Deb says, “My Nonna was from Genova and our family came to Brazil right before World War II began. Each Purim, she would make “montini di Purim” and share them as part of theMishlach Manot  tradition. My mother continues this tradition, grating almonds by hand. My Nonno, who was from Ancona, would read Megillat Esther to us in Italian.” 

Matriarchy of Marzipan   

By Deborah Leipziger 

For my Nonna, all desserts began  

with recreating home in a latticework of marzipan.   

She would gather almonds. Gently  

encourage them to release their skin, 

placing almonds in warm water,  

in the sea glass blue basin of my childhood.  

Slowly, the almonds shed their garments,  

their veneer of tree. 

Once bare,  

the almonds will be ground fine.  

This is the transformation of matter,  

the alchemy of Purim, where we cross boundaries. 

This is why we are here, 

to soften   loosen   the hard edges of judgement. 

Alchemy of sugar, breaking of eggshells, 

daffodil yolk. 

I hear her voice telling me to  

shape the mounds into small peaks, 

let the first layer be a base of foamy egg yolk,  

frothy, wrapped in almond and sugar” 

shell-free     crack open  

your history   peer inside 

Make room for a new country,  

altogether strange and beautiful. 

Welcome uncertainty. 

This is what you brought with you.  

This layer will eventually harden. 

Go about your life.  Sleep   make love   rest. 

When you awaken 

it will be new — ready for its crown of chocolate. 

This will alchemize into poetry, 

language hardening on language. 

The yellow layer reminds me of mimosa     

soft      almost blurry     wistful.   

You have brought your Judaism intact,  

your family remaining in Italy 

will hide their Judaism, grow up in convents. 

How much you relinquished.   

Here you are Jewish in the open,  

ready for the halo of a sugar coating but  

perhaps you will remain just as you are  

unhidden     uncovered    a thing purely itself  

no further colors nor outer shell. 

This is my offering. 

Here is the hardening of time, 

the softening of history. 

My daughters woven into your journey, 

nostalgic for the future. 


JArts’ mission is to curate, celebrate, and build community around the diverse world of Jewish arts, culture, and creative expression. Our vision is of a more connected, engaged, and tolerant world inspired by Jewish arts and culture. Learn more at jartsboston.org.

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