Whether you call it Passover or Pesach, you don’t need radar to know when the holiday is on its way. Temples begin sending out flyers for their annual Seder and if you’re fortunate, you start receiving invitations from friends and family.
Kosher for Passover ads begin appearing in grocery store flyers long before the holiday. There are so many different products. My parents and grandparents would never have believed you don’t have to make every single thing from scratch.
I know my mother would be astonished to see Passover cake mixes, mixes for matzah ball soup, and even Passover noodles for the lasagna we used to make using softened matzahs. They all say Kosher for Passover, but I’m still not sure my mother would ever use them and certainly not my grandmother.
In fact, my mother was so kosher, when she came to my house for the holiday, even though I cooked kosher-style and bought the acceptable products, I didn’t change my dishes. I had a Depression-era glass luncheon set my mother received when she was married, which I stored in the attic. Each year I’d take out specific dishes she used only for the holiday. I also had a set of stainless steel utensils that only she used. The only things that ever touched those plates were gefilte fish, Gold’s horseradish, Passover macaroons, pieces of Barton’s candy, and anything else I could find with a label.
So many memories, so many Seders, so many people no longer with us. “OK, Myrna, don’t dwell,” I say to myself. Oh, but I do. My mind goes back to different celebrations with smiling faces sitting around a Passover table. Relatives and friends eating, talking, praying together, opening the door for Elijah when as kids we were sure we could see the wine in the glass going down. Did Elijah really visit us or was the level of wine diminished by evaporation?
Seders were celebrated in so many different locations, I feel like we were wandering Jews. We broke matzah together in Lynn, Mattapan, Chelsea, Winthrop, Randolph, Canton, Lynnfield and of course, Danvers. Each setting was unique yet each was the same.
As a young kid, I can recall sitting at my grandmother Pearl Finkle’s table in her four-room apartment on the third floor of 48 Church St. in Lynn. I can still see the big glass jugs of wine Bubbe made and stored on the tiny porch off the kitchen. The jugs were covered with tarps that kept the pigeons away.
To this day, I cannot figure out how my family – my mother, father, older brother, and I – stayed in this tiny apartment. The large bedroom off the kitchen belonged to my grandmother; Uncle Jake slept in the other bedroom, and there was a couch in the living room/den. I think the four of us piled into Bubbe’s bedroom while she slept on the couch.
After a few years of this, we stayed home for Passover. I once asked my mother why we stopped going to Lynn. Apparently, Bubbe decided it was time for my mother to make Passover at her home.
We also shared a Passover Seder at my Zayde Liftman’s house in Chelsea, but not for very long. Entertaining a family of seven married children and their families plus my single aunt made for a lot of people. So, Bubbe and Zayde spent the entire Passover holiday at my Aunt Sarah’s house in Mattapan. She ran Seders the first and second night of Passover. Half of us went to the first Seder and the others were invited to the second.
Both nights were very long. My zayde, Rev. Friedel Liftman, covered every single line, period, and comma in the Haggadah. I am convinced my grandfather had super hearing. He listened to every one of his sons and even sons-in-law saying the prayers. Before the Seder was over, Zayde had managed to correct each man verbally. I was so embarrassed for my uncles and especially for my father. I was prepared to stand up to Zayde and tell him that wasn’t nice, but I was afraid so I kept quiet.
Despite my fear, I truly loved the Liftman Seders. After dinner was time for singing and we all did so with gusto. Since it was close to midnight, it helped wake us up. Years later I still hear the rousing words to “Dayenu” and “Chad Gadya.”
By the way, since it’s traditional for the youngest child to ask the Four Questions at the Seder, I wasn’t going to be picked on for a mistake. I spent the year practicing for what was supposed to be my turn. I needn’t have bothered. I was passed over in favor of a male cousin the same age.
Myrna Fearer writes from Danvers. Email her at email@example.com.