K’Ton Ton, the little Jewish Tom Thumb, was written by Sadie Rose Weilerstein for her children.

The Passover table changed, but it was always joyful



The Passover table changed, but it was always joyful

K’Ton Ton, the little Jewish Tom Thumb, was written by Sadie Rose Weilerstein for her children.

Ah, Passover, brimming with memories, some pleasant and some painful. But they all have a place in our hearts.

A Passover Seder was always a happy time, filled with laughter and children and stealing the afikomen from underneath many pillows behind my Zayde’s reclining cushions in Chelsea. There was our first taste of wine – or was that grape juice? It didn’t matter. In the eyes of the youngsters, Elijah was sipping from his glass and the level was going down.

Wherever we were for the Seder, it was special. We loved it all. It doesn’t seem possible that those years went by so quickly.

Looking back, I realize we shared Passover in many different places with many different people. For a long time, we alternated from Danvers to Canton with my brother Ted and his family. My sons, Brian and Matthew, really liked to celebrate at home, making the house festive and the table unique and they certainly got creative with their place cards. But at that time, it was tradition.

In my memory, I can still see the boys making charoset and helping create the Seder plate. Everything was special because we were sharing with family, that is, until the traffic from Canton to Danvers discouraged the trek.

That was the year I decided to invite my non-Jewish friends to a Passover Seder. They were so appreciative, and they talked about it for many years. And I wondered why I hadn’t done it before.

Last year, I shared Passover with the folks at the Kaplan Estates in Peabody, where I was recuperating from a fall. But, the last three years were different anyway thanks to COVID. Most of us celebrated at home or possibly with just a few immediate family members. Some folks resorted to sharing the holiday via ZOOM. Not a bad alternative but somehow not the same.

Certainly it was not the way I grew up. During Passover, when I was very young, we broke matzah together in Lynn with my grandmother Pearl Finkle and Uncle Jake (editor of the Lynn Telegram News). I frankly don’t know how Bubbe’s four-room triple-decker apartment accommodated all of us. There were two bedrooms, a multipurpose room that morphed into a den, bedroom, or living room, plus a large kitchen, small pantry and tiny porch for the jugs of wine fermenting for the holiday. Of course everything was covered by tarps to keep the pigeons away.

Recently I was thinking back to those days, a time when Swee-Touch-Nee tea was in red tins with gold stripes, ready for anybody who wanted a glezele tay (a glass of tea).
Along with the tea, there were always the rock candy sugar crystals hanging together by string. And, of course, a jar of cherry preserves to put on the bottom of Uncle Jake’s glass. The thing that made this more like the old days would be to serve the tea in a Yahrzeit glass.

We enjoyed it all, and then it was over. My grandmother decided it was time the four of us celebrated Passover in Mattapan. She was getting older and space was tight, but for a while, I thought it was my fault. I was the one who suggested we needed to have our schmutz cleaned with a ladle and feather just like K’Ton Ton.

I loved K’Ton Ton, the little Jewish Tom Thumb, the hero of many short stories written by Sadie Rose Weilerstein for her children. He was mischievous and he was fun yet not many people remember the little Jewish imp.

Besides, no one walks around with a ladle and feather anymore, not when a vacuum cleaner gets rid of the stuff immediately.

Over the years, there were many Seders, and I realize now how things were constantly changing, even the menu. One Passover, my nephew Mark questioned the chocolate jelly roll I had made filled with whipped cream. He insisted it couldn’t be Kosher for Passover because it didn’t taste like matzah.

Of course it was Kosher for Passover; there was no flour. It came directly out of the Congregation Ahabat Sholom of Lynn cookbook.

Looking back, I realize how things have changed, even the menu, even the people. Many friends and/or relatives no longer sit at the dinner table. Some are in Florida, others have passed on. Different foods, once prohibited by those of us with a European background, have joined with the Sephardic Jews and accepted kitniyot.

The Rabbinical Assembly, the governing body for the Conservative movement of Judaism, declared that kitniyot, which encompasses legumes (such as peanuts, beans, and peas), rice, and corn, are Kosher for Passover. And that makes perfect sense to me, although I know I won’t change.

I remember my late father-in-law was convinced that bread was someday going to be acceptable for Passover. He may have been right.

Myrna Fearer writes from Danvers.

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