When a word sticks in my head, appears and re-appears in my consciousness, I know something is brewing. On this, the 6th day of Passover, the day I will prepare charoses for our family Seder, hosted for the first time by my daughter, Beth, the words pass over cry out for attention.
The event of Beth’s stepping up to host the Seder marks the passing over of the beloved and sacrosanct family Seder to the next generation. Last year at this time, my first cousin Sid, then 99 years old and living in an assisted care community, carried on the tradition to host my mother’s extended family of cousins and friends, a group of 40 plus.
Sid’s death this past fall marked the ultimate passing over, the end of a five generation Passover gathering of my mother’s family.
Sid’s older brother, Lew and his wife, Selma welcomed Marv and myself as a newly arrived couple in the Boston area. Spring, 1958, the sight of an elongated “T” table set with Selma’s personally constructed Haggadah set the scene. Lew, as eldest son of Kunah, my mother’s half sister, an articulate and wise lawyer, held the reins, insisting that each and every participant read aloud in English or Hebrew, that we all take part. The mood was irresistible: we were grateful to come together, to re-tell the story of our ancestral exodus from tyranny, to raise our cups in thanks, to sing with verve and spirit.
As a child, I had little sense of the meaning of Passover. My father read the entire service in Hebrew from a black bound book lacking pictures, transliteration and songs. In contrast, Selma’s 8×10 bound Haggadah was printed in English and Hebrew, and included songs and pictures drawn by all the children.
When Selma and Lew passed, Sid and his wife relocated the Seder to their home in New Jersey. For two decades, I took over hosting our own small version of the family Seder. Using Selma’s Haggadah, I followed the tradition of my mother’s extensive menu of hard boiled eggs and salt, gefilte fish with horseradish, chicken soup with matzos balls, brisket, tsimmes, fresh green asparagus, my own baked macaroons and fresh fruit.
When my children married and started their own families, each one continued the tradition— Craig, returning home those first years and ultimately taking Selma’s Haggadah to the Midwest and Beth, still in the Boston area, joining with me, cooking the chicken soup. To continue on, we adapted. To include family members from afar, we shifted the Seder to a weekend date. In time, to accommodate restless children,we shortened the story telling and experimented with new and modern Haggadahs.
I recall my gratitude a decade ago when Sid relocated and re-instated the family Seder. With his passing, I am grateful that Beth has stepped up to host this first year with her family and close friends. Yesterday, I spent the afternoon scraping and cutting carrots and sweet potatoes, mixing the dried fruit, orange juice and spices to blend the flavors. My mother, Goldie’s hand written recipe card, alongside my favorite New York Times recipe, guided me. I am grateful to continue on.
Lovely post. Thanks for sharing a slice of your family tradition. Happy spring!
Thanks, Heather! Spring is filled with a sense of renewal; it’s my favorite season.
Faye…thank you for this most moving piece. It’s so lovely to see that the next generation values the traditions and carries on! Are you also grateful to have someone else flipping the latkes?
Pat, Yes, I so enjoyed Beth’s excitement and energy as she lead us through the Haggadah and the songs. It was a very lively and spirited occasion. The latkes are a story for another time!
The Seder a wise ritual which connects past and present, personal and group life journeys. I too am grateful that our next generation is willing to carry it forward.
Hy, glad we can share the pleasure and pride of our children’s willingness to carry our Seder traditions forward.
Beautiful blog, Faye. Thank you!
Bruce, I so appreciate your comment. Thank you!
From generation to generation we continue to march on to freedom taking with us mother’s gefilte fish recipe
and adding new songs and stories – connecting, remembering and building. We have many more than 4 questions and added 2 new children. Each year we recreate the seder. Happy Matzah – Sheila
Sheila, that’s so cool that you have added more questions. I would love to know more about your lively recreation.
Hooray for Beth for carrying on the family tradition and adding her beautiful voice to enhance the experience. May the tradition continue and may the families continue to grow! To me the Seder brings the family together in a very joyous way!
Liza, I’ve long admired all the effort and love you & Phil have put into the Seder tradition. I was so moved to see the picture of all of you together this past Seder. Yes, wonderful that the next generation has stepped up and that we are able to participate.
I was taken by the tone of warmth and respect in this account of repeated journeys to community. I like how the writer begins her story using the “pass over” words, how she describes rituals followed or adapted, highlights dishes freshly made from valued recipes—and in the process gently praises old family leaders, new ones too.
Rosemary, I enjoyed your comment and how you connected to my play on the words “pass over.” It truly felt like I had handed over the leadership to Beth — including the use of my special Seder Plate and gold toned goblet given to us by Marv’s Dad..Beth embraced the role with great verve. It was a fun event.