When I think about the Passover seders of my childhood, I remember the giddy preparations: setting the table with my grandmother’s tablecloth and dishes, rolling the matzah balls and making place cards for each of the guests.
My eldest daughter, Hannah, who turned 9 at the end of August, chooses a different theme for her birthday party each year. Last year, she had a havdalah (end of Shabbat) party at our home in Harrisburg, Pa. After a scavenger hunt, 10 of her friends were invited to sleep over in the basement. At 3 a.m., with the girls still fighting and complaining, and no one getting any sleep, Hannah gave up in tears and climbed into bed with me and my wife. That was the last big sleepover party in our house.
My 24-year-old granddaughter, Nira, born and raised on a moshav in southern Israel, and now studying genetics in Raleigh, N.C., has for some time been asking to accompany me and discover my “roots” in Germany. I know her well enough to appreciate that she didn’t just want a “fun” trip, and so she came with me in June on what has become my annual visit to Reinheim, my hometown in Germany south of Frankfurt, in the state of Hessen, where I am an honorary citizen.
One Shabbat morning a few years ago I decided to skip shul and head over to a friend’s apartment for coffee. I didn’t time my visit well. Strolling along in sweatpants, I ran into one of the rabbis in my community coming home from shul with his family. I was mortified. While he could not have been any friendlier and wished me a good Shabbos, I was embarrassed to be seen in non-Shabbat-like clothing during peak Shabbat hours.