Special Holiday Issues

A Holiday Of Firsts

The Jewish Week asked readers to share their unique Passover memories. Here are their stories.

Special to the Jewish Week

A Seder In Freedom

Jeanne Dortort Schwartz

I was the first person in my family born in this country; my grandparents were born in Poland. I heard so many stories about what happened in Poland, the atrocities.

In1924, at 7, I vividly remember my first seder — in a second-floor apartment on Clinton Street on the Lower East Side. The apartment was on the first floor, with one window in the rear of the building, a coal stove, an icebox, and one toilet for four apartments.

A Seder Among Former Slaves

A Passover of liberation in the Sudan.

Special to The Jewish Week

A few days before Passover last year, a student found me, a rabbi, doing some last-minute packing.

“Where are you going?” she asked.

“To the Sudan,” I replied.

A little silence followed, and then she said, “Oh, that’s that new bar in Cambridge, right?”

Free at last: Newly liberated slaves in the Sudan taste matzah during a pre-Passover “seder” led by a Boston rabbi. Reizel Polak

The Tomato Finds Its Place On The Seder Plate

Workers’ rights join other social issues symbolized by food items at Passover.

Staff Writer

The pre-Passover shopping list of Rabbi Paula Marcus is growing this year.

A pulpit rabbi in California, she will buy the standard items this week: some kosher food, some boxes of matzah, some bottles of wine. And one non-standard item: a tomato.

The tomato is for her seder plate, not for a recipe.

Crowded seder plate: The centerpiece of the seder table, which had added an orange in recent years, will make room for a tomato.

Seder Stories That Last A Lifetime

The Jewish Week asked readers to share their unique Passover memories. From Grossinger’s to revolutionary Bogotá to Forest Hills, here are their tales.


Resorting to a Questionable Song

My first seder, one I would never forget, was celebrated as an 8-year-old at Grossinger’s in 1945. My mother, Karla, a cousin by marriage to the famous Jennie Grossinger, and I had recently moved to the New York area from Los Angeles, where I had attended (I still don’t know why) Christian Science Sunday school.

The seder, a time of tradition, often spawns untraditional tales and memories. Illustration by Debbie Richman

Liberation From Isolation

For participants in a deaf seder, signing is the norm and no one feels like an outsider.

Special to The Jewish Week

I’ve never heard the Passover Haggadah. I’ve heard of it, of course, but never heard it, the actual words.

Like the rest of my family and the guests seated around our seder table every year, we all are deaf. With 40 to 50 guests joining us for the two seder nights at our house, the atmosphere is always casual, the dress informal (except perhaps for my suit and matching black hat); almost everyone knows each other. We come together to celebrate the Jewish holiday of liberation.

At a seder for the deaf, Yehoshua Soudakoff sits among other people who sign the words of the Haggadah instead of reading them.

Crashing The Seder Story

When ‘Historia’ and ‘Politica’ take seats at the table.

Special To The Jewish Week

Always, despite the children’s hilarity and the happy anticipation of the feast, there comes to the seder a palpable and bitterly unsmiling Guest. Sometimes she is aged and hoary, and sometimes far younger, as ruddy-faced as freshly spilled blood. Most often she is the querulous hag who has attended the seder for centuries; her name is Historia. But when she is newly arrived, and insinuates herself among the grownups in her torn dress smelling of gunpowder, or sticky with plastic explosive, she is called Politica.

A traditional seder plate. Are new, symbolic additions part of the holiday spirit, or are they “unwelcome guests?”

The Telling, And The Retelling

New Haggadahs for an old story boast hip lit and Ethiopian drama.

Staff Writer


New American Haggadah. Edited by Jonathan Safran Foer, with a new translation by Nathan Englander. (Little, Brown and Company, $29.99)

Sharing the Journey: The Haggadah for the Contemporary Family. Alan Yoffie, illustrations by Mark Podwal. (Central Conference of American Rabbis, $18)

The Old Master Haggadah. Illustrations by Rembrandt and other artists. (Limited edition, published by Mark Fisch, $45, available at Michael Shamasky Booksellers and artbooks.com)

Haggadah journeys: Two new Haggadot, one based on the Ethiopian Jewish experience, one geared for “the contemporary family,”

Macaron Madness

Tips and tricks on how to make the cosmopolitan treats in your own kitchen.

Special to the Jewish Week

Move over cupcakes, there is a new, and sweet, trend in town. What first exploded in the bakeries of France centuries ago, has, in recent years, landed on the shores of the U.S. and taken off like, well, macaroons at Passover time. In every conceivable color and flavor, French macarons (not to be confused with the traditional Passover dessert macaroons) are now popping up in bakeries across the country, on the covers of magazines and on television.

Two macaron varieties: Lime with strawberry curd, left, and raspberry almond with chocolate ganache.

The New Kneidlach Conundrum

Forget heavy or light. Matzah ball varieties — from spicy to sweet to stuffed — provide plenty of options.

Special to the Jewish Week

There are a lot of important considerations when it comes to Passover. Red wine or white? Hand-baked or machine-made matzah? Streit’s or Manischewitz macaroons?

But one of the top considerations in every household before the seder is this: Should matzah balls be heavy or light? This year though, you may want to start asking more questions. Like spicy or plain? Whole wheat or regular? Stuffed or unstuffed? With so many options, any number of kneidl varieties could grace your seder table.

Tamar Genger’s Whole Wheat Spinach Matzah Balls.

Free To Give

Passover gifts, with an eye toward aesthetics and meaning.

Special To The Jewish Week

Chanukah may be the season for exchanging presents, but Passover has its own traditions of gift giving, with none of the pressures. We searched for gifts that had beauty and meaning, with some fun too; many are handmade and some are local (and some are both). A number of these selections address the very themes of the holiday: supporting freedom for all people. Gifts that give, they enable — through their marketing — the people who made them to advance their lives.

Ten Plagues Hand Puppet Making Kit.
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