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Passover Memories

by Nanci Levy | Apr 13, 2017

Maxwell House HaggadotPassover began this year on the evening of April 10 and ends on the evening of April 18. Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew, is a commemoration of the Jews’ Exodus from Egypt. Centered on the family or communal celebration of the Seder (ritual meal), Passover is probably one of the most well-known and beloved of all Jewish holidays.

As such, the approach of Passover evokes many happy memories for our Handmaker residents. Here are just a few that involve memorable foods, the “Maxwell House Hagaddah”, special traditions and seeing favorite family members.

Carol remembers her grandfather leaning on cushions during their Seders when she was little. “It was so traditional, so nice”. She loved that she got to see her cousins at Passover, they were scattered around Chicago and she did not get to see them often.

Gertrude’s father usually led their Seders, and he would “stretch out the Seders endlessly”. Her mother knew that the children couldn’t wait to eat, so, unbeknownst to their Dad, she would give her five children gefilte fish before the Seder so they would not be so impatient for it to end. Just the thought of that makes Gertrude laugh. Her Dad would also give his children a bag of filbert nuts to play marbles with every Passover. At the end of Passover, they would get to eat them. She liked them much better than the Matzah.

As an adult, Gloria’s family took turns hosting the different holidays. Her family had Passover, her sister did Rosh Hashanah and her sister-in-law did Thanksgiving. Her brother-in-law, Milton always led the Seder. Her favorite Passover story was when her sister, who was a judge, was presiding over a case involving the Mafia and had to have 24 hour guard during the trial, which happened to take place during Passover. Her sister’s son Danny wanted to open the door for Elijah, as they always did, but the adults said that they could not do so that year, due to security concerns. Danny was in tears, crying “How is Elijah going to drink his wine?”

At Les’ family Seders growing up, their tradition was for the kids to hide the Afikoman  and for the adults to search for it! (The Afikoman is a piece broken off from a matzah during the Seder and put aside to be eaten at the end of the meal. It is traditionally hidden during the Seder to be searched for by the children present.) At his family Seders, if the adults could not find it, the kids would usually get 25 cents, which was a lot of money in those days. Les remembers one year when the Seder was at his Grandparents’ house he went to the next door neighbor’s house and gave the Afikoman to them with strict instructions not to give it to anyone but him. When it came time, the adults looked for the Afikoman, but could not find it. They gave up, and Les’ grandfather asked him what he wanted, 25 cents? Les looked him right in the eye and told him that he wanted a bicycle. Les eventually did get the bicycle, but his mom was not very happy that he asked for such an extravagant Afikoman gift. It seemed to work out for him, though.

Lois remembers using the Maxwell House Hagaddahs during Seders growing up. She loved the special Passover muffins that her mom made every year. From what she can remember, they were made of crushed matzah softened with water, eggs and oil, and maybe a few other things, that were mixed together and baked in muffin tins. “When warm from the oven, they were delicious. And leftovers were cut in half and fried in a pan with some egg.”

We started some new traditions at our Passover Seders at Handmaker this year. We included the tradition of Miriam’s Cup on our Seder tables. Since G-d supplied Miriam with a miraculous well that accompanied the Hebrews throughout their journey through the desert, we placed a Miriam's cup on our Seder table to honor the important role of woman in our history and tradition. At the Seders, women were invited to fill Miriam's cup with water from their own glasses. This is a more modern tradition, and the residents appreciated this "new" addition to our Seder.

On the second night, everyone read the four questions, rather than the youngest attendee. And, in honor of Les’ family tradition, we had the youngest attendee hide the Afikoman, and the adults looked for it.

With our beautiful Passover Seders, Passover festival services on the first and last days of Passover, and a completely Kosher for Passover kitchen and food service throughout Passover, we strive to provide a warm and welcoming Jewish home for our residents this time of year, and always. While each resident may have their own special memories of past Passovers, we hope that this year’s Passover is also filled with delicious Passover foods, and time spent with loved ones, including dear friends that they have made while living here.

Chag Sameach!