This year Passover and Holy Week are once again together on the calendar and we are reminded that in many ways we are linked through history, ritual and faith.
The Passover Seder in apartment 9E at 222 West 83rd Street was a big deal. The living room was typically reset with a horseshoe table for forty. I remember it being crucial to my father that there be non-Jews at the table to hear the story of the Exodus from Egypt.
The kitchen was managed by Helen supported by her sister. My mother sat at the end of the table closest to the kitchen. Dad sat at the head of the table in the middle with me to his left. It was a production.
The blue paperback De Sola Pool Haggadah was marked up with red grease pencil like any script of a show my father directed: theater, radio and television. Pictured below is the markup of the page containing the ten plagues.
Like any seder, there was great singing at the end. Dad banging on the table to direct Dayenu (it would have been enough) and the song about the Only Kid.
Before getting married and moving to long island there were occasions when i led seder on West 83rd Street but the most memorable was with a small group of friends, also in 9E. The biggest mistake I made was walking into the kosher butcher downstairs and asking for a leg of lamb to serve as well as the shank bone required for the ritual seder plate. I was promptly educated that the hind quarter of an animal is not kosher (think about it).
I don’t remember what I served but I do remember insisting that my friends have raw horseradish which sent them under the table I had set in the living room.
On Long Island we held the family seder in our home. It was known to have exceeded the length of the living room.
Where I had chanted the four questions now my children did so.
I directed too, but at our seders I assigned parts. Gramps was always the wicked son because he did it so well. Other parts changed players from year to year. Our seder also had non-Jews just like my father’s table.
For many years Jean worked in the kitchen for days with her mom, then our daughters were added to the mix. It then became two generations and soon the granddaughters will join the fracas. These are wonderful meals and as many of us as can are present along with friends to retell the story of the Exodus and celebrate life and love.
Now, the daughters lead the seders and the reading goes around the table.
It’s a tradition that traditions change.