Holy hand-me-downs

The Jewish Chronicle - - PASSOVER SPECIAL - BY BIL­LIE JOSEPHS

PE­SACH IS on the hori­zon and, as al­ways, it sur­prises me by its swift ar­rival. Ap­proach­ing the early foothills of mid­dle age, I am amazed by how quickly time flies. It ap­pears not so long ago that we and a bevy of cousins were on our way to aunts and un­cles on Seder night. Now it is we who are the par­ents, grand­par­ents, aunts and un­cles.

Our younger fam­ily, namely the grand­chil­dren, are very much aware of the Passover story and have learnt songs which send me rush­ing to the com­puter to down­load the words.

“Why is this night dif­fer­ent from all other nights,” is of course im­mutable but it seems the tune trilled by the kids tends to change ev­ery year.

Among our other Pe­sach trea­sures is a se­lec­tion of ha­gadot, rang­ing from the old­est, a wine-stained vol­ume that my grand­par­ents pre­sented to me and my brother, with card­board pop-up pic­tures fea­tur­ing Moses and the Is­raelites.

To­day our chil­dren favour the An­i­mated Ha­gadah, with its bendy Plas­ticine char­ac­ters and easy-to-read text in He­brew and English.

But per­haps our most evoca­tive ha­gadah is the kib­butz ver­sion, which brings back mem­o­ries of Pe­sach un­der the stars at our kib­butz over­look­ing Jerusalem. It is full of po­etry and songs, which will be part of our Seder this year.

Ev­ery fam­ily sit­ting down to the Pe­sach meal re­mem­bers those who are not with us any more. It is a time to re­call fondly-held fam­ily tra­di­tions and sto­ries that bring alive mem­o­ries and images of the past.

At the mo­ment there are at least 17 peo­ple com­ing to our Seder. So it can be tricky find­ing suf­fi­cient room for chairs, plates, wine glasses, spoons, knives and forks, not to men­tion space to breathe in our tiny din­ing room. Our din­ing ta­ble will be sup­ple­mented by a mas­sage ta­ble — but it will still be pleas­antly crowded.

As we lived for 10 years in Is­rael where there is a tra­di­tion of ev­ery­one bring­ing their spe­cial dish to the Seder, we have car­ried on this tra­di­tion in Eng­land. Our guests have been dra­gooned into bring­ing along fruit The find-a-chair chal­lenge com­pôte, choco­late mousse and wine. Mean­while we are for­ever search­ing for some­thing in­ter­est­ing to do with chicken or lamb, or maybe beef.

One year, never to be for­got­ten, we served a whole (very small) chicken for each per­son, a move met with in­cred­u­lous sur­prise. Yet de­spite be­ing told that we had mas­sively over-catered, only the bones were left.

With guests com­ing from far away places such as New Zealand, Is­rael and even Brighton, we are or­gan­is­ing a post­pran­dial sleep­over, the dy­nam­ics of which will be very in­ven­tive. There are tricky de­ci­sions to be made about who is to sleep where, whether on blow-up beds, fu­ton mat­tresses or du­vets.

What I hope for is a store of fun and happy mem­o­ries for the grand­chil­dren and their cousins, just as we have so many happy rec­ol­lec­tions of our par­ents and re­la­tions, who told us un­likely tales of Pe­sachs past and how each mother in each gen­er­a­tion would make huge Sedarim, with heaps of charoset.

Our back­ground was tra­di­tional but not nec­es­sar­ily re­li­gious. We even had an un­cle who would end the Seder by singing the In­ter­na­tionale in Yid­dish. The aunt who was his wife could not cook, so we would fill up on gefilte, soup and com­pôte brought in by other fam­ily mem­bers.

Most of the peo­ple com­ing to our Seder are cer­tainly not re­li­gious but they would not miss a Seder night. In par­tic­u­lar they en­joy hid­ing the afikomen and watch­ing our young­sters hunt­ing for it. I, like­wise, am not from a re­li­gious back­ground but, as the only mem­ber of my fam­ily in Eng­land who has grand­chil­dren at­tend­ing a Jewish school, I am try­ing to carry on the Pe­sach tra­di­tion proudly, if per­haps not per­fectly.

So we will lift our glasses and say: “next year in Jerusalem” — and in our case, it will be, since next year it is my brother’s turn and he lives in Is­rael.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.