The holiday of Passover brings up many issues to think about as we prepare for this festival. We are asked to tell a story—a very scripted story—and one that has many messages for us to heed. We are instructed to change our dishes and clean our houses from top to bottom.
There are questions in the text to answer and so many versions of the haggadah to use. As a result, I sit at one end of the table with many haggadot, each with Post-It notes in it to remind me of a special passage that I would like to include. We always read Mary Oliver’s poem, “The Season of the Egg,” and we read a passage describing Miriam’s Cup, something that was not on the Passover table when I was growing up. Then there are the writings from the Labor Zionist, family, children’s, social justice and feminist haggadot. It goes on and on.
When we were blessed with three additional grandchildren at the Seder, I changed the whole thing. I wanted them to understand the Exodus story from beginning to end. Now we start with baby Moses in the Nile. I hide baby Moses in his cradle, and the Seder only can start when they all find him. They all love this new ritual. It is accessible, participatory and meaningful.
The Passover story begs to be adapted and played with. Hopefully, you can come up with your own variations for retelling it, too.
For many years Jean Graubart and I did a Passover “how to” workshop for interfaith families. I schlepped at least 25 different haggadot for them to read and look at. Jean brought Sephardic foods and recipes. Everyone really enjoyed themselves and was most appreciative. However, after one of the sessions, we heard the following, “I love your explanations, and I really learned a lot, but, I am the one who will be doing the cooking and since I am not Jewish, I don’t have these recipes, and that is what I really need from both of you.”
That led me to compile a Passover recipe book—it isn’t gourmet, but it’s certainly traditional and user friendly! (Contact me through my website for a copy.) I am also sharing my sweet and sour meatball recipe here. Ultimately, although they are often associated with specific foods, holidays also give us a wonderful opportunity to create new traditions, whether that means adding non-traditional dishes to the menu—maybe something from a non-Jewish partner’s family that can be made kosher for Passover, for example—or including readings from different texts. Take this time to make the holiday unique, meaningful and memorable for your own family.