We are all living through a major historical event and this is a record of our experiences and actions, a Haggadah of our time.
Haggadah loosely translates to TELLING. These are your individual stories. Learn how Washington Jewish Organizations are responding here.
The bonds which connect us as a society are changing, but our Jewish values provide a framework for us to persevere.
By Joyce Dickhaut
The 2020 Passover has gone without our usual celebration due to the pandemic but it brought back memories of many other Passovers. First at my grandparents, led by my grandfather in Hebrew. The seder seemed endless. Then for many years led by my father which were much more fun and mostly not in Hebrew because Daddy, I think, forgot all his Hebrew after his Bar Mitzvah. After Mother was gone my sister and I often alternated the holiday, sharing the family Haggadahs and inviting friends as well as family. For a non-observant Jew, I used to throw a pretty good Passover. The Passovers I describe here are past many years ago and many of the participants are no longer with us.
As I remember, even back to my childhood, I’m not sure whether it was the food, the company of loved ones or the Passover story that was the most important ingredient. Our Passovers after Grandpa were not really strictly religious events. Oh, we did perform the rituals. We drank the wine when directed and partook of little bites of the symbolic foods such as matzoh, parsley, haroses (a yummy mixture of chopped apples nuts and wine) and other items. And we tried not to skip too many pages of the Haggadah, the book that tells the story of the exodus of Moses and the Israelites. But our family had settled into its own set of customs as predictable as the sunset which marks the annual starting point of each Passover.
Just as my mother did, my table was always the same: snowy starched linens, my best china, candles and daffodils as a tribute to spring. And our pale blue hard-cover Haggadah books rested at each place. My daughter in Florida now has possession of those books. The menu never deviated: gefilte fish with ruby red jalapeno-hot horseradish, steaming chicken soup with fluffy white matzoh balls, hard- boiled eggs, oven-roasted potatoes, asparagus, chicken or brisket, matzo, and wine…. lots and lots of sweet Passover wine.
Our table was a little unusual because the non-Jews typically outnumbered the Jewish participants. One year at my house, the group consisted of my sister Linda, the only one at the table who could actually read Hebrew, her best girlfriend Eleanor, and me, all Jewish. However, our husbands were not; they were of German, Swedish and Irish descent. We also invited our Catholic neighbors who delighted in participating in rituals of any sort, especially when food was involved. My son and his non-Jewish wife completed the table. Looking back on the group it is sad to remember that both of my neighbors as well as my husband are now gone but the memories of the holiday are still vivid.
Remembering many of those evenings, it was the very sameness that we loved about the holiday. We were like a stock company of actors who were well rehearsed and knew all our lines and cues. We could rely on Eleanor to drink a little too much wine and giggle incessantly which exasperated Sean, her Irish Catholic husband who took his religion as seriously as the Pope. At certain passages we all got a little nostalgic and reminisced about Mother and for Daddy who used to lead our seder with mispronounced words and his own jokes about Moses and the desert. I knew my husband would invariably trip over the word affliction, mispronouncing it “affection” just as Daddy used to do. The first year my husband led the seder in English of course, I had written out phonetically the blessing over the wine so he could pronounce it in Hebrew. As he did that my sister’s jaw dropped and she asked “where did you learn to do that?” which got a lot of laughs. I was usually hungry and had serving dinner on my mind and was always paging ahead in the book asking if we could skip certain sections, urging us to the place where the book directs “The meal is served”. I can even remember that it was on page 84.
Part of my nostalgia had to do with the actual Haggadah books which were handed down after Daddy died. The publication date printed boldly on the title page, is 1942. The book’s narrative is supposed to describe events that happened in Egypt 5,000 years ago. However, our version alludes to other Jews who had been trying to escape the Pharaoh’s modern counterpart, Hitler. Some passages even hint at the conditions in Europe at the very time this book was printed in 1942. It indirectly refers to the Jews who were hiding, trying to escape their Nazi persecutors, re-living what their ancestors must have experienced thousands of years before.
The book’s foreword states, “The age-old struggle between those who cherish freedom and those who would deny it to others has become more embittered than ever. In that struggle the Jews are greatly involved and they have a great sake in the ultimate cause of freedom”. The author didn’t realize in 1942 just how great that stake would ultimately become.
While it is difficult for me to relate to biblical characters escaping from an Egyptian oppressor, my own outlook takes a different perspective when I consider this story to people I know now who are still living. In fact, I have several friends in Bellevue, including two of the women I walk with every morning, who fled Europe as children before the Holocaust, and who escaped the horrors of Dachau or Buchenwald. The Passover story provides an added dimension when I realize that I have the good fortune to live in a place symbolically comparable to the promised land that Moses sought and that my family celebrates the Passover warm, well fed, and most important, free.
We finish our meal and continue with the readings. We approach the end of the seder and drink, as directed, that last sip of wine. Our Haggadah says, “We have rededicated ourselves to the cause of man’s freedom from oppression. May we celebrate it next year in joy, in peace, and in freedom.” And in my heart today I echo that sentiment and include the rest of those suffering in today’s world. The quaint book with its whimsical illustrations of biblical scenes concludes with a distinctly secular but very patriotic finish. Printed on the last page are the familiar words of the anthem America with the last phrase “Let freedom ring” on bold print. This is the final note of our Passover seder and one we never skip, joining our voices to sing this song celebrating our precious freedom.
Janine Odette Jacobs
Warning very long post. I need to say this!
Tonight is the Eve of when the bottom fell out of my life. This day exactly a year ago my husband Andy told me he couldn't breathe...We called the doctor and they told us (Justyn our daughter and I) to give him warm broth and tea. We couldn't get his fever below 103. He managed through the night but in the morning he was worse. I drove him to our doctor's satellite office in Bothell WA. In the time it took me to use the bathroom he was on a stretcher heading for the hospital. They took him to Overlake Hospital in Bellevue WA where he was doing a little better and then not. the ER Doc called me and said they were admitting him. The admitting Doc said his Oxygen levels were too low and he sent him to Intensive Care and within 10 minutes he was intubated. Due to his intubation he was placed in a coma to assist with his breathing. I was unable to talk to or see him. He had bi-lateral Covid Pneumonia...Viral not Bacterial infection in both of his lungs.
So what did I go through during this time; pain, intolerable pain. Was I the one who gave it him? Was I responsible for his illness? The guilt, the insurmountable guilt was more than I could take and I didn't know how to forgive myself. I was on my knees at night praying like I have never prayed before. There was no routine...My days were filled with crying and waiting...endless periods of waiting for a nurse or a doctor to call with any information. I wanted to talk to no one else except my children and my sister in law who is a doctor and was on the front lines in St. Louis. I learned more about Covid 19 than my Doctor or most Doctors knew. Not an education I wanted. I would never ever wish this on anyone. PTSD is very real!
Andy on the other hand was oblivious to anything going on. The Medical Staff at Overlake gave him pretty much any drug they thought that would remotely help. On day 8 the first night of Passover (his absolutely favorite holiday) he was removed from the ventilator, was it a Passover miracle? it felt like one to us. However he was not out of the woods as now he had bi-lateral bacterial pneumonia. He was completely out of it and didn't know where he was and what time it was. He hated the food. We thought the light was beginning to glimmer but no...he took another turn for the worse. This was the second time we almost lost him. He had the entire world praying for him...Someone even cleared his chakras we were desperate. I would have done pretty much anything to get him back.
Day 15 he was released from the hospital without any fanfare just the nurses and Andy and I sobbing in each others arms not really understanding what the other had been through. A year has passed and my anger against non compliant people is still palpable a year later. The amount of stupidity I witness on a daily basis raises more question than answers. They do not know me or my story, they have not lived through what I have lived through. Do they not get it?
We are now vaccinated and breathing (literally) a little lighter.
Andy donated Convalescent Plasma 7 times and we have tried to give back and support Covid survivors when we can.
The road has been incredibly long and fraught with so many long hauler side effects that are way too long to mention. The view is so different on this side. My lessons were too numerous to list. Just suffice it to say the year has been a long one that culminated in Andy at the head of our Passover table leading the Seder in the place he was meant to be surrounded by his family.
Love to all of the people that supported me along and those still with us on our unending journey through this pandemic.
- Janine Odette Jacobs
How do you celebrate an anniversary during a pandemic? My husband and I celebrated our 29th anniversary on July 7. Our amazing daughter (who is now living at home with us unexpectedly due to Covid) planned and executed a beautiful evening at home more exceptional than any we could have had at a restaurant. She acted as Maitre D’, sommelier, waitress and chef. She set a beautiful table with flowers and framed pictures. She selected an anniversary play list and insisted we dress up. (Good excuse to get out out those sweats and put on some makeup!) Everything was perfect and prepared with so much love. It was a wonderful evening, one we’ll always remember!
In terms of family and friends, food, and the significance of the age old story, Passover has always been my favorite holiday. I have been blessed to celebrate both the Ashkenazi and Sephardic traditions throughout my life. This year, will certainly be different as we all observe Passover miles apart in our new virtual world, however, it will be the taste and smell of the food that will bring us all back to the table together in spirit. While I will miss my brother's gefilte fish, I'll be making my Spinach Quajado (quiche) and Passover brownies. With eggs and coffee, they make the perfect desayuno (breakfast) throughout the holiday!
Thanks to the many Jewish organizations that have been providing Haggadahs and supplements for all of us to utilize. This year will no doubt be different, but it will still be special in its own way.
Chag Pesach Sameach
Since the "stay home, stay healthy" mandate was imposed, our family dinners have been less frequent. However, this year's Seder brought my family together for more than a 20 minute dinner. My wife, Amy, prepared and cooked a fabulous Passover dinner. Our 15 year old twins led the Seder. All of us read from the Haggadah, sang Dayenu, and had great conversation about Passover, Covid-19, and everyday topics.
It will be great to actually hug family and friends again. But it will be even greater to have multiple generations sitting together again at next year's Seder table.
Surviving Passover during social distancing with a flashback to my youth. Beat Soup. What comfort food!
I run a sole proprietorship called Coopersmith Tutoring. I meet my clients at their houses and help them with their academic needs. For a number of weeks in March, things were looking dim for my business, but fortunately I've been able to move most of it online. I'm lucky I'm still able to provide my students with the help they need.
- Matthew Coopersmith
Linda Lawson Elman
It’s been hard to wrap my head around Pesach this year. It become obvious to me that our annual family Seder with my brother, his family and other nieces, nephews, cousins, great nieces, and great nephews wasn’t going to happen.
It was the Chabad Seder kit that really helped me get my focus. Being able to pick up the shmurah matzah, little containers of everything you need for the Seder plate-where was I going to get horseradish otherwise-helped me see that we could celebrate Pesach this year, in the midst of the plague of Corona, just not in the usual way.
So the seders will be different. On first night we will share the story of Pesach with our son Joshua, and granddaughter Sierra for the first time ever via Skype. We will sit down separately to our meals, much simplified this year, alone, but together.
On second night we will share electronically with our other son, Adam his wife Tobi and our grandson, Robbie. Tobi is a Jewish educator who normally celebrates Pesach with her exuberant family in Calgary. This year, like the rest of us she’s home in California, planning two sederim that I suspect neither we nor they will ever forget.
Tonight we tell our story of our exodus from Egypt, and perhaps, it will help us look forward to our exodus from our quarantine.
Esfeld Family Zeder
Safely together: Josh Esfeld, Gilli Mizrahi, Jeff Esfeld, Janet Esfeld, Photographer. We are in Utah
On screen: Don Esfeld (Rancho Mirage, CA), Sam & Eva Hanan (Bellevue, WA), Jordan Esfeld & Marcus Vizzutti (New Orleans, LA)
Lori Ann Faghin
We are doing a ZOOM Seder which in a way is good because no one needs to fly out and stay in a hotel. My new boyfriend and his sister and brother-in-law will be joining for the first time also virtually.This is also the first year my sisters and I are orphans, so distancing and no parents will be interesting. I normally lead the Seder but my nieces want to do it this year. I’m down with that. It will be beautiful and we will sing the unique Faghin tunes. A joy.
Photo of the Goldberg kitchen with social distancing enforced on all the appliances.
Submitted by Don Goldberg:
Social Isolation – Fascinating Rhythm
Social isolation you let me stay at home
Social isolation gives me shpilkes
Even in my kitchen I am distancing the food
My brisket’s 7 feet from where my milk is
This year the seder’s me and my spouse
9 plagues, one virus and Maxwell house
We were slaves in Egypt, now we’re slaves at home
Ordering from Amazon and grub hub
Hoping they’ll deliver, maybe send a drone
We’re the house whose door is smeared with lambs blood
Cover your mouth with each Barukkha
Insteat of kha try more cha cha cha.
Social isolation, the matzah’s shtupped me up,
constant constipation not an issue.
Hide the afikomen, don’t cover it in cloth
Wrap it in a roll of toilet tissue.
With fingers dipped in wine we will tell
The story, but this year, use Purell.
Still we’ll set the table, leaning to the left
Keep an empty chair or two beside ya
Keeping with tradition, I’ll open up the door
Wash your hands, before your drink Elijah
Four questions not this year, it’s just God, dub-ya Tee Uff.
Social isolation dayenu dayenu dayenu dayenu I’ve had enough.
(Listen to Don sing this song - close this popup and scroll down the page to the audio and video section.)
I make these.
Using materials on hand or donated by friends and community members.
For people who need them.
For people who will wear them.
This is my community service.
- Marni Jennifer Good
The Hirshberg/Koehler/Kezner extended families took their Seder to zoom this year. Each year the Seder gathers 40+ family and friends from across the Seattle area and this year zoom allowed the tradition to continue. We found a copy of the Union Haggadah online that we have used as a family for 50+ years. Trying to virtually read in unison was quite comical but overall everyone ended thankful for our health and love for our family.
Cindy Diane Frank - Linkon
My name is Cindy Linkon, The owner of a small business called The Studio Fine Art Classes.
When we had to close due to the COVID-19 Virus in our community, many of our students were disappointed. As much as I knew, we were doing the right thing by closing, it was sad for me and my staff.
My staff are all now temporary unemployed. They are like family and it’s difficult for me to see them not work. I found creative projects for staff to do at home in order to earn money. They are appreciative.
In the meantime, I’m busy at home with my family and getting to projects that have been on the back burner for sometime. I have more time to connect with family and friends through social media and even finding time to get back to something I enjoy which is, oil painting.
Most of all, I am looking forward to day both studios can resume classes and hear the happy chatter of students learning and my staff instructing the basics of fine art.
Since early March, like many others, I have been working from home at Amazon. While it may not be preferable, I understand the necessity & I feel fortunate enough to have a job that allows me to work remotely. I appreciate the flexibility to ensure I am staying healthy in a time of crisis. I am thinking about others during this time who are in a less flexible position, specifically healthcare workers, and those who have lost their jobs.
When you don't have any matzoh in the house at the time of Passover - what do you do? You enlist son, Daniel Kranseler, to make matzoh! It is a process but fairly quick and easy for Chef Daniel. Rising to the task, he also created Passover macaroons, chocolate cake, Brisket and other Passover delicacies. But the matzoh making was brand new and it has be the best tasting matzoh around. Being socially distanced with Chef Daniel is certainly not the toughest with his creativity and food inspirations.
Menasce Family & Friends Zoom Seder
Menasce descendants and friends Zoom Seder Spring, 2020
Participants: 60, Ages: 2-92, Timezones: 8, Countries: 5, Cities: 20 Cities (Jerusalem, Beit Shean, Tel Aviv, Kiryat Ono, Johannesburg, Capetown, Toulouse, Toronto, Los Angeles, Seattle, Detroit, Chicago, Washington, DC, Bethesda, Alexandria, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Manhattan, Boston, Sargentville), 4 Questions recited in: Ladino, Hebrew, English, French, Italian, Swahili, and Arabic
Passover in a pandemic:
Instead of giving in to disappointment that we couldn’t host our own boisterous and house-packed seders, we seized the opportunity to convert a worldwide shelter-in-place ordinance to a family reunion. Geographically distanced, many of us have never shared this ritual night together and even more of us had never used a video social conferencing service.
So with buoyed spirits, we gathered online, read from our hagaddas in front of cameras, and used devices we usually disconnect from, as our lifeline to connection itself.
How do we make meaning together when we’re physically separated? How do we not just live through this pandemic but how will it change us? These were a few questions we brought to our virtual Passover table conversation.
Our seder began with candlelighting, a collective attempt to bring light in a dark time. We read the ancient story of Exodus and considered what does this moment ask of us, as the Israelites asked themselves. We asked the four questions in multiple languages. We looked back to look forward; listening to the meaning of Pesach from a Syrian refugee who inspired empathy and compassion for our shared humanity and made the fundamental idea in the Passover story of “welcoming the stranger” all the more visceral and real.
We marked the unusual constraints and mixed emotions of hosting a Passover gathering in the midst of a global pandemic and also gave ourselves permission to be joyful; delighting in five year-old Liam Shmuel’s lego creation of our ancestors' epic crossing of the Sea of Reeds and dancing with absolute freedom to “A Tribe of Brothers and Sisters” (Shevet Achim VeAchiyot) performed by some of Israel’s most popular singers with a message of unity and love for Israel.
On this Passover like no other, age–old questions about the holiday never felt more poignant, and our Menasce family and friends never felt more grateful for being able to unite, heal and bond over one big beautiful global seder!
See some video highlights from the Seder after closing this window and looking in the video section below.
Greetings from Israel
Some questions in Ladino
Shadi Martini, A Syrian refugee’s story
Benji Taub, a 10 year old child’s wish
A cousin’s reflection on a digital seder
A Passover dance rave
My wife and I spent Passover this year in our apartment, overlooking the near-empty streets of Jerusalem (see the accompanying photo). Like many others here, we used Zoom to conduct the Seder with friends. What made the day truly unusual was that, when we woke up the morning after, we were able to join our daughter and son-in-law's Seder in progress in Seattle. Sometimes, the ten hour time difference works in your favor.
The meaning of life is life itself
Or, Real life vanquishes ghosts
When Joe read the Four Questions in Russian, the two birds showed up. Red-breasted robins, large fat ones, flew screeching, as I remember it (a sound typically given by those defending nests or fledglings) past our kitchen window and on past the dining room. One continued on past, veering to the south, but flying somewhat erratically, not straight, calling out all the while.
The other, larger bird, perched on our fence, not 12 feet from the glass patio door, and fixated on the scene inside with its beady, left eye. What could it see? Candlelight, me, Joe, the laptop open on the table with the images of our Seder friends on the screen, Joe holding a book open with the Cyrillic characters? I had just finished the Four Questions chanted in Yiddish, and before I chanted them Joe’s colleague Fred had sung them beautifully in Hebrew.
But the bird stopped to listen, so it appeared, to the Russian version, and perhaps to see us using Grandma Weinberg’s damask tablecloth, and her Pesadike dishes, bought well after WWII, rimmed in gold, glittering perhaps in the candlelight. Then the bird flew off, confidently, apparently satisfied, in the same direction as the first had fled.
And I thought of my grandparents of the gold rimmed dishes, who after the pogroms fled the shtetl for the big Russian cities, and after the Russian Revolution fled Odessa for France, and just before the Nazi invasion of Paris fled to New York, and I myself who fled the teeming cities of the East and continued Westwards, to the suburban open spaces of Seattle, where a bird is just a bird, unless it still longs for its native tongues.
Silverman and Pena Family
This is how we tried to bring the Find the Afikomen tradition into the Zoom virtual world using a word search I created for our family and friends. The first slide introduced the rules. The second slide was the word search itself and the third slide showed all the final answers when everyone was done - this third slide is visible above. I "shared my screen" during the game so everyone could get a clear digital image to see. The additional words I incorporated into the Word Search were unique to the loves and hobbies of the attendees of our sedar. In addition to the competitive "be the first to find it" play moment, it also offered a bonding kind of connection moment as we acknowledged and called out the things we knew one another loved.
- Marisa Pena
I want to share a very special aspect of our seder. We were sixteen individuals, scattered across the country in five homes in the Seattle area and one in California. We were using Zoom and managing quite well with the candles, the seder plate, Elijah’s cup, etc., with Don and me on First Hill, and each household supplying their own dinner, except for the afikomen. We toyed with different ideas, and then my daughter-in-law, Marisa Pena,who is a professional game designer, said that she would create a little word game, “find the afikomen.” So at that point in the seder, Marisa shared her game on screen and we all got to see it. There were several other words in the grid besides afikomen—matzah, wine, haggadah, etc. The first person to find the afikomen and call it out won the game, with second prize going to whoever found the most other words. I don’t know who won (it wasn’t me) but we all had a lot of fun with it.
- Goldie Silverman
Our Seder, as every ones was virtual and included friends and family from Texas, California, Kentucky, Wisconsin and of course Seattle. Most were Jewish but I have two very good non Jewish friends who had never been to a Seder. For them I gave explanations and told stories about my families Seders, going back 80 years. My Great Aunt Mary, who we all adored, would visit and everyday made a Sponge Cake using 10-12 eggs. We had to be very quiet so the cake “would not fall”.
I also set my table using my good China and silverware. At times I felt I was setting the table for guests who would soon arrive. I would tell my self, “Jackie no one is coming.”
There was much laughter as we tried to make sense of Zoom. When it was over and all “had left” I cried.
When I married Buddy we always had a Seder. Even if we skied during Passover I would bring all the trimmings. One year we were having Seder at Bend, Oregon with Marcia and Dick Porus when the door bell rang. The clerk from the Inn we were staying in handed us a bottle of wine. Of course it was a mistake but we all laughed saying it was from Elijah.
When in 1956 we lived in Bloomington, Indiana, a town with only one Jewish family. My mother sent a care package of Matzoh, etc. When I asked her about brisket, she said "Just ask the butcher." I don't think Bloomington even had a Butcher but when I asked at the super market, they had no idea what I was talking about.
Now of course Seattle has everything and "keeping" Pesach is easy. Although I grew up Orthodox and would have died if I had eaten anything not certified "Kosher" for Passover, today I refrain from all bread products, they do not have to be only for Passover products, but otherwise eat most everything. My diet is mostly vegetarian so really no problem.
Washington State Jewish Historical Society is dedicated to discovering, preserving, and disseminating the history of the Jews of Washington state and promotes interest in and knowledge of the life, history, and culture of the Jewish people and communities through publications, exhibits, displays, speakers, tours, and performance.