Passover Memories of an Indian American

The first Seder I attended was the year I got married. It was held in my in-laws’ apartment in Brighton Beach. It did not feel like the enactment and honoring of a sacred ritual observed through the generations; rather it felt like any other family dinner. Both my in-laws were Holocaust survivors. Returning to their home in Latvia after the war, they did their best to hide their Jewish religious practices, not celebrate them. So my first memory of Passover is a feeling of disappointment, of having missed out on something special.

My husband and I had made a pact that I could retain my maiden name and in return, we would raise our kids Jewish. When our son and daughter were old enough to attend Hebrew school, I decided it was time to learn Jewish rituals myself. I would host my own Seder. I loved the fact that there was such a prescribed order to the evening, a specific set of information that even someone from a totally different background could learn. With my family of four, the in-laws and close friends, I would cook traditional foods for 16.

Here is what I remember of that night. Amidst the flurry of planning, we forgot to get the Haggadahs. Fortunately the temple came to our rescue and lent us enough. It was ambitious to say the least for a vegetarian Hindu girl to attempt a brisket. No one could chew it; it was like rubber though very flavorful. My matzoh balls refused to remain spherical. In my zeal to do everything by the book, the reading went on too long. The kids fell asleep at the table and we finally finished at midnight.

I and my family persevered. My favorite memory is of the kids being old enough to chant in Hebrew which their father couldn’t. I also remember my father-in-law, struck speechless by a stroke, suddenly remembering and reciting the ancient invocations that he had learned as a child and not spoken for seven decades.

Passover itself is a memory for me now as the marriage has ended and the children have left home. I am holding on though to the Seder plate I’d bought for that first dinner to pass on to my daughter when she sets up her own home. And that, the passing on of a loved ritual from mother to daughter, will ensure that it remains more than just a memory.

This article was first published on Yahoo! Associated Content

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