Local leaders, rabbis and students share their favorite Passover memories.
Local leaders, rabbis and students responded to the Exponent's request to share their favorite Passover memories. Feel free to share your own memories as well. Happy Pesach!
Danny Nelson, student editor of Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy's newspaper the Cougar Chronicle
When I look back on my most cherished Pesach memories, I immediately think of my family heritage trip to Slovakia.
Five years ago, I traveled with my immediate and extended family to retrace the childhood of my grandfather, Peter Gershanov. He was born in Bratislava in 1932, and lived with his father, mother and brother in the small town of Trnava until World War II, when the family went into hiding in the home of a local farmer. Almost 70 years later, we were returning to see if we could rediscover his past.
On a chilly late April morning, we arrived at the great soldiers monument of Brezova Pod Bradlom, the focal point of my grandfather’s memories. He knew the farmhouse was somewhere nearby, but he wasn't quite sure where. We split into groups, trekking into the Slovakian forest in search of any clues.
After a few hours of searching, we found the farmhouse on a forgotten back road. To our great disappointment, nobody was home. We had been eager to place a face on the stories my grandfather told us, to hear from the family themselves of the time they spent risking their lives to hide a family of Jews.
Just as we were about to leave, a small European car pulled up the road, and out popped a family of four quite confused-looking Slovakians. Our translator quickly explained why a pack of unruly American tourists were snooping around their home. As soon as he mentioned my grandfather, one of the women beamed. She had been born after the war, but had heard stories, and knew about our grandfather.
We talked for hours, reminiscing and sharing stories of our family’s history. At one point, she went into a barn and retrieved a tin box. She rifled through some old photographs and soon found the one she was looking for. We looked down, and saw a photograph of my grandfather and grandmother on their wedding day.
Aimee Goldstein, Temple University graduate, Philadelphia native, founder of The Chailights A Cappella group
My favorite Passover memory was when I was 5 and I found the afikomen in the same place that I had found it my whole life. I think that was the year when it clicked that it was never hidden anywhere else other than underneath the flower pot.
Mitch Morgan, executive director of Pinemere Camp
When I was in elementary school, my family would gather at my aunt and uncle's home for our big seder.
My cousins on my mom's side are 10-plus years older than me, so by the time I was 9, they were all in college.
One of my cousins teamed up with me to prank his father. He sent me away from the seder table to "use the bathroom.” Instead of going to the bathroom, I quickly found the afikomen that my uncle hid in the house and then proceeded to re-hide it. He was very proud of his hiding ability when the other kids announced they couldn't find the afikomen. He was very confused when he revealed its location and it was nowhere to be found. Eventually, the afikomen appeared and the rest of us had a big laugh.
To this day, I'm not allowed to leave the seder table.
Ira Blum, director of Jewish student life at the University of Pennsylvania Hillel
I remember a sunny Passover/Easter Sunday on a visit to Rome, where I simultaneously enjoyed the fervor of freedom, and experienced the pressures of leaving in a haste!
After a morning shared with the faithful Catholic masses in St. Peter's Basilica, I entered the historic Jewish ghetto, and the renowned Great Synagogue of Rome. The space offered a distinctive profile of Jewish life, with remnants of ancient Jewish tombstones and lavish Torah decorations. But I could not submit to the rule against photographing. It was essential that I capture my experience.
During a tour of the magnificent and colorful sanctuary, I found a fascinating piece about the Roman Jewish community's relationship with Israel. When the Jewish state was established, Rome's chief rabbi gathered the community under the Arch of Titus. This monument was erected to celebrate the Roman emperor who sacked Jerusalem. It was considered humiliating and superstitious for Jews to stand underneath it.
Moved by this display of solidarity, I was photographing an image of this moment when a docent spotted me, and against my protests, directed me to the guard to delete all of my photos!
Following the docent out the door, I hastily replaced my camera card with a blank, and proceeded to wave the device around, taking blurry shots of the stairs and walls. The guard reviewed my photos and, when ensured that the safety of the Synagogue was intact, sent me on my way with an “OK. Ciao!”
Rabbi Lauren Grabelle Herrmann of Kol Tzedek
I love to tell the story of when I was 8 and I came home with a bedikat chametz set — a set for cleaning and burning chametz. My mom had absolutely no idea what I was doing but as the Hebrew school teachers instructed, I hid some bread, swept it up, and burned it in the backyard. Meanwhile, my mom didn't even clean out the kitchen of leavened products for Passover!