Passover Traditions, Memories Feed Community Members’ Souls


The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia asked some of our very dedicated community members to share their fondest food-related Passover memories.

Food: It’s central to Jewish culture and holidays, especially Passover, when we gather together to celebrate through food our people’s triumph over adversity. The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia asked some of our very dedicated community members to share their fondest food-related Passover memories, which are featured below. You can find photos, some of the recipes and our new cooking videos featuring delicious Passover treats, as well as additional Passover resources, at Happy Passover.


“More and more, I’ve been remembering my maternal grandmother, Loretta Wasserheit, who unfortunately passed away last January. She spent a lot of time with me over the years sharing recipes and secrets from her Yiddishe kitchen. I especially loved making Passover bagels every year. I can still remember waiting in front of the oven – impatiently checking through the glass door to see if they were done. In recent years, she was unable to cook them with me, but I still remember the taste of the bagels, the smell of her kitchen and all of the sights and sounds that went along with our annual Pesach tradition. I am going to make them this year in her memory.”
—Jonathan Hartig, Jewish Federation Renaissance Group Israel360 participant
“I grew up in a very close-knit Jewish community in Baltimore. When I was a young child, we would go to my maternal grandparents’ home.  Our family was big, and we would eat at long tables made out of boards placed on sawhorses. I remember my grandmother put chicken livers into her matzoh balls. When I first got married and moved to Philadelphia, I realized I didn’t know how to make matzoh ball soup. A woman I worked with gave me a recipe, which I still use today – and my husband and I have been married more than 60 years.”
—Lenore Fels, volunteer at the Jewish Federation-supported KleinLife: Center City program
“The main thing I remember is preparing everything from scratch – peeling the leaves of the artichokes down to the edible flower and taking the beans out of their pods, then preparing all the special holiday dishes, such as stuffed artichokes, lamb and vegetable soup. Even though today you can buy most things ready-made, I still try to make the dishes from scratch, and I believe they taste better this way. I also fondly remember the children running around the house hiding the chametz and then going around with my father to find every last crumb. These are very happy memories, and I try to keep some of these special customs alive in my own home today.”
—Liat Amar, member of the Partnership 2Gether Steering Committee, who lives in Israel
“I grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and Passover was the end of winter and beginning of spring. My mom would make egg noodles for the Seder soup and, as a kid, I would sneak a taste before dinner. I also remember the honey cake she would make during Passover. It is impossible to get the same cake anywhere these days.”
—Dave Gold, Co-chair of the Jewish Federation’s Jewish Pride group
“I was born on the first day of Passover, so Pesach has always been special to me. I am told of my mother going into labor as she and her mother were in the kitchen preparing for the second Seder. As I grew up, my favorite food-related memory became making homemade gefilte fish with my father and our dear family friend, Seymour Derman. They would bring out the big soup pots, get the stock simmering, and reminisce about the old days as the house filled with that soft fish scent. Seymour was raised in Brooklyn and would recount how his memory of his mother’s amazing cooking inspired him to learn to cook. He shared tales of carp fish swimming in the bathtub awaiting their Passover fate at the hands of his mother. My father countered with his stories of growing up in South Philadelphia on Franklin Street, where the neighborhood was largely comprised of his aunts, uncles and cousins.”
—Elissa Waldstein, Jewish Federation Women’s Philanthropy Board member
“I always remember hearing everyone marvel at how delicious and fluffy (but not too fluffy) my mother’s matzoh balls were. As a little kid, though, I wanted to help prepare the charoset (so that I could get first dibs at tasting it). As time passed, I became more interested in learning the secrets of her soup. Now as a mother myself to my almost three-year-old daughter, I am looking forward to making charoset in the kitchen with her and my mother, while smelling the soup cooking on the stove. And because of the amazing formal Jewish education my daughter receives at Beth Or’s early childhood education center, and the spectacular informal Jewish education she gets from JKidPhilly’s events and PJ Library books, she understands the holidays and gets excited to celebrate them. We are so thankful for the wonderful Jewish resources we have in the Greater Philadelphia area like JKidPhilly, and look forward to watching my daughter grow through these experiences and celebrations.”
—Cari Cantor, participant in the Jewish Federation-supported JKidPhilly program for young families
“The trip from Wynnewood to New Rochelle [N.Y.] for Passover is always a long one, but definitely memorable. My family has been going to my aunt’s and uncle’s house for as long as I can remember. It’s my aunt’s delicious matzoh ball soup that is well worth the wait. The matzoh balls are small and fluffy, floating in flavorful chicken broth. Reminiscing about the old times and creating new memories with my family is always a blast.”
—Stephanie Reich, Jewish Federation Renaissance Group member


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