An Unobservant Jew Does Passover


It’s Passover. My sister and brother live back East and I am the only Jew left in my immediate family. My stepchildren and their children are Christian. My youngest son, who had his bar mitzvah, has eschewed Judaism for a form of Christianity he found while he was in jail. I want to carry on the tradition and the kids and grandkids are happy to indulge me.
This year Susan, my best friend of over fifty years, came to visit. She is on the board of her temple in California. Elissa, another good friend, decided to join the fun. She’s the director of her temple’s religious school in the Valley. When we discussed the menu, I suggested noodle kugel. Kugel is a pudding.
Elissa gave me an odd look and said, “You can’t eat noodles for Passover!”
She would have gone nuts at one of my mother’s Seders when she served roast pork.
We decided who would cook each item on the menu. I went to the store to buy the brisket. I expected twelve people. The brisket came in five and a half pound packages. Would one be enough? The Jewish Mother lives in me. Better too much food than not enough. I bought two. I planned to do the meat in the crockpot so I had to borrow one from Joan, who was coming to the Seder. (Put one package of brisket in the crockpot. Sprinkle an envelope of Knorr vegetable soup. Pour a bottle of beer over that and cook on low for ten to twelve hours.)
I also got an email from Elissa with 25 matzo recipes which included one for matzo kugel. I bought the ingredients and prepared it two days ahead of time. I tasted it as it was cooling. Not very good, but I decided to keep it and serve it anyway.
On the day of the Seder Susan made the tangy chicken soup before my housecleaner Diane came. Susan squawked when she saw I bought Lipton’s, not Manishewitz, matzo ball mix. We called Elissa and she volunteered to make the matzo balls from scratch, amazed that we would consider anything else.
When Elissa arrived and stowed her goodies, we went out to lunch while Diane did her magic. When we got back to my house it was spotless. I set the table. I pulled out my copies of a children’s Haggadah (the book needed to conduct the Passover service) and set one at each place. Elissa volunteered to lead the dinner.
Over ninety degrees was forecast so I didn’t want to heat up my small place by putting anything in the oven. I fired up my electric barbeque that uses wood pellets and cooked the potatoes, asparagus and re-heated the matzo kugel in it. Perfect. I also put the air conditioning down to seventy-two degrees a few hours before my guests were to arrive.
My oldest son and his family arrived first. His three year-old and seven year-old daughters are beautiful, smart, and well-behaved. They squealed with delight to see their Granny Annie. As people arrived we mingled in the living room. The food was already prepared and just waiting to be served.
I asked everyone to get themselves whatever they wanted to drink for dinner while I poured the wine. The granddaughters were tickled pink to be trusted to imbibe their grape juice from wine glasses.
Since there were so many non-Jews, Elissa did a marvelous job of explaining the Seder plate and the story of Passover. It took a while. Luckily my three year-old granddaughter loved matzo. She munched away and managed to down three while Elissa talked. The granddaughters ate the hard-boiled eggs with gusto, asking for seconds and thirds.

Nick and Savy look on as Elissa explains the Seder plate.

Nick and Savy look on as Elissa explains the Seder plate.


The food was brought out to oohs and aahs. Everything was delicious. A few people even like the matzo kugel. We ate and we ate and we ate. The desserts, fruit salad, chocolate-covered matzo and matzo brittle, were savored by my guests.
My older granddaughter found the afikomen, the part of a matzo that I hid during the Seder. The younger one cried and the older one decided to share her prize with her sister. Such good kids!
Everyone helped to clear the table. I was happy I’d hired Diane to come back the next day for an hour to clean the kitchen and dining room.
After everyone left, Susan and I loaded the dishwasher and put away the food. We sank our bodies into the living room loveseats and let the Passover glow envelop us.

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