Trying to Keep the Tradition Alive

By Marlene Beach

January 15, 2007


The Passover story is the same; the seder table is the same; some of my family members are the same; however, the religious beliefs of my family members have changed.

Passover in my childhood was always celebrated with Bubbie, Zadie, Nanny and Pappa, with our family reading the haggadah together, smelling the wonderful food that we couldn’t wait to eat, listening to my grandfather reading in Hebrew, and in a way hoping the seder would end soon so we could eat all that food that smelled so good. Some of the people have changed and some have been added. The grandparents and great-grandparents have passed away and with them so have a lot of their traditions.

Passover is a few months away and I am already feeling the stress. Will I get to share this holiday with any of my children and grandchildren, and if I do, who will be there and what will the participants at the seder be willing to do?

The reason I question how the seder will proceed is because my immediate family now consists of myself; my husband; my daughter, who has married a Christian man and who herself has now embraced Christianity and is raising their two children Christian; my son, who says he is still Jewish; his wife, who is Catholic; and their two children, who are being raised Christian. I have invited my daughter-in-law’s parents to join us, which they have done once in the past.

I feel it is up to me now, as the matriarch of the family, to try and keep as much of the Passover traditions as I know them. This wish is especially difficult this year since Passover and Easter fall within days of each other. My Passover scenario is already starting to unfold… My daughter informed me that she will not be with us, as they have chosen to visit her husband’s family out of state to celebrate Easter. I’m not sure if she even considered whether she would be with us or not for Passover.

I was especially disappointed to learn of my daughter’s decision because I had been looking forward to hearing my youngest granddaughter read the Four Questions this Passover. On the other hand, I am happy my son and his family will be at our seder table. Soon afterwards, we will celebrate Easter at his home with his family. My husband and I do not attend church with them on Easter Sunday, but since we are invited to their home for dinner, we attend graciously. In observance of this holiday that his children celebrate, I bring them each an Easter basket.

The traditional Passover seder that I once knew is no longer to be for me and my husband. I have totally rewritten the haggadah that we use at our seder. Our haggadah is titled “Passover–The Birth of the Jewish People–The Story of Their Exodus” and it covers all the important parts of the Passover story. I have included pictures depicting the seder plate, the candle lighting, the ten plagues, etc. I have also bought puppets that tell what the ten plagues are, and the children can play with them and toss them around the table while reading this section from the haggadah.

Our haggadah has only a few prayers in Hebrew; the rest is all in English and the seder itself has become very abbreviated. We do hide the afikomen (middle matzah) for the children and they make sure to collect their reward. To say I am comfortable with the changes at Passover wouldn’t be telling the truth; however, if it means having my family with me and showing them why we celebrate Passover, then I would have to say I will learn to be more comfortable with what is.

I would very much like to be able to enjoy Passover the way I once knew it, but that is the past and this is the future.

As this is a constant struggle for me, I reach out to you who may share a similar situation with your children who were raised Jewish and married a spouse who is not Jewish and are now raising their children in the Christian or another faith: How do you handle Passover and how you feel about the changes?

In conclusion, I read this little passage the other day: “Don’t analyze your pleasures.” My grandchildren are my pleasures, so maybe a little less analyzing would be the answer.


About Marlene Beach

Marlene Beach is a dedicated wife, mother and grandmother to her family. She enjoys various sports, loves to read, but most of all she gets enormous pleasure spending time and planning special events with her grandchildren.