I grew up in the 1950s in Philadelphia. My family was, what seemed at the time, a typical Jewish family. We would look forward to Passover as the beginning of the spring. In its honor, my mother would take my sister and me out shopping so that we would have fancy new clothing to wear to the two “seders” that we went to . One night, we would attend the seder at my mother’s parents’ home and the other night, we would have seder at my father’s parents’ home. Through some unknown mathematical wizardry despite the fact that all of the married couples had obligations to both sides of their families, each seder included all of my aunts, uncles and cousins on that side of the family, so in two nights, we saw all of our close relatives.

Of course our new clothing was always spring clothing and we wore it no matter what. I can remember one cold rainy afternoon being all dressed up in a sleeveless white linen dress and wondering how strange it would be to cover it with a heavy winter coat in order to go to my grandparents’ home.

Each year, my sister and I would enjoy the contrast between the two seders. At Grandmom and Grandpop Mager’s, there was a full seder. Grandpop would sit at the end of the table with a big black satin skullcap and start with the very first word in the hagada and except for the meal, would not stop until the last. My sister and I and our cousin Ada always used to listen for the first fifteen minutes or so because they were interesting. They included the Kiddush and the parsley and the four questions and singing “avadim hayyinu,” but after that, we settled into counting the pages until the meal. One year, Ada and I surprised our grandfather by singing the songs with enthusiasm and even getting up to dance with each other in the middle of the meal. I can still see the broad smile and the tears in his eyes.

At Grandmom and Grandpop Tizer’s. there was less formality. The seder at their house was abbreviated. We only hit the high spots, but we all were there together. They used to order seltzer in bottles that could squirt and they would usually have a case of seltzer bottles at the back of their store which was just at the threshold of their living room. My cousin Murray loved to take those bottles and squirt people. My grandparents usually served flavored sodas when we visited, but on Passover, they didn’t have any because there wasn’t any kosher for Passover flavored soda available in Philadelphia. Each year they would tell us that if we poured a little wine in our glasses and then filled them with seltzer, it would taste just like grape soda. Every year, we fell for it and every year we were disappointed. Every year, Murray would try to show us how he could eat a whole teaspoon of horseradish and every year he would turn bright red and beg for water. At the end of the seder each year, my grandmother would say, “we should live and be well—next year I will take you all to Israel for seder.” I knew that she really meant it.

This year we will be having seder in Israel as we have for the last five years. Joining us will be four of our grandchildren and throughout Israel the other sixteen of my grandchildren will also be sitting at seders. I like to think it is because of the effort of my grandparents. I know they would be proud.

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  1. Nelly Alcala de Fielding says

    Doctor Savta’s family is one full of great love and warmth. I met this family in the middle 70s when I used to babysit for the doc’s first four children. I had a regular shabat job, and sometimes when I would arrive they were not quite finished with dinner. I remember that dinner–capon chicken, spiced just perfectly. Rona is a mah-velous cook. Anyhow, the shabat candles were lit in the kitchen in the corner, and the Rabbi would lead the thankful prayer, “Barogh..” And long as the prayer was, the children would wait without fidgetting.

    But that is not my main point. I began to talk about the love and warmth that permeated the home. I have told the following story a million times: It was Mother’s Day and the Rabbi had bought the Rabina Rona the most awesome present, or rather, presents. There in the closet of the kitchen were TWO brand new dishwashers, one for meat and one for dairy! Is that love, or what?