Temple Emanu-el Offers Elders a Home on Passover

The main table included all the ritual objects — the Seder plate, Elijah’s cup, the afikoman, and the Haggadah. | Photo by Tequila Minsky

BY TEQUILA MINSKY | Welcomed with smiles and, often as well, greetings of recognition from years past, 200 elders celebrated Passover at Temple Emanu-El’s Second Night Community Seder, a congregation tradition extending back more than 40 years. This is a way for Jewish seniors not to have to be alone during Passover but instead continue to celebrate with their community.

“It’s part of our mission,” emphasized co-coordinator Stuart Goldsmith of the Mar. 31 event that brought fulfillment to volunteers and guests alike.

Alex Kurland’s rich and melodic voice lent beauty to the proceedings. | Photo by Tequila Minsky

The elders came from 16 senior centers around Manhattan, transported to and from the Reform congregation on Fifth Avenue and 65th St. Co-coordinator Phyllis Hahn accompanied the bus that picked up guests at three Lower Manhattan centers.

Each table in the temple’s vast social hall held a Seder plate with the holiday’s requisite symbols — parsley, a shank bone, chopped apples, a chunk of horseradish, and an egg.

Guests followed the Passover story with a large-print Haggadah, the text of the order of the Seder that tells the story of the exodus from Egypt.

Sandy and Bengy taking the evening’s first cup of wine. | Photo by Tequila Minsky

Participants from Tanya Towers on the Lower East Side are deaf or hearing-impaired and followed the entire program of text and song through signers, one each assigned to their two tables.

With a light touch, Senior Rabbi Joshua M. Davidson led a condensed version of the “telling” as guests were guided through the ritual-rich Seder meal.

Senior Rabbi Joshua M. Davidson led the Seder. | Photos by Tequila Minsky

Participants dunked their parsley into salt water and ate Hillel’s sandwich of horseradish and charoset (the chopped apples mixed with nuts and honey). They blessed and drank their four cups of wine —actually, here, grape juice — and the door was opened for Elijah. The rabbi occasionally asked entire tables to read portions from the Haggadah.

Fifty volunteers kept the evening moving along, beaming while serving gefilte fish, matzah ball soup, chicken, potato, and noodle kugel, and ztimmes — a sweet and savory carrot stew — finished off by macaroons and tea.

Cantorial intern Alex Kurland, with a rich and melodic voice, led the room through a litany of traditional songs, including “Ma Nishtana” (“the four questions”), “Dayenu” (“it would have been enough”), and “Hal’luyah.” On piano, Dr. Andrew Henderson’s lively accompaniment added even more joy to the evening.

Usually there are loads of children singing at the Second Night Seder but this Passover coincided with their spring break. Still, the afikoman, a middle piece of matzah broken off and hidden, was found and ransomed by the youngsters who were there.

Dr. Andrew Henderson accompanied the evening’s song on piano. | Photo by Tequila Minsky

A goodie bag of matzah, honey, a candy bar, and tea bags placed on each bus seat wrapped up the evening of remembrance, tradition, and community.

The congregation also delivers Passover meals for homebound individuals and provides boxes of holiday non-perishables for seniors in need.

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