A year later, we speak every day, staying close during this pandemic. Helena, soon to turn 96, is quarantined alone inside her apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. It’s a home filled with memories. Photographs, books and artwork, much of it from her travels, cover walls and shelves. But her kitchen calendar, once abrim with engagements—lunches, dinners, concerts, plays—is now blank.
Join Moment’s Ask the Rabbis, Opinion and Book editor, Amy E. Schwartz, as she explores readings and meditations to accompany your Passover seder–whether virtual or in-person. She’ll also be discussing Moment’s new virtual Haggadah supplement.
With best Passover wishes from my kitchen and family to yours, here are some recipes and food essays to tempt your palate, expand your repertoire and help bring you into the delight and meaning of the holiday, this year of 2020/5781, as we revisit Mitzrayim (Biblical Egypt) from our own narrowed places.
By 1865, it seemed self-evident that American emancipation resonated with biblical emancipation in powerful ways. But it had not always been so: This new resonance of meaning captured the hearts of American Jews only during the vicissitudes of the Civil War. Before the Civil War, most American Jews did not oppose slavery. There were exceptions, but most Jews voted Democrat, and Democrats were tolerant of slavery. The anti-slavery parties were tarred with nativism, which was distasteful and threatening to a Jewish community composed largely of immigrants and first-generation Americans. And many, including such luminaries as the Reform rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise and the Orthodox rabbi Morris Raphall, considered acceptance of American slavery consonant with the Bible, which documents slavery and sets parameters for its practice within the Israelite community.
Helena survived three concentration camps and when the last one was liberated she was flown by the Red Cross to a hospital in Sweden. She was 5’4″ and weighed 52 lbs. Her roommate in the hospital, a fellow survivor, knit the sweater for her while they were there. She told me she has worn that sweater every Passover since.