The Shmooze

How Do You Keep, and Break, Passover?

By Sarah Seltzer

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In the past few years, I’ve struggled to reconcile being a non-believer with my love of Jewish culture and traditions. So I’ve wavered back and forth on keeping Passover and fasting on Yom Kippur, the two most intrinsic rituals of self-deprivation for the sake of enlightenment on the Jewish calendar. This year, after a few years of nonobservance after the first two days, I went back to trying a sort of Passover lite — I stayed away from bread, pasta and cereal for the full eight days, with the exception of one emergency thin-crust pizza lapse. Basically, I stayed away from leavening but I didn’t obsessively check the ingredients or the label on packaged food. I really enjoyed keeping the holiday in a less-than stringent way. It led me to be more conscious of how I eat and try new additions to my diet (note to self: I am a total bread addict). On a spiritual and cultural level, this loose observance kept the meaning of the holiday fresh in my mind without making me feel as though I were engaging in the holier-than-thou “corn syrup is evil” one-upmanship contests I remember from my time at a Jewish day school.

The best part of observing this way is yet to come. Because keeping Passover means indulging in the most delightful ritual of all — the post-Pesach carb binge. Growing up on the Upper West Side, I always joined my family in celebrating one way: a trip to H&H bagels for a dozen hot bagels, the first of which we would break off and share, followed by a big Italian dinner. Mmm. When I lived in Boston, my favored practice was to head to Cambridge’s beloved Pinocchio’s pizza, home of the tastiest Sicilian slices in the world. My roommate Sarah and I said the motzi over a fresh mozzarella and tomato slice. I’m not sure what my plans are this year, but the packaged challah rolls I usually keep in the house are tempting me so much right now (bread addiction again) that they may be reward enough.

It’s a Jewish tradition to invent your own mini-traditions for the holidays. So Forward readers, how did you observe Passover this year — super strictly, not-so-strictly or in between? And most importantly, do you and your family have a special tradition for that first bite of leavened goodness? Please share in the comments.


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