I love the preparations for Passover – the cooking, baking, preparing and those divine smells of the holiday wafting through the house. As a cantor, I’ve always been drawn to the music of the seder and my most successful recording (out of 10) is the Passover Seder Songs recording. I even made the Amazon Passover Seder Playlist. What a thrill to ask Alexa to play Seder Songs and hear my “Ma Nishtana.”
Growing up in a fairly traditional home full of music and ritual, the Seder was my father’s time to shine. He was pretty quiet most of the year, working in a small liquor store and on weekends, a small Conservative pulpit. He often said, “He dealt in spirits.”
Before my father got ready to lead the Kiddush, he always chanted in a magnificent festival nusach, the Katchko style, while we each held a sterling silver kiddush cup. My mother was insistent that we each have our own silver Kiddush cup. We were not as well-off as our neighbors and friends but on Passover, we dined like royalty. We dressed well in new clothes. It was a symbol of pride and joy for my mother to see her family looking rich and regal.
As my Seders continuously evolve, I had an unusual but joyous experience this year. Having beautiful little granddaughters in attendance, from ages three to 20 months, I had to tailor the Seder to the entire family. My beloved Goldberg Haggadah with stains and my father’s name written on each one – was my mother afraid someone would bring one home? – was replaced by a Haggadah for the Contemporary Family by Alan Yoffie; now replaced by newer titles: Sammy Spider’s First Haggadah by Sylvia A. Rouss, Grover and Big Bird’s Passover Celebration by Balsley and Fischer and the sure hit of the seder It’s Passover Grover! by Jodie Shepherd.
How did I go from Goldberg to Grover?
I am sure I will get a chance to revisit Goldberg and Yoffie as the grandchildren grow but for now, I was just thrilled to see a full table with all my children and grandchildren in attendance; singing “Dayenu” and the “Frog Song,” a rousing “Ma Nishtana” and “Chad Gadya” led by the parents.
Everyone had their own silver Kiddush cup and my mother’s tradition has continued. We added the blueberry on the Seder plate as a new lesson in not judging someone by the outside, as we are different inside.
May your holidays be full of family and friends, creating warm memories for generations to come.
The writer is a cantor at Congregation Shir Shalom of Westchester and Fairfield Counties, in Connecticut. She is also the founder of the Women Cantors’ Network.