One family's Passover observance
When Nicole Cabot hears her six-year-old daughter Violet ask the age old question, "Why is this night different from all other nights?" at the family's Passover Seder this Saturday, she will hear the echo of her own voice speaking the same words at her grandparents' home decades ago. And as the service and feast continue in their West Tisbury home, the Cabots will happily watch Violet carries on the Passover tradition.
Keeping the Passover story and practice alive from generation to generation is important to Jews everywhere. It is especially meaningful to Ms. Cabot who, as Educational Director of the Martha's Vineyard Hebrew Center, guides children and their families in how to honor the holidays. "I give each family the tools to bring the holidays home," she explains. "That connection is vital to the traditions being carried over from one generation to the next."
Ms. Cabot and the children make matzo, the traditional unleavened bread eaten during the eight days of Passover, and charoset, the spicy apple-nut mixture used in the Seder ritual. They learn songs and blessings, and read the Biblical story of Exodus telling of Moses and the freeing of Jews from bondage in Egypt, which is at the heart of Passover.
Photo by Ralph Stewart
"A lot of people don't have the Judaic background, so we have to educate not only the child but the family about the importance of each piece of the holiday," she says.
Some young parents find the prospect of hosting a Passover Seder daunting. She encourages them to create their own family traditions, doing what is comfortable for them.
"There is no such thing as the perfect Seder," she says. "It's really about the sights, the smells - bringing the Jewish senses to your table."
Ms. Cabot grew up in the Jewish faith in New York City, and for many years celebrated Passover with her maternal grandparents and large extended family.
As the only child, she took an important role in the service, asking the four traditional questions that begin the telling of the Passover story. It is the responsibility of the youngest person at the Seder to ask, and Ms. Cabot remembers her grandfather teaching her the questions and the traditional melodies.
She recalls the big table at her grandparents' Long Island home with the fancy china that her grandmother, who kept kosher, used only at Passover. She remembers the candlelight, the silver, the crowd of great aunts and uncles, grown cousins. There were many guests invited in accordance with the strong Jewish mandate to welcome the stranger into one's home, and make sure that no one is left without a Seder to attend. And she remembers the food.
"Seeing the Seder plate with the egg, parsley, horseradish, shank bone, charoset, with the intoxicating aroma of homemade matzo ball soup and the chopped chicken liver is mouthwatering to me," Ms. Cabot says. "These are foods I only long for at Passover. I think of them as ritual foods."
When the family moved from New York to Western Massachusetts, Ms. Cabot, then nine years old, began to learn more about Passover traditions at her Jewish day school. Bringing these ideas home to her parents, she joined with them in creating the family Seder.