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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Matzah Memories

A collection of Passover recollections from Yeshivah of Flatbush students was recently published in The Jewish Week's Fresh Ink for Teens.

By David Azrak

When I say Pesach, what pops into your mind? I think this question is one that elicits a plethora of answers varying from a joyous vacation to a plate- and soup-filled nightmare. Many love the time off and excuse to take a vacation, while others count down to that final day when they can gorge on the box of Entenmann’s donuts sitting in the pantry. For me, the answer falls somewhere in between. When I was young I never understood what Pesach was and grew up dreading the holiday because of the never-ending seders with my family and the fact that I couldn’t eat a simple grilled cheese sandwich. Now I wouldn’t give up the holiday for anything in the world as it harkens back to fond childhood memories.

Perhaps the most memorable were the seders with my Grandma Diane and her husband Louie. My whole family flew out to Florida where my grandma would cook the most elaborate dinner and her husband, Louie, would give a dvar Torah that would perplex and astound us. As I write this I can smell the scents permeating her apartment of her za’tar chicken, kibbeh and lachmagine (please consult your local Syrian cookbook for translation and pronunciation).

When someone asks what pops into my mind when they say Peasch, I respond with the following: Pesach is time to reflect, appreciate, cherish and remember not only the miracles that happened long ago, but the people that always have your back: your family. Chag Sameach.

By David Feintuch

Pesach is an amazing time for the Jewish people. We celebrate our salvation from the land of Egypt. I love celebrating Pesach and the family traditions that we share.

My aunt always hosts the first seder in her Brooklyn home. My aunt makes the best food and uses beautiful fine china. She makes her special chicken soup and charoset. My mom usually bakes dessert.

One special tradition we have (like many families) is we dip our pinky finger into our wine cup when each of the Ten Plagues is read. We do this to show that even though the plagues seem bad they are actually holy for Hashem, just like the wine is holy.

Another custom my family shares is that instead of the classic search for the Afikoman — where the kids only have one chance to find the hidden matzah — we have multiple searches. My family does this out of fairness, so that all of the children have a chance to find the Afikoman. A week later our parents let each child in the family choose one big gift for Passover.

I can always count on Pesach to bring family unity due to the traditions it contains. Pesach expresses the strength of family values, one of the strongest values in Judaism. I can’t wait for Passover this year!

By Michelle Jemal

My favorite holiday of the year has to be Passover because it’s time well spent with my family. The first night of the holiday is spent by my grandparents. My grandma spends days preparing the most amazing food and setting the most beautiful table. Once all the men arrive home from shul, everyone wants to start right away so we can get to the best part of the night: the food.

My grandpa says kiddush and of course my Uncle Joey has to say a dvar Torah while everyone pretends to listen. (Well, at least I do.) We get on with the rest of the seder and all the kids run around while my grandma tries to quiet them down by yelling “shut up” in Arabic. It sounds bad, but we’re used to it.

My family has this custom where they send out the oldest granddaughter from the room with the seder plate to eat the hard-boiled egg. I’m the oldest, so I always get sent out. Why? I honestly don’t know. (I think it has something to do with getting married.)

It’s nice celebrating the holiday in Brooklyn with my family because not many people get a chance to spend so much time with their own families. My Passover seder isn’t that special or different, but to me it is since it’s time well spent with the ones I love.

By Allan Maleh

Last year we spent our Passover in the Bahamas. We had so much fun and the experience was so great, we decided to go back again this year. Many of my cousins are joining us, and I think our seder is going to be really special.

We will all sit around one big table and celebrate together. We love singing the Haggadah and telling the stories of our forefathers. All the little kids act out the stories from the Haggadah, and I’m really looking forward to watching my little brother.

One of my favorite parts of the night is the Afikoman. After a long, satisfying meal we get up to search for the Afikoman and all the kids get excited. They run off from the table and immediately start searching for the matzah. Every father at the table offers a different gift to the lucky finder. After about 10 to 15 minutes the kids come running back to the table, and everyone’s yelling at the lucky one who found the matzah. The parents end up buying presents for all the children so it doesn't really matter anyways.

After a long, inspiring night we finally reach the end of the seder. We can barely breathe because we’re so full and all we want to do is go to sleep. To really make the night special a few relatives, friends and I stay late and read an extra part in the Haggadah called “Chad Gadya.” This extra part is a story about animals who eat each other, one after another after another, and so on. My friends and I really enjoy this part of the night, and it really tops off a beautiful and spiritual evening.

Authors' bio:
David Azrak is a freshman and David Feintuch, Michelle Jemal and Allan Maleh are juniors at the Yeshivah of Flatbush in Brooklyn.