For the past 30 years or so, Robyn and Jeffrey Shiovitz have held a Seder in their basement recreation room, inside a colorful tent made of handmade fabric. This year, as at so many gatherings around the world, Shiovitz Seder participants will be reduced from the usual 30 to the nine family members who have been living together these last few weeks. “Even in this time of turmoil, we are seeking happiness in our tradition,” said Jeffrey, who is cantor of the Congregation of the Sons of Israel in Briarcliff Manor, New York.
When the Shiovitzes started celebrating Passover, they wanted to create traditions and memories for their children. They dress up in colorful costumes, sit on cushions on the floor in their tent (these days, some sit on a chair), and tell their children the story of the Jews’ journey from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Holy Land.
For the children, one of the Seder’s high points comes at the end: kosher for Passover chocolate chip cookies, adapted from the back of the Toll House package, with Robyn substituting matzo cake meal for flour. “Above all,” Jeffrey told me, “we want our children and grandchildren to love being Jewish and to love all the holidays.”
Joan Nathan is Tablet Magazine’s food columnist and the author of 10 cookbooks including King Solomon’s Table: a Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World.