A convert’s Passover: Lutefisk out of water


As a convert to Judaism, there is a part of me that will always feel a bit like Lutefisk trying to be Gefilte fish. My first Passover Seder was no exception as I tried, desperately, to fit in. There are a few things that would have been good to know:

  1. The Seder will take a while; eat something before you go.
  2. You do not need to drink four full cups of wine.
  3. If you are trying to fit in and impress the parents of your significant other, be sure to follow both steps 1 and 2.

Despite the bumpy start (yes, I drank four FULL cups of wine) I love Passover! However, I have new challenges to overcome beyond drinking too much wine. My biggest challenge is to engage my children and help them understand that the story we tell on Passover is not just a fairy-tale; it is their history, and I want them to feel connected to it.

My husband is a Jew from the former Soviet Union, and the list of holiday traditions he grew up with is remarkably short. My traditions in this arena are non-existent. I need to, and am lucky to, create our own traditions. Over the years, I have tried various crafts and activities: we’ve hung paper frogs from our walls, held a crumb caper hunt, read books and sang songs, but one of my favorite things to do as a family is not very complicated at all.

We watch The Ten Commandments on television, eat a matzah pizza picnic on an old blanket in front of the TV, and make green meringues with chocolate chip eyes to resemble frogs. Here is a web page explaining how to make your own frog meringues: http://www.aish.com/h/pes/r/Mainly_Meringues.html. My husband likes to point out all of the historical inaccuracies in the movie; did you know The Ten Commandments is NOT a documentary? But we sit together as a family and talk about the baby floating amongst the reeds in the river, about the plagues and how terrible they must have been, about Mt. Sinai and how it is a real place one can visit, and about what Jews all over the world and across time have discussed during Passover.

I have always really enjoyed our little family tradition, but I have also wondered how much my little boys were actually getting out of it. Then, last night, totally out of the blue, my 6 year old son Asher told me he wished he could have the frog cookies again. I asked him if he remembered when we eat the frog cookies; without missing a beat, he told me it’s when we watch “the baby Moses show” and see the water open.

Then we talked about it.

Engaging children is a funny thing; half the time I have no idea how much they understand the significance of the things we do. But, I’m making the attempt. Best of all, we’re all engaged and talking as a family.

I might sometimes feel like Lutefisk out of water, but this Passover I feel like I’m treading just fine amongst the Gefiltes.

Melissa Ginzburg spends her days in light saber battles with little boys dressed as Superman, Spiderman, and the Hulk. When she isn’t fighting for interstellar domination it’s usually because the children are sleeping.