Second night and we are ready to rock

My husband and I set the table this afternoon for our second night Seder. When we finished I realized that we were both wearing our bathing suits. He was still in his board shorts from his morning surf session and I had just returned from the neighborhood pool after swimming some laps. “Now that is being Jewish in Hawaii I thought.”

Chag Sameach to all with aloha from our Seder table to yours.


Wrapping up Passover

I guess the key words at this point are “Passed” and “Over,” because Passover pretty much is. I keep thinking of the phrase “Just passing through” as well.

I thought I was going to be more  emotional when we had our seder at home this year. I anticipated that the things that usually made me feel connected to my mom who lived far away in Kansas City would make her absence from this present life too far away to bear. Making her chopped liver and taking out my parents’ seder plate from my childhood seemed like it would be empty and sad.

I was wrong (you won’t hear me saying that very often!)

It was as joyful as ever. I spent days preparing each dish with love and care:  chicken soup, matzah balls, chopped liver, charoset and the rest. I pulled out my Great Aunt Tee’s china and  the other sparkling serving dishes that we only use once a year for this very special occasion. And I was happy.

While we didn’t use them, I took out the Hagaddahs that my family read when I was a kid.  I found them when we cleaned out my mother’s basement last spring. They are labeled in my  her handwriting, “Martha, Betsy, Lorrie and Ted.” I wonder why there isn’t one that says “Gloria.”

My father’s copy is carefully marked in red pen so he could lead our seder (in his deep resonating voice) to dinner as efficiently as possible. He even wrote the word “Skip” in many places. Thank goodness. The Gershun family has always been short on seder and long on food! We definitely follow that tradition in this Gershun’s home to this day.

It wasn’t until I was putting away the seder plate and the china, a few days later, that I did feel sad. For a moment, my parents and  relatives were passing through to be with us on this special holiday, singing Dayeinu and Had Gad Ya joyfully together (a bit off-key.)

And now I was putting them back in the cupboard, along with a part of me, to wait for the next time. Ba shanah haba’ah, in the year to come we will all return together–if not in Jerusalem–at least in Kapolei.

There’s more than just a chicken in my soup pot

This may not seem like a big deal to some, but for me it is huge. I used the fresh dill that grew in  my very own yard in the chicken soup that I made in preparation for our seder.

Many of you are used to growing things and eating them. I am not. I do not have a green thumb. The only thing I have been able to grow successfully are a few children and a dog or two over the years. My track record in the plant department is appalling.

Every time a plant in our garden begins to thrive, something happens. We go on vacation and the house sitter forgets to water them. It rains so much that the plants drown. Or I just put them in the wrong spot.

I had a beautiful basil plant for a while and was able to serve its leaves on a few occasions. I’ve even had some limited success with green onions. That’s about it.

I planted the dill seeds a while ago because the package said they need direct sunlight. I only plant seeds that like direct sunlight. None of this indirect stuff for me. It is too unclear.

I’ve been wondering what to do with the dill. It keeps growing and growing and growing. We keep watering and watering and watering. I’ve moved it a few times to chase the sun.  I am proud of our dill plant.

When I looked at a the  chicken soup recipe for Passover and it said to use fresh dill I got excited. “I get to use the dill,” I reveled.

The chickens and carrots and celery I bought at the store. I had to go to several stores to find the parsnip. But the dill was right in my yard waiting to jump in the pot.

Why was last night different than many other nights? Celebrating Passover with a little local style

A seder in Hawaii is much like any seder around the world. We tell the story. We eat the traditional foods. And then there are a few special moments that highlight that we are celebrating in this particular place and possibly nowhere else.

Last night was no exception. The Aloha Jewish Chapel seder at the Hale Koa Hotel was a pleasure. The table was set with a beautiful seder plate and we told the story that Jews around the world had been telling all day long in different time zones.

This particular event has a personal story our family likes to tell. Every year when we attend, we remember that it was at this very seder, eight years ago, that my husband and I had our “Almost First Date.” We have been going every year since–except in 2005 when he was deployed in Iraq.




The seder also has some local flavor, but not in the cooking.

How many seders have you been to where the guest list is a balance of  names such as Watanabe, Fukuhara and Hashimoto?

And then there is the music. Rachel Haymer played the ukulele at my wedding, my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah and at most of our Temple events. The addition of her ukulele and her voice last night was a real treat.

Finally, comes my favorite, and the initial inspiration to write this particular blog entry. When we were singing the four questions, during the part that asks why on some nights we eat either sitting or reclining, but on this night we only recline: She b’chol haleilot anu ochlin bein yoshbin uvein m’subin. Halailah hazeh, kulanu m’subin., both my husband and older daughter changed the word  m’subin-reclining- to musubi which is a spam and rice sushi snack that is so far from belonging at a seder that one can only laugh.

Try singing it.

Only in Hawaii.

Happy Passover.

The search for gefilte fish and horseradish…tears to my eyes

Preparing for Passover in Hawaii has gotten easier in the past few years, but it is still not completely convenient.

Most of the neighborhood Safeways have matzah and matzah meal. They bring it out for every Jewish holiday, thinking that we eat it all year round.

Now that I am a “Military Wife,” I have access to the commissary which dutifully puts out a table of items a few weeks before Passover, but it wasn’t as robust this year as the last few.

Whole Foods in Kahala (about 25 miles from my house and a good hour drive if there is traffic) had a good selection of macaroons and gluten free Passover items.

Only the Kapahulu Safeway had gefilte fish. My husband loves gefilte fish. I made the drive.

When I was at the commissary yesterday I asked for fresh horseradish and was told they only have the Chinese kind. I figured that would do for a bitter herb. I had no idea that Chinese horseradish was so big. I had to take a photo. Even my husband laughed.

While surfing the web, my younger daughter noticed that Party City has ready made plague bags, a new tradition at our seder ever since my oldest sister started sending them to my kids. We went to the Waikele Party City to check them out. When I asked the clerk where their Passover items are, she looked at me and said, “What’s Passover?” So much for buying plague bags there. We will make our own.

Despite the obstacles, we are ready. We will celebrate with the community tonight at the Aloha Jewish Chapel seder at the Hale Koa Hotel, organized by our good friends Val Hashimoto and Dan Bender.

And thank goodness for Good Friday. In Hawaii it is a State holiday.  Since the kids won’t have school and my husband doesn’t have to work, we will have our own seder at home with a few friends. All of the items I have hunted and gathered from across the island will come together on our table as we celebrate our  freedom and remember our journey together.

A Zeisen Pesach to all.