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Harrison Congregant Speaks on Meaning of Passover

HARRISON, N.Y. – With Passover beginning Thursday night at sundown, White Plains resident Paul Gelbard, 81, a congregant of the Jewish Community Center in Harrison shared his thoughts, memories and experiences of the holiday.

“Passover is a time of year where our whole families get together,” Gelbard said. “A lot of Jewish people will go to a Seder. It really is a family celebration.”

Gelbard said he remembers past Passover holidays over the years. When he was a little kid growing up in the Bronx, he recalls his father, who owned a grocery store, preparing food for the holiday. As the years have gone on, Gelbard said that the holiday has evolved.

“The book itself has evolved,” Gelbard said. “But we still have our traditions that go back a long time.”

A Passover Seder for Gelbard will bring his son home from Maryland to visit and he will also get a visit from one of his grandsons who lives in New York City. Gelbard said that his wife used to prepare the Seder but as time has gone on, his son has picked up leading the tradition, which still includes four cups of wine and following the Heggadah that lays out the order Seder follows.

“We still follow traditions and make certain blessings,” Gelbard said. “We recount our people’s redemption from Egypt with a festive meal where we give praise to God and sing some songs.”

The holiday still has its place for children as well. The youngest child will ask the Mah Nishtanah, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” Families will then hide and find a piece of matzo, an unleavened bread that Jewish families eat at a Seder that symbolizes the Jews leaving Egypt in a hurry because they didn’t have time to wait for yeast to rise. The child who locates it will get a prize but Gelbard said that at his family’s Seders, every child gets some type of reward.

“The fact that Passover is a family event is what is so nice about it,” Gelbard said.

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