Before there was Pascha, there was Pesach...
By jsolof on Apr 26, 2005
My grandmother, Bess Cohen, was the fifth of the seven children of Max Schneider and Anna Silverbloom who survived into adulthood. I think there were four other brothers and sisters who didn't -- including a pair of twins, if memory serves -- but I suppose this wasn't that uncommon for the beginning of the 20th century. All of those Schneider siblings -- Charlie, Lee, Tom, Eve, Bess, Etta and Esther -- married (some more than once) and had children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. It's quite possible that there were some great great's of the elder siblings running around, since my kids are (almost) old enough to make me a grandfather. Fortunately, thus far they've held off. To the best of my knowledge.
My grandmother passed away in February of last year, at age 96. Her two kid sisters, Etta and Esther, are still vigorous in their mid-90's, and were the senior Schneiders in attendance at last Saturday's Schneider Family Centennial Seder, celebrating the coming to America of Max and Anna and their family in or around 1905. They weren't so hot at record-keeping back then, so everything -- including the ages of the original seven -- are approximations.
We all met up in Florham Park, New Jersey, for the Passover Seder, since the Schneiders had settled in that general area (and there are still lots of us there), and the organizing cousins pulled out all the stops. We had a hospitality suite -- I should probably mention that we were in a lovely hotel, as we outgrew home-based Seders many moons ago -- with family photos dating back almost 100 years; two song books, one produced in memory of my mom, whose played the piano each year at the rousing post-Seder sing-along; a custom Hagadah (Passover service book); a family cookbook that my Aunt Nan pulled together; a five-generation family tree from my cousin Micah that covered the better part of a ballroom wall; even a comemorative tee-shirt, courtesy of my cousin Shelly. All told, there were over 115 of us there, only about a third of whom I'd ever met before. And I have to say, they're a pretty cool bunch.
The New Jersey Jewish News published a lovely article: Enter Schneiders, exit loneliness, which has much more detail than I've been able to capture here, and lots of great stories from Seders past. Well worth a read. There's a photo album too. Well worth a look... if you're in one of the photos. :)
Now here's the interesting part.
My wife and kids had such a lovely time with the extended family that Marta suggested we should always have the Seder on a weekend, to make it easier for more people to attend. True, this contravenes Old Testament law -- and likely messes me up for Palm Sunday, big-time. (This year, because of the centennial, and because I knew it would make mom and my grandmother very happy, I made an exception and attended the family feast.) But the Schneiders have alway done things a little bit differently. The latest poll results from my cousin Bobby suggest that at least 60 of our relatives were in favor of the new plan.
So, next year, in... New Jersey, most likely!