Local Dispatch: With gentiles' help, my husband's last Seder was one of his best


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Eleven years ago my mom and husband were both being cared for in a personal care home in Turtle Creek. She was already a resident there when Bud also needed the TLC they offered.

He lived the last year of his life there surrounded by a staff that were friends, not just caregivers, as one lovely remembrance points out.

Mom and Bud were the only Jewish residents in the non-sectarian establishment. About a week before Passover in 2003, the gentleman who ran the kitchen asked to meet with me. He wanted to make a Passover Seder meal on behalf of our family. What a lovely gesture!

It seems several nuns from a nearby parish had heard about Mom and Bud, and they mentioned on one of their regular visits to the home that they'd never been to a Passover Seder. That's when the plan formed.

I immediately went to work on the planning with the head of the kitchen. He asked for recipes for chicken matzo ball soup and charosis -- a traditional apple, nut and wine mixture. He wanted to know which sacramental wines to purchase and how to make a Passover sponge cake for dessert. His main course was roasted lamb with fresh vegetables. I supplied the gefilte fish. The menu was complete.

Invitations were extended to our immediate family and the nuns and priests from the surrounding parish. The meal would also include the first 25 residents to sign up from the personal care home. There was so much interest among the latter that there was a waiting list.

Passover arrived, and we were shown into a special room that took our breath away. The tables of the personal care home were set with elegant linens, china, stemware vases of fresh flowers, candles and carafes of wine.

The Jewish prayer books, or Haggadahs, that I provided were placed at each setting. The skullcaps, or yarmulkes, that I had brought were also set for the men who wanted to wear one for the occasion.

My husband conducted a modified Seder in English, while including some Hebrew passages to give a real flavor to what we were hearing. Everyone participated in the reading of the Haggadah. When a question was raised regarding the service, Bud answered to the best of his knowledge. No one has ever performed before a more captive audience.

The meal was a huge success. Everyone was impressed by the food and the presentation of the different courses. The priests and nuns were delighted to have been part of our holiday for the first time. Our friends among the residents could not thank Bud enough for the introduction he gave them to Jewish history.

The deepest gratitude went to the staff of the personal care home, for their thoughtfulness and a huge amount of work on their part. They made our holiday one to always remember. Nothing was overlooked, and the smiles on their own faces showed the love they shared with us on our special day.

Holidays come and go, and my own family has grown despite Bud's departure. We look forward to being together on these important days. Each one is a new memory to be filed away and remembered lovingly.

But the one Passover memory that stands out from them all is the last one my husband enjoyed, among strangers new to Judaism who gave him great pleasure and made him feel so special.


Eleanor "Cookie" Rosenberg lives in Squirrel Hill.

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