The Two-Minute Paris Passover
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Dear Parler Paris Reader,
Saturday night from my window I could see the Jewish family across the street seated around their enormous round table that fills their small living room. Clearly, eating is at the center of their lives, as there are only a chair or two in the corners of the room for other purposes. They are perpetually there.
That night, they were drinking their customary four glasses of wine, making crumbs of the “matzot” (that can’t be helped), reading from the “Haggadah” and satisfying themselves with a whole host of traditional Passover fare.
We were ‘sort of’ doing the same thing…well…it was just me and a gentile friend, some one-year-old stale matzah found in the storage cabinet, a hard-boiled egg to symbolize ‘something’ important (one source says ‘mourning,’ another says ‘festival sacrifice,’ another says ‘hope’ and yet another says ‘perpetual cycle of life’ — so go figure!), a roast chicken (yes, I made it myself) and my favorite thing about Passover, the “Charoset.”
Charoset is a concoction of apples, wine, nuts, cinnamon and honey (at least, that’s MY recipe — everyone has their own!) symbolizing the mortar with which the Israelites bonded bricks when they were enslaved in ancient Egypt. All the symbolic goodies I could muster up sat on the melamine “Seder” plate my daughter made in school at the age of seven that is more sentimentally beautiful than the hand painte
d Jerusalem pottery plate acquired in 1979 when we lived in Israel (now happily relinquished to my ex-husband).
Our seder was more like the “Two-Minute Haggadah,” except it didn’t even last that long. (Scroll down to read it. It only takes two minutes.)
It shocks me low large the Jewish community is in France. They aren’t wearing their religion on their sleeves and can be found in the most unusual places. People I’ve known for years made no point of divulging their affiliation or background, only to discover much later that we had this strong cultural tie in common. With so many having been deported and destroyed during the Holocaust, you’d be surprised to find there are still many Ashkenazi Jews (“Jews of the German rite” from central and eastern Europe) in Le Marais and elsewhere. Of course, there are large numbers of Sephardi Jews (Spanish and Portuguese Jews, as well as Jews of Arabic or Persian backgrounds and others), but they’re also here from Turkey, Israel, Canada, South Africa, Australia and yes, even the United States. In fact, I’ve observed that a large number of U.S. Expats…an unproportional number, are Jewish.
No, I don’t have any statistics nor proof of this. The consensus of 2006 reports that 1.78% of the U.S. population is Jewish compared to .81% in France. But, I’ll bet that the percentage of Jewish Expats is way above those percentages.
Why? Well, I have my own theories. At the core is the cultural and religious basis to question everything. No, I’m not talking about “On the Jewish Question” by Karl Marx. I’m talking about an insatiable desire to question and discover life. That’s what we’re doing here…discovering another way of life.
Tomorrow, I head for Berlin to visit the city for the first time while my daughter is there discovering it for herself over the course of a month. My 90-year-old mother who has lived through too many wars asked, “Why on earth would you want to go to Berlin!?” not realizing how much the city has changed. Last week my daughter visited the Saschenhausen Concentration Camp there. She said, “You don’t want to go. It’s too depressing.”
Wednesday I’ll be writing from the city that used to have 160,000 Jews (according to a census of June 16, 1933), the largest in Germany. Today it’s the fastest growing world-wide and third largest Jewish population in Europe after England and France with 12,000 in Berlin alone.
A la prochaine…
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The Two-Minute Paris Passover
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