Before Pesach last year, I wrote about how to best build the seder around an aging loved one. In retrospect, this was perhaps an overly child-centric approach. In my defense, most things for the seder were intentionally designed to be exactly that way –to engage the younger generation in this important story of our tribe. And while I meant to write for everyone, I think I might have unintentionally sidelined the matriarchs and patriarchs of our families.
This year, in an attempt to learn from the past, I wrote this piece, geared to the elderly, in the second person: here is how you personally can make Pesach a bit easier on yourself. In other words: less maror, more haroset.
Banish hametz the simple way: Many of us treat cleaning for Passover as our own personal penance and the sole path to freedom. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Rabbi Yossi Laufer, of Chabad of West Bay, advocates for simple yet sufficient solutions to kashering your kitchen, like setting the oven to self-clean with the racks inside.
“The manufacturer will tell you to take them out to avoid tarnishing, but they won’t be damaged at all,” Laufer said.
He also said that there’s no need to cover all surfaces in your fridge – you can just clean it well, or, for an extra measure, lay down dish towels; a much easier alternative than fighting with contact paper or aluminum foil.
Laufer often cites an article at Chabad.org, “Preparing the Kitchen” (bit.ly/2UdzS8V), as his go-to resource for those looking for no-nonsense tips for getting rid of hametz. He also makes house calls for many seniors in the Warwick area to help them kasher. For questions or help, call 401-884-7888.
Recline – don’t host: This may seem preposterous if you’ve been hosting seders for most of your life. Some of my clients find it really hard to let go of the proverbial afikoman. Others are relieved to pass the torch. But such is the very core of the Passover story: handing the tradition to the next generation to carry on.
If your family or Jewish community isn’t hosting a seder, you have other options. Susan Adler, coordinator of Jewish Elder Care of Rhode Island, a part of Jewish Collaborative Services, together with her niece, Dori, are hosting over 30 seders at nursing homes and various other facilities around the state. Adler says their goal is “to make sure everyone who wants to be at a seder is, and to ensure that seniors who want a Jewish connection have one.”
Adler, who is passionate about her work, reiterated: “As long as we know there is one Jewish resident who needs a seder, we will go there.” Call 401-621-5374 to see if she’s running a seder at a nursing home/assisted living facility near you, or if you know someone who is aging at home who needs a seder invitation.
On April 12, all are welcome to join a seder at 11 a.m. at Temple Sinai, in Cranston. RSVP is encouraged; call 401-942-8350.
Adler also reminded me that for the non-seder days of Pesach, Kosher Meals on Wheels will be Kosher for Passover, and the Senior Kosher Cafe at the Alliance’s Dwares Jewish Community Center, in Providence, will run Monday-Thursday that week.
Avoid the plague of constipation: If your body can’t handle regular matzah, Rabbi Laufer notes that there’s actually a special rabbinic allowance for egg matzah for those with digestive issues. It even says so on the box, with a shout-out to seniors! Laufer also said that whole-wheat matzah is gentler on the stomach, but advised to try to find it early since supermarkets often sell out.
(Paper) cups: We know you have gorgeous Passover China, but washing it is a slavery all its own. Ever the pragmatist, Rabbi Laufer says to go to Dollar Tree and stock up on paper goods – which definitely cost less than two zuzim.
Staff up: And no, we don’t mean the kind Moses used to hit that rock. Hire a cleaning service to scrub away those crumbs, or ask your in-home care provider if help is an add-on option. If you’re hosting and money is a concern, skip the expensive brisket in favor of chicken so you can hire help to serve and/or clean up.
Finally, if you have difficulty driving at night, Uber to and from the seders. And if you need more support, ask a service like ours how it can help.
Next year in Jerusalem!
NAOMI FINK COTRONE runs the Right at Home of Rhode Island agency, which provides care to elderly and disabled adults throughout the state.