Meora Bitton is a public relations major at the University of Rhode Island and is working for my business this semester as an intern. Bitton, who is a Sephardic Moroccan Jew, has written about how her family celebrates Passover. Her father is Orthodox and her mother is Reform, and since they are divorced, she has experienced two different types of Passover seders.
Not only do her parents practice Judaism differently, but her mother’s family is Polish and her father’s is Moroccan, which creates even greater differences between the way each side celebrates the holiday.
Here are my questions and Bitton’s answers about her Passover experiences:
Q. What is your earliest memory of your seder? What stood out to you when you were younger?
A. My earliest memories from Passover seders with my family are different from a typical Passover seder. My father’s side of the family is fully observant Sephardic Moroccan Jews, and we have always kept our family traditions alive during our seders.
One of the Moroccan traditions we practice during the seder is the [blessing] of Bibhilu.
During this time, the leader of the seder, who is always my father, holds the seder plate and walks around the table waving the seder plate over each person’s head while singing the song.
It always seemed so silly to me growing up, but the ritual has a significant meaning behind it. The chant/song goes as follows, “Bibhilu yatsanu mimitsrayim”; this translates to, “In a hurry we left Egypt.” While we practice this ritual, the family always sings in unison and we giggle because of how funny it looks. This is my most prominent memory from my family’s Passover seders from as far back as I can remember.
Q, What was it like going to a religious Sephardic seder in comparison to a more Reform Ashkenazic seder?
A. At my father’s seder, all components on the seder plate are homemade (unless it is a vegetable) because they believe it is more significant and meaningful when made from scratch. At my mother’s seder, she buys all of the foods for the seder plate at the grocery store.
Additionally, at my father’s seder, since he is religious, there is no use of electronics at all over the holiday, unlike my mother’s house, where electronics and driving are always allowed. In regard to my father’s seder, I appreciate the fact that we do not have cellphones at the table because it allows us to take full advantage of family time without any distraction.
Lastly, there are only family members at my father’s seders because he believes Passover must be spent with family, not friends. My mother believes that Passover should be celebrated with anyone close to you, which is why she invited non-religious family members and close family friends.
Q. What about the differences in the food and length of the seders?
A. My mother’s side of the family is Ashkenazic and Reform/Conservative. The seders at my mother’s house are shorter and go less in depth [about] all steps and aspects of the seder.
These seders last a maximum of two hours and are more on the laid-back side.
My father’s side of the family is Sephardic and Orthodox. Sephardic Jews eat rice over Passover while the Ashkenazic Jews do not eat rice.
At my father’s religious seder, he encourages everyone at our seder table to engage in conversation about the holiday, ask questions and discuss its history and significance. My father’s seders last for many hours, often after midnight.
Q. What do you want to pass on to your children about Passover?
A. I’d like to have no electronics at the Passover seder table in order to differentiate the holiday from every other normal day. I don’t necessarily care if the foods on the seder plate are homemade, I care more about the idea of Passover and keeping the significant traditions alive. I also care about spending Passover with family, but that does not mean I am opposed to inviting close friends over for the seder as well.
Q. What do you like best about both seders?
A. My father’s Passover seder is focused on the religious aspect of the holiday. At my mother’s seder, it is essentially a time to spend quality time with our extended family, whom we do not see often.
PATRICIA RASKIN, president of Raskin Resources Productions Inc., is an award-winning radio producer and Rhode Island business owner. She is the host of “The Patricia Raskin” show, a radio and podcast coach, and a board member of Temple Emanu-El, in Providence.