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Palm Coast Tuesday, Mar. 30, 2021 1 week ago

Passover memories transcend generations for Flagler-Volusia Jewish community

Locals reflect on past Seder services with family and friends.
by: Guest Writer

by: Marylynne Newmark

Passover is a special time for Jews worldwide, no matter how observant they may be. It is a time to be remembered, as mandated in the Book of Exodus, and to be passed down and celebrated from generation to generation.

My special memories of Passover include how, although I was the second youngest of 13 cousins, my grandfather would signal me to come sit at his right. And as the years rolled by and the table grew larger, the joy of seeing the bright faces of my five kids and two nephews, later joined by significant others gathering just to hear the story once again, sing the beautiful songs, wince at eating the bitter herbs from the Seder plate, then passing around a matza sandwich made of ground horseradish and haroset (sweet wine mixed with ground apples, sweet spices and nuts), to remember the bitterness of the times and the sweetness of renewed life.

Around this time among friends, we frequently ask each other if there is a particular Passover memory that stays with us. Here are four memories shared by local residents:

Gloria Max, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Volusia and Flagler Counties, recalled a time when her very observant family was gathered for the Seder, and when it came the moment in the service to open the door to invite Elijah the Prophet in, they were all amazed to see a very inebriated man walking by the house. Much to her mother’s chagrin, her dad said, “Invite him in.” So, just as described in the Torah, the “stranger” joined their Seder.

Arnie Levine, who was the Hospice Bereavement Counselor at Florida Hospital Flagler (before it became AdventHealth), became friendly with many of the pastors in town. Although his Seder table was always packed with 25-30 people, he invited Father Mark Waters, of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church; and Pastor Jeff DeYoe, of Trinity Presbyterian Church, as his guests for a family Passover experience. Not only did they accept the invitation, but they each spent hours with Levine after the Seder, discussing the deeper meanings of the holiday and how it enhanced how they saw the foundation of Christianity rooted in Judaism.

Palm Coast resident Rimma Mogilevsky, retired IT executive, was born in Ukraine, where, under Communist control, religious practices were not permitted. When she came to the United States in 1975, she experienced her first official Seder, along with her uncle and cousins who flew in from Israel for an emotional family reunion.

Robin Holbrook. Courtesy photo

Robyn Holbrook, a medical scribe at AdventHealth Palm Coast, smiled as she recalled how her mom was so strict that the Seder be respected, and how important it was for the kids to behave. Then one of the children flicked a piece of gefilte fish at another. “We all burst out laughing and the silliness began,” she said. “So much for the decorum.” 

On March 27, as many others throughout the world have done, Holbrook had a Zoom Seder with her sons and cousins throughout the U.S., and she reveled in the joy of watching her little granddaughter in California recite the four questions that begins, “Why is this night different from all other nights?”

Generation after generation, families celebrate and share their heritage, extolling the beauty of freedom.

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