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Religious services for Jews and Christians are available in the home, though according to all accounts they are “ritual-lite,” often taking place at times that are convenient for the home but not traditional for the holiday. Passover was celebrated in the middle of the afternoon during Passover week, not on the first night of Passover.
Sussman said the home’s Passover service made her nostalgic for the full-fledged Seders she and her husband used to host in their home. The Four Questions made Cherry reminisce about childhood Seders, But personal evolution has occurred, and, perhaps not surprisingly, the final line of the service, “Next Year in Jerusalem,” has a different impact than it once did, at least for some of the residents.
“There’s so much conflict all over the world, and I feel we just need to be more constructive rather than destructive,” Cherry remarked. “That line makes me a little uncomfortable.”
“I don’t get into the political,” Stein said. “I have friends with differing views on this subject, including friends in Israel. The Seder has new meaning for me, mostly because non-Jews are sharing in the experience. And that’s a good thing, because it brings people together.”
Malina also celebrates the home’s inclusive Seder. “I want everyone, but especially the goyim who are present, to be aware that it’s a feast of liberation and redemption from slavery, not in the past but in the future,” she asserted. “When I say ‘we’ are slaves, I mean everyone. When we say, ‘Next year we’ll be in Jerusalem,’ it means we will all be where we want to be. The concept of Zion is not a place in the Middle East, it’s a place of holiness that should be everywhere and could be anywhere, and this is becoming more pressing and more important everyday.”
It’s late afternoon and the sun casts shadows across the floor in the lounge where the memorial had taken place earlier. A few stragglers remain sitting and chatting with plates of fruit on their laps. The mood has lightened. Life goes on.
Perhaps Malina speaks for all the residents when she says, “I’m proud to have survived, but it’s also lonely to have survived.”
Simi Horwitz writes frequently about theater for the Forward.