At Nightingale "we never close"!

By Leon A Smith
March 15, 2011

One of the many side effects of getting older is that Passover comes around with increasing rapidity – whereas as a child it seemed like an eternity from one Passover to another. Today, it seems that no sooner we dismantle our Succah and put away our Lulav and Etrog then we’re already beginning to think about Passover. I do not mean on an individual personal level – I mean in my capacity of running the largest Jewish residential home in the country!

Nightingale accommodates 200 residents who eat in 7 separate dining rooms. Food is prepared in a centralised kitchen and transferred to 7 food service areas and each of these food service areas and our Café and our Staff Dining Room have to be prepared for Passover. I imagine many people would dread the enormous amount of work involved in changing over crockery, cutlery, utensils, etc in their own homes. Imagine this on a large – almost industrial scale. The physical work involved is enormous. Most of Nightingale’s staff become involved in this process in one way or the other.

Planning for Passover commences months in advance including the organisation of numerous and simultaneous Sedurim – across the 2 nights, a total of 14. The length of the Seder is adjusted according to the physical and/or intellectual wellbeing of residents in various parts of the Home. However, even for those who may have dementia at varying levels, the Seder is still carried out involving appropriate highlights and also serves the function as acting as a reminiscence experience at the same time.

The vast majority of our staff are not Jewish. Some staff have been working with us for many years; some staff are new and constant staff training is essential. Good friends in the community are assisting this year with training including demonstration seder tables.

Increased costs of the Festival are also significant. But that’s another story!

This Pesach we will be using
60 Kilos of Medium Matzo Meal
18 Kilo Cake Meal
40 Kilos of Fine Matzo Meal
10 Kilos Potato Flour
20 kilos Ground Almonds
8 kilos Ground Hazelnuts
6,000 eggs
70 kilos of butter
16 kilos of Charoset

Those residents who live at Nightingale are very much a microcosm of the Jewish community in London at large. As a consequence some of our residents will have not attended a Seder for many years, whereas many others will have. Many of us have our own familial customs and traditions surrounding the Seder and it is of course impossible to incorporate all of these into our very large seder activities.

We are however indebted to a team of friends in the community who assist us year on year in conducting Seders. We are grateful to them for their support.

As the risk of overdoing the superlative, I suspect that Pesach at Nightingale is probably one of the largest Pesach operations in the UK. Jewish schools would be closed over the Pesach period and would not therefore need to be Kosher for Pesach – but a little bit like that famous Windmill Street institution - at Nightingale “we never close”!


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