Crackers about Pesach! Meet the Passover devotees who go the extra mile to make it unique

From baking frogs to making gefilte fish purses, we hear from the festival’s wackiest – and most devoted – fans


A plague of frogs baked by Michele weeks before Pesach

Every area of human activity features the toe-dippers, the regular fans and the customisers – those who love it so much they pour their hearts, souls and personalities into making it special.

Pesach is no different – and the JC has tracked down some of the festival’s wackiest and most devoted aficionados, from recipe sharers to true Pesach ayatollahs.

Take Texas grandmother Antoinette Miller Acosta, who goes full-on Moses. She decks out her hallway with giant sheets of cardboard painted red and blue to represent the water turning to blood and the parting of the sea. Her grandsons get butterfly nets and are tasked with catching plastic toy insects. “Every step of the Seder is interactive”, she says.

Meanwhile, Michele Timmer Kusma from Ohio has her Pesach freezer stocked for six weeks and this year baked a plague of green frogs, complete with unnerving white eyeballs and identical smiles.

She’s also been working on festive craft projects like matzo cushions for months so her guests lean to the left in style. “Pesach was always my favourite holiday,” she says.

In Pennsylvania, Scott Noye’s Seder table is set so early that the matzo almost had time to rise – he put it out at the beginning of April and covered it with a sheet. And New Jersey’s Marlo Gorelick plumped for a collection of handmade gefilte fish handbags.

For many though, Pesach is a festival made for children. Mother of three Jennifer Romanoff also went in for frogs - over 100 of them, made of plastic - for her Seder, as well as blood-red ice cream, matzo ninja games and a Pesach conga line with 25 dinner guests.

“It’s all about the kids,” she says and her ideas are so popular that she published ‘The Epic Seder’, a child-friendly Seder guidebook

“We make it epic and as fun as possible for the kids,” she explains from her home in Florida. With three little ones under seven, “every step of our Seder has some sort of integrated game that keeps our kids at the Seder table between 8pm and midnight.

“When I was super stressed about preparing for Pesach, everyone told me it should all be about the kids, so I decided to make it more child-friendly,” Jennifer says as she gets ready to throw some cholent into her crock-pot before making charoset with her children.

Acosta is also focused on the young ones. “We always used to do a very formal Pesach and then I saw an idea online to have some toys at the table and, with two little ones, I took it to the ninth degree,” she says.

“My grandson looked at pictures from last year on my phone and kept saying, ‘Bubbee, I want to do Pesach now!’ He’s so excited.” When the boxes of Pesach toys came down from the cupboard, the boys aged four and two, knew it was time for their favourite holiday.

“Growing up, we never had Seders and didn’t do any of the holidays. When I became an adult, I wanted to make sure that my children and grandchildren knew our heritage, so I taught myself everything. I wanted my family to know who we were.”

Once her grandchildren came along, she realised, “They were not going to sit at a Seder for hours and it was stressful, so I thought I would write little Haggadah and make it very short and interactive and have toys on the table for the boys to play with.”

Jamie Kreitman doesn’t have little ones to entertain at home anymore, but Pesach is no less work. “I go the whole hog. It’s exhausting,” says the New York mother. Jamie is Masorti, but at Pesach, “I turn over my whole kitchen and adhere to strict Orthodox standards.” She has been doing her rigorous annual Pesach preparation for almost as long as the Israelites wandered the desert.

“The cooking marathon started on Saturday night,” she says. For this year’s Seder, she served an “elaborate Mizrahi charoset which took a day to make”, as well as gefilte fish, chopped liver, chicken with dried fruit, quinoa, and brisket.

Her precious vintage China makes an appearance at Pesach, as well as a set of bowling pins for the plagues. Even her dog joins in, wearing a custom-knitted Israeli flag.

In Glasgow, Anna Wood takes it one matzo breakfast at a time and shares images of them on social media. For half a decade, Anna’s friends have waited in anticipation for her matzo recipes. With a chronic illness, Anna cannot join communal Seders or host one at home, so she joined the Honeycomb Project’s online Seder with her husband. “It’s a really wonderful Seder,” she says.

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