Families Share Their Passover Traditions Observances May Differ from Person to Person, but Holiday Unites Jews around the World

Article excerpt

Byline: Deborah Kadin Daily Herald Correspondent

Jewish holidays are rich in tradition, but none quite so rich as Passover, the eight-day observance of the Israelites' Exodus from Egypt.

How Jews observe the holiday, which begins Wednesday at sundown, is as varied as the traditions themselves. Many continue the traditions they learned as children; others vary their celebrations to make them relevant to their families or their own lives.

But no matter how the holiday is observed, its meaning is what links Jews around the world spiritually, religiously and culturally.

Four Jewish families from DuPage County shared their feelings, their observances and some of their stories of holidays past with us. Here are their tales:

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Passover for Gail and Steve Karlovsky and their children - Adrienne, 9; Ian, 5; and Rachel, 3 - is a blend of the traditional and the modern to make Judaism more meaningful.

The Naperville family practices the tradition of removing from their home all "hametz," which is leavened bread and foods that contain leaven. "Kosher for Passover" foods, which are made with matzo, are purchased and stored.

The kitchen cupboards are wiped clean, and another set of dishes is brought in.

"I use these dishes to make Passover meals different," Gail said. "It's to help keep the traditions alive and make it special. It's a special time of the year. And it's the most Jewish time of my life."

The three Seders the Karlovskys attend will blend the traditional and modern aspects of their faith.

The first service is with members of their havurah from Congregation Beth Shalom of Naperville. A "havurah" is a small Jewish group that bands together for study and observes Jewish rituals and life-cycle events.

The group does not use a traditional "hagaddah," or book that describes the story of Passover through prayer and song. Instead, the havurah has its own hagaddah, which is written like a play.

"It's usually a huge Seder. Sometimes we have 40 or 50 people and lots of children," Gail said. "They're almost as important as my family in New York."

The second night is spent with the family. A highlight of that Seder is the re-enactment of the 10 plagues, the afflictions placed on the Egyptians for keeping the Israelites in bondage.

The Karlovskys use props such as costume blood, fake frogs and stuffed animals to represent the plagues. Pingpong balls become hail and sunglasses help create darkness.

"We started this two years ago," Gail said. "It makes the story fun and important. "

On April 4, Gail and Steven will participate in the first renewal Seder with other adults from the temple. Its purpose is to renew the spirit of Passover from within, Gail said.

Participants divide up the service and find meaningful ways to participate.

"When we do the 10 plagues we will talk about what is plaguing the world today: (fighting in) Serbia and Kosovo, domestic violence, AIDS or racial tension," Gail said. "It's a way to raise awareness and make the Seder more meaningful."

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Esther and Sergio Kerbis of Lisle are nonreligious Jews who were born in Romania, moved to Israel in the 1960s and then came to the United States in the 1970s.

They've taken up traditions from both of their adopted countries. Until Esther came here, though, she didn't know that there were different ways of practicing her faith.

"I didn't observe Passover when I was growing up in Romania," she said. "Jews were either Orthodox or nothing."

She now follows some of the traditions she observed growing up in Israel.

"I clean the house and the cupboards and put 'Kosher for Passover' items on two shelves. …