Seder Time

By staff April 20, 2009

Passover brings friendship and an incredible dinner.


By Judi Gallagher


There are certain holidays that bring such a sense of family, comfort and friendship. Thanksgiving, of course, but just as much for me it used to be Passover. My mom cooked for what seemed like days. My Nana, arriving from New York by train, carried bundles of gefilte fish, fresh horseradish and a special jar of rendered chicken fat that we referred to as “Nana’s gold.”

 While the Thanksgiving tradition of gathering with dear friends continues, Passover since we moved to Southwest Florida has not been nearly as traditional as the great gatherings that my son and I remember at Mom’s house. That was until this year. First came the invitation from the Sarasota-Manatee Jewish Federation to attend their Women’s Passover Seder a couple of weeks before the actual holiday. The evening was filled with an incredible sharing of joy and celebration of women and yes, Phil Mancini’s matzo ball soup. Next up, the long-awaited first-night seder and dinner at the home of Emma Joels and Jake Jacobson.

 The table set for a wonderful women's seder.


Now, we have wanted to accept this invitation for the last few years, but we always seemed to be at the NCAA tournament. (I know, but in our family college basketball is a near-religious experience ) At last, the basketball schedule cooperated with the first night of Passover, and we were able to attend what truly was a magical evening. Emma’s parents (two of my favorite people), Valerie and Harold Joels, headed the table, and Harold and friend Al Goldis led a seder beautifully with thought, humor, prayer and social responsibility. Jake and Emma could not have been any more generous and hospitable. Now, let’s get down to the food. Seriously, if Moses and the tribes had Emma’s cooking, they would have made it to the Promised Land by the first week!


 Emma and Jake discuss the final seasoning.

With individual printed menus at each setting, we embarked on a 4-star dinner that included three types of gefilte fish (you did my Nana proud, Emma), three soups (all which were incredible!!!!), three entrees, (oh, was that brisket wonderful!), three sides (the carrot kugel was incredible) and three desserts, including Valerie’s delightful Apple Snow and a “throw down” of chocolate-covered matzo. (I voted for the caramel and chocolate version.)



Are they discussing the four questions or the baseball season?

I raise my glass of Manischewitz and toast to Emma, Jake, and President Obama, who hosted the very first Passover seder in the White House this year. I hope next year he tries Emma’s soups.  



 Emma Joel’s Parsnip and Curry Soup


Serves 6


2 medium parsnips, sliced

1 medium onion, chopped

2 oz. butter or margarine

1 tsp. curry powder

1.2 litres chicken or veg stock

A little oil

2 tbls. flour (I used potato starch for Passover)

Salt and pepper to taste



Melt fat and oil together and fry parsnips and onions for 10 minutes. Add the curry powder and flour and stir in thoroughly. Add the stock slowly, stirring constantly, and bring to boil. Season to taste and simmer for 30 minutes. Liquidise when cool. Reheat to serve.


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