Beyond the Four Questions and Chad Gadya, every family brings to the table something special and uniquely theirs for Passover. It could be a cherished family recipe, a song that never fails to make everyone laugh, that old Maxwell House Haggadah, the seder plate the kids made years ago in Sunday School, the way to expand the table or hide the Afikomen.

What makes your Seder night different from all other nights?  We asked a few friends of Federation how their favorite Passover traditions are made. Read on and if you care to share, join the discussion now on our Facebook page.

A cherished family relic, hand-built in Sunday school, circa 1995
A cherished family relic, hand-built in Sunday school, circa 1985.


At our table, we make sure to have many varieties of matzo for any dietary need and taste preference. We always include whole wheat matzoh that is higher in dietary fiber, organic matzo from Aviv and gluten-free matzo from Yehuda. We love, love, love coconut – so naturally, macaroons are a Passover favorite. — Stacy Goldberg,  Savorfull

Friendly fire in the kitchen

My dear friend, Tammy Betel, loves to cook for the holidays. She takes on most of the menu with her killer chicken soup, her amazing brisket, some of the sides and desserts, too. She invites guests to fill in with homemade dishes of their own. One recipe I suggested last year got some pushback.

I admit it, we have this competition going in the kitchen. We both have winners. But bring up the subject of chopped liver, and watch out!

Last Passover, I offered to bring chopped liver, which I always make with chicken livers, the way I learned from Flora, my “second mom” in Dallas, who gave me a meat grinder 29 years ago as a wedding shower present just so I can keep up the tradition. Tammy, however, prefers making hers with beef liver. Hence, the conflict: “smooth and creamy vs. dry and crumbly.” She tells me it’s OK to bring mine to her seder, but she’s still making hers, too. So, not to rile the hostess, I bring something neutral like roasted veggies.

This year, with no intention whatsoever of bringing chopped liver, I broach the subject again with Tammy, just to see her cringe. Fact is, I’ll make my version for the second seder at my house. She’ll bring her leftover chopped liver so she has some to eat. Fine by me.

It’s a good thing Tammy and I love each other, but don’t get us started on whose apple cake is better. — Keri Guten Cohen,  Detroit Jewish News

What do you get when you cross a matzo with a macaroon? Chocolate coconut Matzo Crack. Addictive! Recipe on Food52.
What do you get when you cross a matzo with a macaroon? Chocolate Coconut Matzo Crack. Addictive! See editor’s recipe on

Passover wine cake

It’s a Fleischman Residence tradition – a must-have for dessert at the two seders to be held the first and second nights of Passover.  The recipe comes from Fleischman Residence/Blumberg Plaza cookbook – From Our Mother’s Table, thanks to Barbara Giles’ Grandma, Syl Tunick. — Beth Tryon, Jewish Senior Life

Follow the leader

Passover is my favorite holiday. In large part because of Barry V. Levine, my father-in-law and a true educator at heart.  Every year, he neatly arranges his stacks of papers on a TV tray next to the Seder table. Periodically, he’ll pause in his flawless and musical recitation to read a short article he found that relates to the Passover story – usually something that sparks a spirited debate. Or, he will pass around a piece he’s written and have us take turns reading stanzas aloud.  My favorite is his poem “The Ten Plagues:  What Really Happened” which makes everyone smile.  It starts off: “With some blood, and some frogs, and some vermin, G-D made bad old Pharoah start squirmin’ Jennifer Levine, Women’s Philanthropy

Matzo balls just like Bubbe’s

My maternal grandmother, and later my mother, used a recipe for Passover matzo balls which I have had difficulty finding since they passed on. The balls were hard and crispy on the outside, so I believe they were first formed and partially cooked in boiling water, then removed from the water, placed on a greased pan, brushed with oil and then baked. The result was sort of a cross between a matzo ball and a Passover muffin.  Any recipes out there? Allan Gale, Jewish Community Relations Council

Remembering the Plagues

In the Yaker family, grandchildren range from age 22 to 5 (ten boys and one girl). Our seder is one of the few times a year all of the children are together in the same place!  My mother-in-law, Elaine, brings out her box of plagues and everyone chooses their plague to hold up. All of the kids have blindfolds with their names on it (for darkness) and all the kids of all ages spend a few minutes playing at the table together.   Julie Yaker, Federation’s JBaby

What's the big tzimmes? A Passover favorite. Recipe in Food52.  A Community Pick!
What’s the big tzimmes? A Passover favorite. Editor’s recipe on A Community Pick!

Remembering the words

Best memory: at the end of the Milgrom Family Seder, my grandfather, Meyer Cooper (of blessed memory) would lead my Dad, aunt and uncle in a rousing rendition of Had Gadya in Yiddish! Since no one had a song sheet, or knew the words in Yiddish, the four of them would go through the song and each correct each other on what came next. Every year we’d say “we have to write it down” but alas, it never happened. Now that my grandfather and aunt have passed away, and my dad and uncle are getting older – the singing is getting to be a bit of a memory. Like “Next year in Jerusalem” – “We have to write it down” has become a Milgrom mantra. Marianne Bloomberg, Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy

Don’t forget the fish!

A favorite memory of Seder in my house growing up: my mother made Gefilte Fish from scratch everyone wanted some (even those people that normally won’t eat fish.) A new seder tradition now with my in-laws: individual Seder Plates, set at each place. Estie Gomez, Jewish Federation

gefilte fish-img_9859-1
Oy, gefilte fish! Made from memories of Mom’s kitchen. Editor’s recipe on

Elijah, was that you?

One year we opened the door for Elijah the Prophet and our cat walked in (like royalty no less). It was so funny. I think we mention it every year Amy Newman, Federation’s Alliance for Jewish Education

Adopting families in the D

We’re from Ohio. If we can’t get back to Cleveland to be with family, then we stay in the D.  Since we don’t have family here, we invite friends over and “adopt” families for our seder.   Best memory: my great-grandmother’s wood bowl and chopper was the only bowl we used to make Charoset every Passover. Done by hand each year, growing up, it was my job to make it while singing the Charoset song. My kids and I now make it together, while singing that song. Lisa Soble Siegmann, Federation’s Alliance for Jewish Education

Haggadah still life-2134
Starting new traditions: New American Haggadah by Jonathan Safran Foer and Nathan Englander

As it is written

The first is that my husband’s family uses the Maxwell House Haggadah and every year, with nearly 30 people at the table, everyone strategically ensures that my sister-in-law has to read the following line:“The mountains skipped like rams, The hills like lambs. What ails thee, O sea, that thou didst flee.” As she attempts to get through it, we all laugh! Megan Topper, Federation’s NEXTGen

And really as it is written

There are so many distractions in our daily lives. Being instructed by the Torah to observe one night every year in order to transmit to our children the story of our Exodus from Egypt for the purpose of going to Mt. Sinai to accept the Torah is very meaningful. This once-a-year mitzvah serves an essential role in preserving our Jewish identity. — Yehuda Amsel, Yeshivas Darchei Torah