April 8, 2023

Getting Ready for Passover the JGS Lifecare Way

Sharon Ritchie, Errol Johnson, and Reverend David Aminia, kasher the pots and pans

March Madness may be over, but it’s still a really busy time on our campus with all the Passover preparations. In fact, April Madness might be a better way to describe it! There is a great deal of planning involved probably, more than any other Jewish holiday. Fortunately, our dietary and life enrichment teams excel in holiday logistics, so it’s truly a labor of love.

This year, the eight days of Passover begin at sundown on April 5 and end at sundown on April 13. The holiday marks not only the arrival of springtime but it also celebrates liberation, which is why Passover is also called the “Festival of Our Freedom.”

On Passover, family and friends gather together for an elaborate feast known as the Seder. We will hold Seders on the first night of the holiday at both The Leavitt Family Jewish Home and at Ruth’s House, with residents, families, staff, and friends sharing stories, blessings, rituals, and a delicious meal.

“We are thrilled to celebrate with our residents, families and friends this year, for this sweet festival of Pesach,” said Rabbi Devorah Jacobson, Director of Spiritual Life at JGS Lifecare. “And we are grateful to our entire staff, especially our Dietary and Life Enrichment departments, who are so dedicated to making it an authentic experience. Our seders will, we know, be a rich, meaningful and multi-sensory celebration: of springtime and nature’s vibrant colors and sounds; of the Jewish origin story, that begins with Israelites as an enslaved people in the land of Egypt; of home, because God’s promise for us was a future of liberation. Like we do each year, we will eat unleavened bread, matzah, we will dip parsley into saltwater, we will mix charoset and bitter herbs, as we symbolically remember the grief and hardship our ancestors experienced during slavery and their constant hope for freedom. That hope continues today: the seder and the holiday in general remind us of the ongoing work and responsibility that we each possess, in every generation, to fight oppression and injustice wherever we find it.”

Preparing for Passover is quite extensive. “It takes a lot of planning and forethought,” remarked Sharon Ritchie, Director of Food Service at The Leavitt Family Jewish Home. “We have to place our orders for Passover foods in January. And then weeks before we begin to engage in a kind of spring cleaning, removing all leavened foods (known as “hametz”) from the households and cleaning everything that touches the food we serve. Days before, in our central kitchen, we power wash our prep areas and we turn our ovens on high for close to an hour to burn off any hametz. Reverend David Aminia, who overseas our Kashrut observance, comes in to supervise us as we dip all of our metal pots, pans and silverware into boiling water, followed by cool water, to remove and hametz. The two days before are especially hectic as we have to make sure to prep with only kosher for Passover products. Keeping in mind the 24/7 needs of our residents, we try very hard to create a seamless transition to the best of our ability.”

When asked about Passover foods that the resident especially like, Richie explained in detail. “Residents love our matzah stuffed chicken breast and our matzah ball soup,” exclaimed Sharon. “I always tell our cooks the secret to making light and fluffy matzah balls is that you have to love the matzah balls!” She also added a caveat to the recipe, “You can’t beat them into a pulp if you want them to be light and fluffy,” explained Richie. “My staff gets a kick out of that. And that’s really what we do here every day. We do it all with love!”

It’s a great deal of work for the team, but everyone agrees the end result is well worth it. Passover provides us with the opportunity to get together with family and friends and rejoice in holiday traditions. What could be better?