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Erev Pesach in Uzhgorod

Wednesday, 4 April, 2012 - 11:39 pm

 Last week, I wrote about Erev Pesach 2008. Today, I’d like to go back another 10 years to the same day. It was one of the most influential days of my life.

That Erev Pesach, I was crying my heart out in a hotel suite in Uzhgorod, Ukraine. We were 19 years old when my friend, Mendy, and I accepted the mandate to lead Pesach in that city. It was the first public seder there after over 50 years of communism. 

The days before the seder went extremely well. We got great publicity from the local media and we were able to reach out to hundreds of Jewish homes in the city. The feedback was amazing. We were expecting no less than 200 people to come to the seder in the main hall of a big hotel (that cost $40 for the evening..). 

We called the Chabad Rabbi of Western Ukraine to report of our plans. He was very excited and he informed us that a truckload of Pesach supplies would make its way to us at least 24 hours before the event. 

The night before the seder, we invited some twenty teens in the community for a “chametz hunt,” as well as to help us in starting the preparation of foods, etc. We had a great evening, but no truck arrived. We apologised and promised the boys and girls that we would contact them as soon as we heard anything. 

That night, Mendy and I didn’t sleep much. We ran to the window every few minutes, with every passing headlight bringing hope of a delivery... 

I won’t take you through the nerve-racking hours of the morning and early afternoon. It was perhaps the longest day of my life... How would we show our faces to people? They were coming in from the whole city to a great Pesach seder and we had nothing to serve, not even matzah! Just the thought was embarrassing beyond description. 

Throughout these hours, we were on the phone with Rabbi Wilhelm, who wasn’t able to do much besides offer some words of hope and encouragement. 

Two hours before the event, we watched the first guests arrive from the window of our hotel room. They were dressed in their finest clothes, the elderly wearing military medals, and the room was set beautifully, but we had no food to offer. 

I called Rabbi Willhelm and said, “OK. It’s time for plan B. What do we do with two hundred guests tonight with not even the basic needs for a Pesach Seder?” 

“Listen” he said, “You have been very proud of yourself, and for a good reason. You did a lot in a short visit. I believe that the moment you feel hopeless and turn your eyes to heaven, realizing that you are powerless, then it will be the right time for G-d’s salvation.” 

I hung up the phone with tears in my eyes, in total despair. Suddenly, I heard my friend, Mendy, screaming from the other end of the room: “It’s here!” 

This story came to an amazing closure in Victoria, but I will leave the rest of the story for, G-d willing, next week.

Comments on: Erev Pesach in Uzhgorod

Inna wrote...

We must believe in miracles wholeheartedly and they WILL happen.
Let us all believe with perfect faith in truth, goodness and peace for all AM ISRAEL.

Dindaariny wrote...

Cheryl, Rolly, Diane, Risa, Barb, Rowena, Christie sorry it took me a while to respond to your cmnoemts, I haven't checked back with this post in a while. Thank you so much for all your supportive words! This journey has been the most fulfilling of my life so far, I am truly enjoying being part of the Tribe. Rowena, even though you don't connect with the spiritual side of Judaism, I do hope you have a chance to explore some of the cultural traditions. Cooking is one part of it, so it sounds like you've already started with your MIL's kugel! Judaism is a cultural heritage in addition to being a spiritual belief system. Like Diane's comment above illustrates, we can embrace certain parts of that historical heritage whether or not we are religious. I have found celebrating those cultural traditions (like Shabbat dinner) to be a wonderful way of enriching our family life and celebrating our diversity.Either way, I'm happy you've found the site and hope you are enjoying the recipes!

Pascal wrote...

Hi Shiksa,I plan to try your Moroccan fish this weekend. I am Israeli Ashkenazi, but my niece Merav, who is Moroccan mixed, makes a versoin of this dish whenever we Ashkenazis have Gefilte Fish (sweet).As for the spices, I own a food manufacturing company, and we buy tons (literaly) of spices, including paprika. According to ASTA (the American Spice Trade Association), paprika is only described by its color (in units called ASTA), and country of origin, such as Hungary or Spain. There is no modifier such as sweet or hot . Also, if you want to enhance the appearance of paprika, add some oil to it and blend. As for what Israelis call hot paprika , it's the same as hot pepper or cayenne pepper , registering heat (or spiciness) measured in Heat Units (HU), ranging between 20,000 to 40,000.Shabbat Shalom