Keeping Passover was once risky for the senior citizens who boarded a bus from the Bronx to the Five Towns last week.
Now, it’s a celebration of ancient and contemporary freedom.
In their Soviet homelands, where baking matzah and making a seder were underground activities under Communism, the émigrés who last week wandered the aisles of Gourmet Glatt in Cedarhurst, L.I., used to be unable to experience an authentic yom tov.
This year, anonymous donors paid for a pre-Pesach shopping spree at the kosher supermarket (which offered discounts on its holiday items), while other donors paid for the bus ride from Pelham Parkway. Meanwhile, a few dozen girls from the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach served as volunteer escorts, other volunteers who brought the purchases to Pelham Parkway the next day. The team effort enabled 100 onetime residents of the USSR to fill their carts with traditional Passover foods.
“Matzah. Meat and fish. They love lox,” says Rabbi Moshe Fuchs, spiritual leader of Congregation Sons of Israel. Fuch’s Pelham Parkway synagogue coordinates the shopping spree each year with the support of the Bronx Jewish Community Council and provides seniors with Shabbat meals through the Freda Walzman Tomchei Shabbos program.
For the seniors, the opportunity to prepare for their own seders was emotional, the rabbi says. “A lot of them were crying at the end. They told me, ‘In Russia, we could not keep Pesach. Here, people help us.’”