A few years ago, it was the family’s dog, not the children who found the missing piece of matzo during the Schonfeld family Passover.
“The baby was little, still in an infant seat, and my husband covered [the matzo] with a little baby blanket,” said Joan Schonfeld.
“He put it in there thinking that would be a perfectly safe place to hide it. But he goes over there, he looks and there’s nothing there. So the dog enjoyed her treat.”
The hidden piece of matzo, dubbed the afikomen, becomes a game for Jewish children who search for the piece of unleavened bread to be used as dessert to the Passover meal.
This year when Passover begins at sundown Friday, Schonfeld’s husband will find a better hiding place as the Forsyth County couple welcomes their two children and spouses, grandchildren and friends for their Seder, or traditional Passover meal.
“That’s probably the most important thing is being able to tell the stories of the past to future generations,” Schonfeld said. “We remember back to the days when we were enslaved in Egypt, so it keeps the stories going and it keeps the traditions alive and it keeps Judaism alive.”
The Schonfelds are one of many Jewish families in Forsyth who will be celebrating Passover. The eight-day holiday honors their ancestors’ exodus from slavery in Egypt.
During Passover, Jewish families forego bread and yeast products and eat only matzo, or unleavened bread, to represent the Hebrew exodus, when there was no time to properly bake bread.
A Seder is held the first two nights, when families and friends read the story of the Hebrews’ plight in a book called the Hagaddah.
The book tells the story of God inflicting 10 plagues on the Egyptians, ranging from locusts to darkness, to convince them to free the Jews.
To be spared from the plagues, Jewish families marked their doors with the blood of a lamb, so the final plague — death of each family’s first-born child — would “pass over” their homes.
Like the Schonfelds, Stan Abes and wife Myrna will celebrate the first night at their Forsyth home, hosting a Seder for their son, daughter-in-law and two grandsons.
“It’s good to get together as a family as often as possible and this gives us a reason to do that,” he said. “It’s a joyous holiday and we get to eat lots of good food.
“We look forward to our annual brisket.”
While the Jewish diet is limited around Passover, it’s still a holiday surrounded by food and symbolism used to represent the plight from Egypt, explained Schonfeld.
There are eggs and saltwater, symbolizing life and tears. Bitter herbs, symbolizing the harshness of slavery and charoset, a mixture of apples, nuts, wine and spices to symbolize the mortar used to build.
“That’s a delicious concoction,” Schonfeld said. “There’s a lot of tradition that goes along with food to connect to the past, and all of that is brought forth in songs.”
In addition to the symbolic food on the Seder table, Schonfeld said her family will also eat homemade gefilte fish, matzo ball soup and brisket, among other Passover staples.
This is the first Seder in years that the Schonfelds will be joined by their son, a soldier stationed in Kansas.
“It’ll be a houseful,” Schonfeld said.
For the second night’s Seder, the Abes will be at a friend’s house with 16 other people. The holiday is an important one in the religion, and even moreso to pass onto future generations, Stan Abes said.
“My grandsons … they’re teenagers, but each year, they learn a little bit more,” he said. “For them to participate is to never forget their heritage.”