2010 Passover in Bangkok
15 Nisan 5770
Dear Family and Friends,
My best wishes to you and your family for a sweet and joyful Passover.
I will be attending two Seders here in Bangkok. The first night there will be a gathering at The Davis Hotel - 100-150 participants. The second night will be at the Shul - Beth Elisheva. Rabbi Kantor is an enthusiastic and brilliant religious leader. I am looking forward to both events where the Four Questions will be chanted in Hebrew, Yiddish (the Rabbi is a Chasid) and Thai (several members are married to Thai women).
Indeed there are two other Seders in Bangkok. One is in the Backpacker area and will be attended by hundreds of mostly young Israeli's. The other is at the Shangri La Hotel.
And there are Seders in other Thai cities as well: Pattaya, Phuket, Ko Samui and Chiang Mai. I thought about traveling up to Chiang Mai, but I decided to stay here and celebrate with my local friends: Harry from Afghanistan, Gary from South Africa, Didier from France, Bennett from Honolulu, Dan from Philadelphia, Nahum from Brooklyn, Bill from Staten Island, et.al.
And so, my dear non-local friends, I wish you and your family a Happy Passover, wherever you will celebrate.
Finally, apropos of Passover, may I recommend a powerful novel by Geraldine Brooks called "The People of the Book" - the story and the history of the "famed Sarajevo Haggadah."
לשנה הבאה בירושלים
Responses to Passover Letter
29 March 2010
As I scarf down the last leavened morsels of my chumetz, I would like to share with you some of the responses to my Passover greeting from friends around the world:
From Jeff Z in New York:
Best wishes to you for Passover, as well. Is there Matzoh in Bangkok and if so is it made locally or imported?
From Brooklyn-born Joe S who is visiting his girlfriend in China.
Lulu and I have been invited to a Seder here in Kunming. Hag sameach!
From Phyllis O in White Plains, New York ...a retired NYC high school history teacher. Phyllis sent me a homework assignment:
I too loved reading "People of the Book."
I am in Passover mode--lusting for matzo and still cooking. It's actually a time travel adventure reading old recipes but now having to adjust them to make them gluten free (eliminating ingredients such as matzo meal) for both daughters.
What appears on a Seder table in Bangkok?
Do they use the Maxwell House Haggadah?
Do they pray into the night?
Do they adjust the Seder to keep children involved?
I wonder if your friends who come from so many places in the world did things the same or differently?
Do Jews divide themselves into Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, Modern Orthodox?
In temple, synagogue, shul do they use Ashkenazim or Sephardi Hebrew music?
Anyway, thanks for your good wishes and again enjoy the holiday.
From Elaine A in Boston:
Reading of your observances in Bangkok always reminds me of my days in Japan.
No, we didn't hear the Four Questions in Japanese but I do remember sitting amongst more than 100 people every year with Haggadahs in more languages than I could count.
One year I was introduced to someone from Boston. I kept asking where she was really from and she kept refusing to tell me. Finally, I got her to say Chelsea. I said that I also was from Chelsea and we realized we were in kindergarten together. I love these small world stories!
Barbara in New York was not at all embarrassed to write:
I wish you the same joyful experience I expect to have with family and friends. I love my Jewish heritage even though I never was nor am I now very religious.
By the way, how does לשנה הבאה בירושלים
translate into English?
Ken and Sandy M wrote from New York:
WOW a typewriter that types in Hebrew!
S and K
From Agnes V. in Connecticut:
Thank you for your good wishes for Pesach. I will have a Seder at my daughter and another one at a temple in Greenwich, for singles. Wishing you a zissen Pesach.
From Joe F in Los Angeles:
Happy Passover.........It's a little nostalgic, seeing the names of some people I met and know, like Gary. I guess I miss Thailand
From Hal P on Long Island:
Happy Passover. By tomorrow night, I'll have attended more Seders than I have in the previous twenty years. The first -- yes, I am in my second childhood -- was for three-year-olds at my grandson's nursery school. Quite charming and tasteful for an old shaygetz like me.
Tomorrow night, because of scheduling conflicts we're jumping the gun at my younger son's. He's married to a girl who is somewhat observant.
From Joanne A in Boston:
Amazing -- all over the world Jews will be sharing Seders and drowning in the pain of moror.
From Sarina Snow in New York:
All I can say Jan is that you bring life and color into our world. Have a wonderful, enriched Pesach. Ours won’t be the experience you are having but it will be traditional with a little mixture of Sephardim and Glitz! All our children and most of our grandchildren will be here and I have been preparing for days.
From Paul G in Chicago
It's a holiday week and at my house, as usual, Marie and I will share our religious upbringings by observing Boston or the Cayman Islands. Then Good Friday and Easter Sunday weekend with many of the same people. The shared religious approach has worked well for us and having children and grandchildren join in both has not proven to be a problem.with twenty-one family and friends - a few missing either in
Marie does great brisket, kugel and mandelbrot. We argue about the best cut of lamb for- I am a butcher's grandson, after all!
At this holiday season, we have many stories to tell about family, and experiences as well as hopes fulfilled.
On behalf of my family I send best wishes for the holiday and wish you happiness, good health, and peace of mind. I hope your stories will bring a smile to your lips and your heart.
From Janet S in New York:
A "Zissen Pesach" to you, too. Hope all is well on your side of the world. Do they celebrate in the Sphardic or Askenazy manner? Is either way a part of your upbringing? ENJOY!!
From a Friend in New York:
No one asked about the dishes.
The highlight of our Pesach celebration was when we took out the barrels from the basement. Those barrels housed my grandmother's Passover dishes. They only saw the light of day for that holiday.
How do they treat the changing of the dishes in Bangkok?
My Friends, to answer your questions:
The round matzo is imported from Israel. It has the consistency of your basic cardboard shirt insert and the flavor of matzo that was baked during the Exodus itself.
(Please, please, would somebody, anybody please Fedex me a box of Horowitz Egg Matzo and a cannister of Manischewitz Caffè Macchiato Macaroons?)
Rabbi Kantor, the father of eight, is a Chasid trained in the Lubavitcher tradition: long beard, black hat, black coat, the works.
The food is mostly from the "gives a little heartburn" Eastern European slightly overcooked recipe book, but the menu is augmented with oily Mediterranean and spicy Southeast Asian items, with local exotic fruit (banana, pineapple, watermelon) and Israeli chopped vegetable salads of eggplant, cole slaw and potato salad.
I assume the steel silverware is boiled and is Kosher for Passover. The dishes are all plastic.
(I am reminded of a strory I heard in Miami from my friend Barbara who is from Jamaica. She always wondered why her white Israel-born grandmother served meals on banana leaves every year in the spring.)
Shabbat services follow the Ashkenazim mode, so I can follow along, usually. And for Passover, the Haggadah is the Haggadah. The Rabbi always has an appropriate joke/story and the frequent brilliant insight.
And oy gevalt, the Hebrew accents and pronunciation: from Haifa to Highbridge, from Beersheva to Boro Park! ("You say 'Toyraht emmet" and I say 'Tohras emmes.'"
From Eddie G in Montreal :
It's so heartwarming to join hands with Jews all over the world to celebrate our common heritage.
Chag Sameach to you!!
Chag Sameach to all!
"Next Year in Jerusalem"