Explore what the festival of Passover looks like for different Jewish communities around the globe.
Symbolically acting out the exodus is a common tradition as part of Passover, but Jewish communities in Syria take the tradition one step further by placing some matzah in something like a pillowcase and throwing it over their shoulders. This is followed by a reading from the Torah about leaving the desert in haste.
In Uganda, Passover is a particularly special time for the country’s Jewish community, called Abayudaya. Between 1971 and 1979, under the rule of Idi Amin Dada, it was illegal to be Jewish in Uganda. This restriction came to an end just before Passover in 1979 when Ugandan rebels and Tanzanian troops formed a new government and declared religious freedom. Now each
year Passover is met with particular joy by the Abayudaya, who might share a few cups of 80% proof banana wine to celebrate.
Romanian tradition is as active as that of Syria. When the recitation discusses Jew being slaves of the Pharoah in Egypt, heavy objects are placed in a pillowcase, and each person at the Seder will take a turn slinging the pillowcase over their back and carrying it around the Seder table.
The Sephardi community of Iran has a visceral tradition for when it’s time to sing Dayenu. Sephardi Jews invoke images of the enslaved Israelites being whipped by throwing large, long vegetables such as green onions or scallions at each other.
A common theme in many of these traditions is the acting out of a portion of the Passover story. In Góra Kalwaria in Poland, families act out the parting and subsequent crossing of the ocean, with some even pouring water on the floor for maximum authenticity!
In addition to the traditional cup of wine reserved for Elijah at the Seder, in India families also leave another cup in reserve called the Pharoah’s cup. The Pharoah’s cup is also placed on the Seder table, and a bit of wine is poured from that cup into every other cup, symbolically diminishing the power and cold-heartedness of the Pharoah.
Charoset, a chunky mixture of fruits and nuts made to symbolise the mortar used by the Jews while enslaved in Egypt, is a Passover staple. In Gibraltar, Jewish families take this symbolism one step further by adding actual brick dust to the recipe. As only a little of the dust is added each year to keep the mixture (probably!) safe to eat, one brick can last through countless generations.
Egg is an important part of every Passover, but it is more so for the Adeni community of Yemen. Historically in Yemen, egg has been the main, or sometimes only, component of the Seder meal. These days, the Adenim have more substantial meals, but some families still opt for eggs in a variety of forms. Also, instead of a Seder plate, the Adenim place items directly on the table or in small bowls in front of each person.