ABEL: Don’t just eliminate chametz at Pesach, banish loneliness too

By Rabbi Ariel Abel

PESACH on Merseyside nears, and the usual products fill supermarket shelves. But what of the people?

Does everyone have a place to go for seder night? Are we sure that everyone who needs an invitation will have one?

This year my venue for the festival will be Southport Hebrew Congregation.

I am proud of my association with that shul, one which was established through a son of the Princes Road congregation, Eric Moonman.

Merseyside Jewish Community Care arranges a seder at Rex Cohen Court.

Southport Jewry networks internally to ensure everyone somewhere to go for the seder. We look forward to welcoming Sand-grounders and Jews from as far afield as Manchester and North Wales who will come to re-enact the Exodus from Egypt with us.

I have fond memories of Pesach at the Southport kosher hotel at 111 Leyland Road — The Sharon.

At a tender age, Monica and Abe Savitz were synonymous with holidays. Those were the days when Lord Street, the Model Village, Miniature Railway and Aquarium by the endless sands catered as adequately as Marbella.

It mattered little that the Southport sun fought to warm us through fresh breeze air currents.

What mattered was that at the end of trainline from Victoria station was Uncle Tuvya (Freeman), a charming gentleman who shomered the hotel and later The Home until he passed away suddenly a few years ago.

For weeks at a stretch between holiday periods I would wait expectantly to receive my Shabbat copy of The Beano that dropped on the post mat with regularity, along with an accompanying letter from Uncle Tuvya.

Those were the days before swish hotels, hosting people who do not know each other arriving from anywhere and going back to their mutually respective unknowns.

Southport had its diehards and regulars, and personal and family friendships could emerge from an otherwise purely commercial solution to spending time off from home life and duties.

The relief afforded to individual residents or regular visitors at the Sharon Hotel was significant.

I remember clearly walking in to breakfast one morning and one older lady singing at the top of her voice the Yiddish favourite Geht der Goy in a Shenker arein.

I listen to Chazan Hershman’s masterly rendition of the same song and think of my childhood.

Intergenerationally, I learned a great deal from the family atmosphere at The Sharon.

One regular, known as ‘Grandpa’, presented me with a comb. I think he disapproved of my unruly mop, so I succumbed to the barber’s chair.

One summer, I thoroughly enjoyed myself pushing the trolley with delicious biscuits for high tea.

My ministrations that summer earned me a fiver when fivers were a lot of money.

Long gone are the joys of kosher hotels of northern seaside. Yet the treasured memories created through bringing the older and younger generations is what will ensure the survival of tradition.

Pesach means everything when the young attend the same table as the elderly and the stories, songs, questions and answers start to flow.

The above is not only a romanticised anecdotal history of childhood memories.

For me, it demonstrates the importance of #OpeningDoors, the Jewish Telegraph campaign supported by the Chief Rabbi to take on loneliness with comprehensive strategies to ensure that even once seder is over and out, the rest of the year will not prove intolerable for those who live on their own or in need of the relief and therapy of others’ company.

Chag Sameach veKasher — wishing all a joyous and kosher festival, remembering that kosher means not only to eliminate chametz, but to banish loneliness too.

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