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Soldiers at Seders: Passover During WWII

American servicemen and women celebrate Passover during World War II (Photo: wikicommons/American Jewish Historical Society)

Next week, Jewish people around the world will celebrate the biblical holiday of Passover. Passover seders (the meal commemorating the Israelites' Exodus from Egypt) have been held for thousands of years, all over the globe. Tablet's Marjorie Ingall provides this fascinating look at how the brave men and women who fought during World War II observed Passover:

“Lettuce au charoses.” “Kneidlach or borscht a la Sgt. Weinstein.” “Consommè [sic—the accent points the wrong way!] avec Knadlach.” “Palestine wine.” “Roast Beef Ala Yomtov.” “Iced Coca-Cola.”

These were some of the dishes enjoyed by Jewish members of the military at their Seders in both European and Pacific theaters of war 70 years ago. The American Jewish Historical Society at the Center for Jewish History has a file full of yellowing menus, programs, and homemade haggadot for these celebrations of freedom; they make fascinating reading, a lens through which to appreciate American Jews’ culinary and military past.

While researching a different story at the Center, I stumbled on this file and wound up so enthralled that I scrapped my original column idea to focus on this instead. Who were these American soldiers, noshing on matzo-ball soup in strange lands, sometimes near active fighting? Who organized these Seders? Who did the cooking? It was time to research...

Tags: History

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