Pesach past illuminates the present

Pesach past illuminates the present

Children's Haggadah kindles memories - and still has a place at the seder


When she was very young, Marion Raindorf – then Marion Kahn, living in Offenbach am Main, Germany – got a special present from her parents.

“I was about 4,” said Raindorf, remembering her pleasure at receiving the gift in 1934.

“Die Haggadah des Kindes” (“The Children’s Haggadah”) – a Haggadah with moving parts published in Germany in 1933 – is still with her, having graced the Pesach table not only of her family in Germany but of her two children and three grandchildren in the United States.

Marion Raindorf in Offenbach on her first day in

“It still has a special place in my heart,” said Raindorf, noting that the now-fragile book “was always on the seder table.”

Raindorf and her parents came to the United States in October 1938, one month before Kristallnacht. She recalls that while the Nazis were already burning many synagogues, “our synagogue was so beautiful that [the Nazis] never burned it down. They turned it into a theater.”

A longtime Jewish Standard employee who moved from Fair Lawn to Medford last month, she has equally vivid memories of using the Haggadah as a child.

“I remember the rasha [evil son],” she said, explaining that the Haggadah, translated into German by Dr. A.M. Silbermann, was memorably illustrated by Erwin Singer and had movable parts. “[The rasha] looked like a Hitler youth. He had blond hair and I thought he looked like a Nazi.”

She also remembers thinking that the 10 plagues “looked cruel. I shied away from them. The Nile [colored red] looked like blood.”

Raindorf said that the book allows the user to “pull out” Moses from behind a bush and “pull down” the Red Sea.

In the section on finding the afikomen, “you pulled down slightly under the table” and the panel revealed a boy holding up a piece of matzoh.

Several years ago, a book featured in a Jewish Standard article on innovative Haggadahs caught Raindorf’s eye.

“It was my Haggadah,” she said. While “I had never seen a Haggadah like it,” she said, she learned from the article that the work had subsequently been translated into a variety of languages, including English.

Marion recalls her father leading seders at her parents’ home in Germany. While the family was not observant (her father, she said, was angry at God after the rise of Hitler), “we never missed a holiday when it came to eating.”

Round matzohs were delivered to the home “in a great big brown package, like a roll, as high as a desk.”

Marion Raindorf in 2004.

She explained that her family would stand the package up “like a rolled carpet” and eat the pile down, matzoh by matzoh.

“It was wonderful matzoh,” she remembered, adding that she never saw gefilte fish until she came to the United States. “It’s Eastern European,” she pointed out. In its place, her mother made cold carp, sweet and sour, in jelly. In addition, the family enjoyed chicken soup and matzoh balls. “My mother also made macaroons,” she said, “using only ground almonds, meringue, and vanilla.”

Raindorf said that despite the gathering storm for Jews in Germany, she had “good memories.”

“We were a cohesive community,” she said. “We weren’t allowed to go to public school so the synagogue started its own day school. It was a cloistered life.”

Still, she said, “I never missed public school. When there are ‘fellow sufferers,’ it makes things easier.”

She said she had the same feeling when her family came to the United States. “We had no money but it was not that horrible,” she said, adding that “Washington Heights was full of German refugees.”

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