Observing Passover: Loss and Continuity


Jillian  Gould (Memorial University of Newfoundland)

This paper examines how loss (large-scale/ historic, and small-scale/personal), and continuity shape holiday practice among non-orthodox Jews. Using song, personal experience narrative, and autoethnography, I discuss how people manage and acknowledge loss through custom, ritual, and creativity (Zeitlin and Harlow 2001). Firstly, a close look at “And We Sang Ha Lakhma Anya,” (2007) by folklorist/ singer-songwriter Shelley Posen. This piece highlights the customs and rituals at his family’s Passover seders over time. Next, I examine contemporary narratives of Passover seders, and finally, I use an autoethnographic lens to explores my own Passover customs over time. With Passover as a focus, this paper includes the large-scale theme of loss that shapes the holiday narrative, as well the small-scale personal loss that informs my own approach to the holiday. These Passover narratives speak not only to Jews, but also are a springboard to discuss universal themes of loss and continuity in family and ethnic folklore.

Part of 22-01 New Approaches to Jewish Folklore and Ethnology, Tuesday, October 19, 11:15 am–12:45 pm