For the past 50 years Jack Zedeck and his wife Lorraine have spent the day before Passover meticulously cleaning their home, especially the kitchen and dining room, as part of a centuries-old tradition to prepare for the Jewish holy days.
They must remove even the tiniest trace of any leavened products such as bread crumbs to have the home properly prepared for the weeklong commemoration of the Jews' historic exodus from slavery in Egypt. The Jews fled suddenly, even taking bread that had not been leavened, or risen. Thus, Jews now need to clean their houses of all leavened products, which can range from bread to spaghetti.
"Sometimes we bring in someone to help" to ensure the house is spotless, said Zedeck, an Islip resident.
Passover begins Monday at sunset, meaning observant Jews have Sunday and Monday to get their homes ready. Some start as early as a month back.
Rabbi Leslie Schotz of the Bay Shore Jewish Center said Passover is a major Jewish holiday in which the faithful share a message of freedom, defiance, hope and renewal. "We were once slaves, and now we are free," she said.
One highlight of the Passover season will be special festive dinners called seders that Jews will hold Monday night and in some cases Tuesday night. The seders will include unleavened matzo and bitter herbs representing the bitterness of bondage. Children will ask four traditional questions about the events that took place 3,300 years ago, and their parents will answer, retelling the Exodus story as they read from a book called the Haggadah.
To do their cleaning, the Zedecks use a special tool to dust in the most remote of corners. They also pull out special set of plates and silverware that they use each year only for the seder.
"We do a complete turnover," Jack Zedeck said. "It's part of our tradition."
He and his wife invited about 15 to 20 people to the seder dinner Monday night, including friends and relatives.
Some Jewish communities such as Woodmere hold burnings on Monday, where people can destroy their leavened products. Woodmere's is 6:45 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. Monday at the Woodmere Volunteer Fire Department.