The Arbor Vitae 2013

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Jean's Blog (Check out links to Guest Blogs in lefthand Column)

Exodus of Cairo's Jewish daughters

April 10, 2012

I was raised in a beautiful mansion on the banks of the Nile, in a multi-cultural multi-lingual Sephardic Italian Jewish family in Egypt: a Middle Eastern family, where men rose to prominence by their acts in a larger world, while women ran households, managed a large staff, volunteered their services to Jewish charities, and gained their reputations from their family backgrounds, skills at needlework and music, as cooks, and hostesses, and their elegance at all times.

My father was a mild man. He was gregarious and funny, a lover of literature and music that fate had pushed into finance. He left much of the parenting to my mother, whose fiery red hair was matched by an engaged and passionate nature. (more…)

The last Seder in Egypt

April 10, 2012

Tags: Passover, Egypt, Seder, Nile

SEDER NIGHT in Egypt, 1957

The preparations for Passover went on for days as they had done for years in our large echoing house in Cairo. Carpets were marched out to the lawn outside the dining room window and beaten with flat bamboo beaters to eliminate the last crumb. My aunt Helen wielded her cane and her stentorian tones, berated the butcher, raided the store cupboard to make our traditional family haroseth, pounding nuts relentlessly into powder with mortar and pestle. We scoured our upstairs nursery rooms, emptying every closet, dusting every book and toy, knowing our rooms would have to pass our mother's eagle-eyed inspection. (more…)

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