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Day 59: My Day with a Rabbi in Rome

Day 59: MaltEaster Madness

Day 59: My MaltEaster Sparked This Memory

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You know it’s a good day when you fail to write a blog post because you honestly have too many ideas of what to share. I couldn’t choose last night which topic to go with, so instead I waited until this morning in Australia to get my day 59 post up, and yes, it does somewhat have to do with my daily photo.

So, they have these malt ball type candies in Australia called Malteasers, and with Easter on its way, they have made something called a Malteaster (clever, eh?). These little chocolate bunnies are probably my new favorite things in the realm of chocolate snacks because they are filled with both creamy malt filling plus little crunchy malt bits. So freaking delicious.

And that brought me to possible blog topics on Easter during my travels.

During my Italy study abroad in 2004, I ended up spending Easter in Rome, but that wasn’t what made that week special. What really made it special was celebrating a Passover Seder with my new Jewish study abroad friends. That was an experience I will never forget because I never really knew much about Jewish traditions before then.

Plus, I got to hang out with a totally awesome Rabbi at his Rome apartment for the day as we ate stuff that made my nose burn and sang songs in Hebrew.

How I Ended Up at a Seder

At least 20-25% of the study abroad group I went with was Jewish, and it came to my attention that some of them actually expected me to be Jewish as well when they saw my last name. Schoenman (formerly Schoenmann) is a German name, with a meaning of “pretty man”, but since it ended in “man”, some quickly assumed German Jewish. It sort of became a running joke in the group for the entire semester.

What better way to end the experience together than to attend the seder? Besides giving me something to do as a group, it also gave me a unique insight to another culture.

The Seder Activities

So, I went to the Rabbi’s house to hang with him and maybe 20 other travelers that just happened to be in Rome at this time. I didn’t say much because I didn’t know if he knew I wasn’t Jewish… plus I didn’t know what to do.

It was so long ago now that I barely remember all that occurred, but a few key points have remained in my mind.

You eat lots of it — in a lettuce leaf and sandwiched between matzah crackers. My nose burned like it had never burned before; my eyes watered. I looked over at the rabbi and he was eating it like it was no thing, actually preparing it much like a giant taco and munching down!

Horseradish is the bitter herbs part of the seder plate, and it is supposed to symbolize the harshness involved with slavery. Everything eaten at the event has a special meaning, and it is always done in a certain order.

Singing in Hebrew
The singing part of the day was the most awkward, yet most enjoyable, for me. I can’t read Hebrew — even that transcribed into a Roman alphabet — and I had never heard the songs before. I will be honest that I was sort of hoping for some “dreidel” song action that I could really get into, but… alas…

I tried my best though, to follow along and join in. The songs were really catchy, so I wanted to sing!

Looking Back Now

I wish I had taken photos, and I wish I had paid closer attention to the tradition and what it all meant. It was a lot for me to take in at once, but it definitely made a unique memory for my study abroad travels. Yay for cultural exploration!


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2 Responses to Day 59: My Day with a Rabbi in Rome

  1. Bethany March 2, 2011 at 5:21 am #

    Cool story Brooke. It’s those little road stories that make travel so great! I’m happy you’re having a good day too !

    • Brooke March 2, 2011 at 4:15 pm #

      Definitely a unique memory I’ll never forget! 🙂

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