Monday, April 02, 2007

Twas the Night Before Pesach....

Sometimes things just seem to work out. About three years ago, having been amazed for years about the way Iris’ family threw itself into Passover preparations, I asked Aunt Peppy if I could video tape the process. At that time Peppy, her older sister Sophie, and my mother in law Rose (Peppy’s twin) were the three whirlwinds who worked over six weeks preparing all the food, and the tables for the Passover Seder. No small feat since the usual attendance was somewhere between 60 and a hundred. They made all their own food. There was NOTHING store bought. It was very old world, very much like “momma and poppa” did it in Brooklyn in the early part of the century when they began raising their family of seven sisters and a brother. In 2004, Jim Robinson and I, (he, another son in law, and photographer) spent the days leading up to Passover with video cameras in hand, trying to capture the sense of anticipation and work (yes, plucking 17 chickens IS work!). We’d hoped to produce a nice little family movie, something that in the future all the kids could look back at and see what the traditions of their family were. For so many of us there are vague memories of life in our early years, and maybe some of those memories are very strong. But it seemed to me that this was a great way to bridge the gap between generations in the family, and that we could provide a gift for the youngest members of the family.

Once our video editor Dick Swanson, a former LIFE photographer, and a guy who knows a ‘story’ when he sees it, started to piece bits of video together, we were amazed at what we had. It really seemed to be compelling. It was much more than a home movie. The project went through a second round of editing with Stephanie Daniels, a friend from Jersey City, who tweaked it here and there and really made a film out of it. We showed it around, and this winter found a sympathetic reaction at the biggest PBS station in the country, WNET, Channel 13, in New York. Tonight, the night before Passover, Channel 13 broadcast the film over the greater New York metro area. Far more than I can say are the reactions of people moved to write, on our website. I sort of joke about being the Director of a project following a family which cannot, let’s face it, be directed: The Dubroff family directs itself, and all the rest of us can do is try and keep up.

Here are a few comments from tonight. And yes, when you feel people reacting in such emotive, and genuine ways, you know that something, indeed, must have worked out. We’re just sayin… david burnett
Comments from

Thank You!
“Thank you for preserving our memories. Sadly, the traditions are fading away as we lose the generations of our parents and grandparents. How wonderful it was to hear the voices and see the expressions. It brought me back to a different time. I was so moved that I want to share my feelings with my grown sons so that they will understand their heritage better. I will be able to by giving them your DVD and Cookbook. Thank you again. ”
Judy • Connecticut

Adopt Me...please!

“Your wonderful show brought me to tears. Seeing all the love and togetherness made me miss my Mom, sister and brother who are gone now, but with me in spirit always. Who would have thought that watching sisters cook, kibbitz, argue and put together a meat grinder no less!! could be so entertaining. God Bless you for making this for all of us to share. I'm Irish through and through, but I'm getting that cookbook! I have to make that cholent!”
Joan • Middletown, NY

My husband cried

“My husband and I just watched this remarkable movie on television on and he cried! Both our mothers are gone and Passover is all about family - especially mothers! We wish we had that many people to invite to our home for Seder.

Judy Cohen • Staten Island, NY

Reminds me of my family

“I just caught the tail end of this on channel 13 here in NYC. The phrase "the cousins", from my parents' generation, was also a phrase I heard while growing up and into my early 30s. I too never thought it strange I know some of my second and third cousins, visiting (or, in this age, emailing) them on a somewhat regular basis. Our seders were rocking, but we never had more then 30 people (excluding the few of my grandparents' generation that were larger, but those ended sometime in the early 70s & I barely remember them).
With my parents' generation retiring or passing away, the larger seders are a thing of the past (though my wife and I got about 25 people from both sides of our families into our house a few years ago). However, sone traditions remain. One of my mother's first cousins moved down to DC decades ago, so we only saw them once a year, either at Passover or during summer. Sure enough, last summer, as tradition dictates, my family and I went down to visit my second cousins and our children, third cousins, had a wonderful time. We may not see each other as often as we like, but we're in each others' lives. ”
Mike • Manalapan, NJ


“The most beautiful, menschlich, humorous, goosebumping, somewhat salty from my tears, gorgeous documentary, THAT EVERYONE CAN AND SHOULD LEARN FROM, how to go trough life -- it brought vivid memories from my own family, my dearest Grandma Persida, (Bless Her Beautiful Soul) and my youth in Yugoslavia... THANK YOU, YOU THREE SCHOENE MAEDLE, THANK YOU VERY MUCH !
Yours, Vladimir K. :) ”
Vladimir • New York City

Thank you for making me part of your family!
“I am alone this Pesach. I was feeling sorry for myself, but after watching the show, I feel full and exhausted, just as if I was there. I still miss the old timers cooking and kibbitzing, but the show was the next best thing to being there. And now, I'm feeling a little peckish! I'll order the book and dvd. Again, thank you.
-Lev ”
Lev • Brooklyn!!!!!

South Florida

“I was born in Newburgh and lived there my whole like until three years ago. Of course I know all the Newburg Dubroffs. My mom and Peppy were good friends. Unfortunately our local PBS station doesn't seem to be showing "The Gefilte Fish Chronicles." I hope they'll change their mind. ”
Beverly (Buz) Neumetzger • Boca Raton, FL


Anonymous said...

Now that's success.

Anonymous said...

The program was delightful, yet with all those people quite confusing. I would have appreciated names appearing on screen for the various daughters, grandchildren, cousins, in-laws, spouses along with their connection to the family. Great family!

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