Passover 2024: “Children are the stars of the show” 

Optometrists tell OT  how sharing stories during Passover helps to transfer traditions from one generation to the next

A family sit down for a meal together. A man and boy sit on one side of the table wearing brimless caps. On the other side, a woman has her arm around a girl who is reading from a book with a white cover and the star of David printed in blue. 

At the end of April, Jewish communities across the UK recognised Passover – an eight-day festival that commemorates the freedom of Jewish people from slavery. This year, Passover took place between 22 April and 30 April.

Around 250 UK optometrists and dispensing opticians identify as Jewish, according to the latest General Optical Council data.

OT spoke with UK optical professionals about their experiences during Passover – and what the festival means to them.

My Passover

Optometrist Ariella Mirvis on connecting with the past and transferring traditions to the next generation

“There are two main ways that we observe Passover. We do not eat any bread, or foods that contain a raising agent such as yeast, during the eight days of Passover. Instead, we eat a special type of flatbread called Matzah. This commemorates the type of bread that was eaten by our ancestors. When our ancestors were freed from slavery and left Egypt, they were in such a rush that they didn’t have time to let their bread rise.

“The other way we observe Passover is an evening meal at the beginning of the festival, called a Seder. We gather together with family and friends to tell the story of our ancestors and their journey to freedom. It’s special because even though we are doing this in our modern times, we perform the ritual in the same way that people have done for centuries. Passover connects us directly with the past. In our daily lives, we don’t necessarily take a step back and think about where we have come from. 

Learn how optical professionals celebrated the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr in 2024.


“In preparation for Passover, I will remove all of the bread and leavened food products from the house. I do the hoovering to make sure that there are no bread crumbs lying around. If you are like me and have children, that can be quite tough. We put out fresh flowers and lay a tablecloth with silk embroidery that is only used at Passover.

“Each person has a book featuring the sayings we read out at different parts of the meal. I still have the one that I used as a child. Each year I open it, there will be crumbs of Matzah or a splash of something I was eating from the last Passover. It is very well worn and well loved.

This Passover was special for me because it was the first time that we had four generations of women around the table – my grandmother, my mother, myself and my daughter

Ariella Mirvis, optometrist

“This Passover was special for me because it was the first time that we had four generations of women around the table – my grandmother, my mother, myself and my daughter. There is a strong emphasis on the Passover meal being centred around the children – they are the stars of the show. The children are encouraged to ask questions and be part of the discussions. There is a game of hide and seek, where either an adult or a child will hide a piece of the Matzah.

“We will always have certain foods on a plate at the centre of the table. Some of the foods are eaten and some are symbolic. For example, we dip parsley in salty water – which represents the tears of hardship under slavery. We might eat horseradish, which causes tears to form. There is a type of sweet, sticky dip called Haroset that we only have during Passover. The recipe we use has been in my family for five generations. It is very, very delicious.

Ariella Seder table
Ariella Mirvis
A photograph taken before Passover of Ariella Mirvis’ Seder table

“Although this is not specific to Passover, every time there is a Jewish holiday, we switch off from our normal activities. We do not work and take the time to be with our family and friends. We also disconnect from technology – I will not use my phone, turn on the news or drive my car.

“Now I have children, I appreciate this time even more. Disconnecting from technology means that I am present. I have nothing to do except be with my family. At the end of the day, the buzzing that is usually going around in my head is calm.

“At the end of every Seder meal, we say ‘L'Shana Haba'ah B'Yerushalayim,' which means ‘Next year, in Jerusalem.’ It speaks to the idea that we will be united together in the future as a people, as a nation and as a world in peace and unity.”

My Passover

Optometrist, Menachem Salasnik, explains why he does not use light switches, turn on the television or check his emails during Passover

“Passover is a very family-orientated holiday. On the first two evenings, we have meals as a family and discuss stories from the time when the Jewish people were released from slavery. We cannot eat bread or cake that is baked in the usual way. Instead, we eat a type of flatbread called Matzah which is baked for less than 18 minutes. It is the poor man’s food that we had when we were slaves, and also what we ate when we left Egypt as there was not enough time to make proper bread.

“I have always taken the full eight days of Passover off work. My employers have been very understanding, which is a positive aspect of the religious freedom in the country where we live.

“On the first evening of Passover, we will stay up late – sometimes until 3am. As a kid, Passover was always the most exciting time. The following morning, we would always be comparing with our friends who had managed to stay up the latest. The children are the focus of the evening because they are going to be the ones passing these traditions on to the next generation.

“My favourite food during Passover is Haroset, which is made with stewed apple, ground almonds, cinnamon and a little bit of wine. I like spreading it on Matzah – it’s a bit like eating a sweet apple jam on a cracker.

We have time to focus on what is really important. It is a wonderful thing

Menachem Salasnik, optometrist

“As an Orthodox Jew, I will not use technology on the two first and last days of Passover. I won’t turn on the oven, plug anything in or switch on a light – we use timers for this instead. There are similar rules on the Sabbath, which occurs every Saturday, and all other Jewish holidays.

“The reason behind disconnecting from work and technology is that you are meant to be focusing on the story behind the festival. These days, families can fall into a trap of not speaking to each other because everyone is walking around with a personal entertainment system. We have time to focus on what is really important. It is a wonderful thing.

“This year has been very difficult in the shadow of the 7 October attacks in Israel. I have an acquaintance who was killed in the attack and know relatives of those taken hostage. The Jewish community in the UK is quite small so many people will know someone who was affected. Therefore, while we celebrated our ancestors’ freedom from slavery, this Passover was also a time to remember the hostages who are still waiting for their redemption, and the many innocent civilians who are caught up on all sides of this painful conflict.”

My Passover

Opticabase director and former optometrist, Michael Prais, on how the smell of baking signals Passover is drawing near

“Passover commemorates when the Jews came out of Egypt in about 1200 BCE. A series of miracles occurred and they were freed from slavery. A lot of the things we do during Passover are symbolic to remind us of that time.

“It takes between two to three weeks to prepare. We have a big Spring clean and clear all the bread out of the house ahead of Passover. We check all the cupboards and drawers to make sure that a biscuit hasn’t been left there. We bring out the special utensils and plates that we only use during Passover. My wife makes Passover cakes and biscuits with her mother and grandmother’s recipes. I remember the pyramid-shaped coconut macaroons my mother would make for me as a child. When I smell the cakes being baked, I know Passover is coming.

“Before Passover, I make the place name cards for the Seder table. They change each year. One time the cards were in the shape of a pyramid, another time I used a family photo from a trip we went on for my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday – I cut around the silhouette of each person so they stood out on the table.

Michael Prais place name
Michael Prais
A place name card – representing the parting of the Red Sea – created by Michael Prais for the Seder meal

“For breakfast, I usually have cereal during the year, but during Passover I will have a banana with sugar and milk. That breakfast has come through the generations – I had it when I was a child during Passover and my father had it when he was a child. Within the family, we will send photos of our breakfasts – perhaps someone will add berries and say ‘This is the new version.’

“Before I started working in optical software, I would work as an optometrist during the middle days of Passover. Instead of my normal sandwich for lunch, I would bring in Matzah and cheese. It was always a challenge to eat it without making too much mess.

“During the Seder meal, we retell the story of how our ancestors came out of Egypt. When my children were young, they would put on plays for the adults during the seder. The question everyone asks at the synagogue the next morning is, ‘What time did your Seder finish?’

“The thing I enjoy most about Passover is the family coming together. This year, we had 12 people to our house for the Seder meal. During the pandemic, Passover was very different. We were lucky that all of our children were at home, so we had the Seder meal together but the other members of the family could not be with us – not even on a video call because we do not use technology on our holidays.

Life is all about family and being content

Michael Prais, director of Opticabase

“When I was a child, not using technology or watching television on the holidays and sabbaths could mean it felt like a long day sometimes. But, now, as an adult, I appreciate having that family time together. We will chat about our weeks, play board games or card games, and sit down to eat together. You don’t have an eye on your phone every five minutes. It is a proper day of rest.

“Religion should be taken into account in the workplace, but it is give and take. The employee shouldn’t be unreasonable in their expectations and an employer should try and make adjustments as long as it doesn’t effect their business. When I qualified in 1993, it took time to find a job as an optometrist because I could not work on Saturday – our Sabbath. That was during the time of restrictions on Sunday trading, so optometry practices were not open on Sundays and Saturdays were the busiest days of the week. I did not resent the practices for not employing me as they had a business to run and it was my choice not to work on their busiest day of the week. I remember once a manager being very puzzled why I would not locum on a Saturday because it paid so much more. I explained that it was my religion. Life is all about family and being content.”

  • As told to Selina Powell

Is there a religious festival that you observe? If you would be interested in being interviewed about your experiences during the festival – and how it affects your working life – get in touch with [email protected] ahead of the date to share your traditions with other members of the optical community.