Home LifestyleHolidays How to Celebrate Easter + Passover {From Longtime Hoboken Residents}

How to Celebrate Easter + Passover {From Longtime Hoboken Residents}

by Megan Joseph
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The city of Hoboken is well-known for its rich history, and a lot of that history is actually rooted in religion. April, in particular, is an important month in both the Jewish and Christian religions for Passover and Easter, respectively. Some residents have celebrated in the area with their families for over fifty years. Locals describe to Hoboken Girl their religious experiences filled with ancestry, opportunity, and tradition in their lives. Read more below to find out how to celebrate Easter + Passover from longtime Hoboken residents. 

A Hoboken Passover

united synagogue

United Synagogue of Hoboken {115 Park Avenue}

Passover has always been an important time of year in the Jewish community and this April, the holiday runs from Friday evening the April 19th to Saturday evening, April 27th. Rabbi Robert Scheinberg of the United Synagogue of Hoboken {115 Park Avenue} has lived in the Mile Square for 20 years with his wife and children. Susan Schept, a 40-year Hoboken resident, is an active member of the synagogue.

On the first two nights of Passover, the Jewish community holds a ritual service and ceremonial dinner in their home called a Seder. This can be hosted by individual families or through the synagogue. Rabbi Scheinberg says the United Synagogue of Hoboken will host a 2nd Night Congregational Seder open to the community on Saturday, April 20th from 7:30PM-11:00 PM.

Schept says she usually ventures outside of town to her sister’s in northern New Jersey for the second night Seder. A Hoboken resident since 1972, Schept has been a member of the congregation since she moved out of her hometown in Newark. She lives on 10th and Garden with her husband Ken, where she raised her son and daughter. A true uptown girl, Schept has worked for Stevens Institute of Technology since 1978 as a professor of psychology.

“I love the urban village atmosphere {in Hoboken},” she said. “We’re very close friends with our neighbors and the shopkeepers. Our synagogue has been a focal point in our lives the entire time as well.”

At the Seder and during the holiday, they eat traditional Passover foods like matzo, brisket, and potatoes. Schept makes chicken soup with matzo balls for her family, a Jewish tradition from Eastern Europe.

Rabbi Scheinberg hosts a first night Seder at his Hoboken home with his wife and two children. He says his kids get very involved, playing games, putting on plays, and reading their different Haggadahs, a home guidebook for the Seder, with decorative artwork. They often cook vegetarian lasagna with matzo {which sounds delicious}.

“We need to transmit the story from generation to generation and get them involved in the tradition,” Rabbi Scheinberg said.

Maxwell House, which used to operate out of uptown Hoboken, was one of the first foods to be labeled as kosher. In 1932, the company’s advertising agency decided to label their coffee during Passover and also create its own Haggadah. It was free, so the content and interpretation were simple, but it was still a big deal for the Jewish community.

Rabbi Scheinberg says he appreciates Hudson County for promoting diversity and recognizing different religions, races, and ethnicities. He stresses the importance of respecting Jewish residents’ diet choices during this celebration.

“This is a time when {the Jewish community} celebrates freedom and advocates for freedom throughout the world,” he said. “We also do a food drive in partnership with Our Lady of Grace Church and donate the leftover food that we can’t eat.”

For more services and information about Passover in the area, see the United Synagogue of Hoboken’s website.

A Hoboken Easter

hoboken residents

Photo Courtesy of the Hoboken Historical Museum

Hoboken has a rich history, and in that history, we recognize the deep religious roots of those who first settled here. Easter is the most important holiday in the Christian religion and this year, Holy Week takes place from Sunday, April 14th to Sunday, April 21st.

For these Hoboken-born-and-raised women, Easter has always been about family and religion. Barbara Ruthman and Donna Truglio have been best friends since ages four and five, always living within one or two blocks of each other.

After they graduated from high school, Ruthman and Truglio started their families and worked in the area. They describe themselves as urban girls to the core and can’t imagine having to drive every day.

“I would never live in suburbia, not my thing,” Ruthman said. “I like the fact that New York City is so close, all the hustle and the bustle, but Hoboken offers you a tranquil getaway.”

What the women repeatedly agree on are the deep family roots they have here. They lived in close proximity to their grandparents, aunts and uncles, and even great-grandparents. Truglio’s Italian family lived in the famous terrace houses between Sixth and Seventh on Willow Avenue. Ruthman’s Irish and English parents originally lived in Jersey City but moved uptown on 10th and Willow in the early 1950s.

Everywhere they turned in the neighborhood, they were surrounded by family. And that’s what made the Easter holiday so much more special for them. Truglio recalls an Easter parade on Washington Street when she was very young.

“The only reason I remember {the parade} is that I had a crazy godmother with white poodles,” she said. “Every year, she would dye the white poodles to match her outfit. So if her outfit was mint green that year, the poodles were mint green.”

our lady of grace

Our Lady of Grace {500 Willow Street, Hoboken}

But the material aspects of the holiday weren’t too important. The emphasis was on the church services during Holy Week and the family dinner on Sunday. Truglio grew up in St. Ann’s Church on 7th and Jefferson Street, while Ruthman went to Our Lady of Grace and St. Joseph’s on 5th and willow. OLG is one of the oldest Roman Catholic churches in the United States. Both women still proudly attend the same respective parishes.

It was homemade ravioli for Easter Sunday dinner at Truglio’s grandmother’s house and for Ruthman’s family, Easter dinner was at Meyer’s Hotel, a German-American restaurant that used to be on the corner of 3rd and Hudson Street.

schnackenbergs hot chocolate

^ RIP Schnackenberg’s 

A tradition the two families did have in common, Truglio and Ruthman say in unison, was Schnackenberg’s chocolate bunnies. The giant treat was a necessity for their grandparents during the Easter holiday. The Hoboken luncheonette closed this past January after 88 years.

For both women, Easter continues to be about their family. Truglio hosts her entire family in uptown Hoboken and Ruthman travel to Nutley to see her daughter and grandchildren. They’ll attend services Thursday through Sunday at St. Ann’s and Our Lady of Grace respectively, which are quite active with young worshippers in the Mile Square.

The women encourage the younger community to get involved and join the church’s fundraising religious groups like St. Ann’s Guild and the Young Adults of OLG.

“For us, Easter isn’t about chocolate bunnies, hats, or outfits. It has always been a religious holiday,” Truglio said. “It’s a family holiday based on faith.”

For more information about Our Lady of Grace Holy Week services, see their website here. For more information about Holy Week services at St. Ann’s, see their website here.

Additional Hoboken churches service times for Holy Week available on their websites:

Do you have any special Hoboken-based family traditions for Easter or Passover? Let us know in the comments!

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