April 9, 2019
This green-glazed ceramic Pesach Seder plate on display in the Sydney Jewish Museum’s Holocaust exhibition was given to Samuel Steif whilst he was in the Föhrenwald Displaced Persons Camp in Germany in 1948. It was one of many handmade ceramic ritual plate distributed at the time of Passover by a Jewish relief organisation that employed DPs in a ceramic workshop in Bavaria.
Samuel Steif was born in Rumania is 1923, and was subjected to forced labour in 1942 at the age of 18. After he was liberated by the Russians in 1944, he married his childhood friend Toni Meltzer. Together they planned to leave communist Rumania and make their way to Palestine. On route to Palestine they passed through Föhrenwald, where they stayed until 1953. Samuel held onto this Seder plate for its sentimental ties to his religious Jewish upbringing until he eventually moved to Australia.
This special piece depicting the emancipation of the Jewish people from slavery is so telling of the time in which it was made, and ties in beautifully with its owner’s pursuits in the shadow of World War II. This traditional Seder plate is engraved not with the traditional saying “Next year in Jerusalem”, but “This year in Jerusalem”. Whilst the plate’s design tells the story of the exodus from Egypt, it also expresses the yearning of Holocaust survivors to rebuild their shattered lives in the new Jewish state of Israel and in safer diaspora communities across the world.