In today’s world, where doing so much seems to be so difficult, our family has managed to come together on Passover to celebrate family and tradition year after year for 40 years.
In 1963 the five children and sons- and daughters-in-law of Herman and Clara Geller founded the “HerClar” Family Club to perpetuate their memory.
The Geller family moved from Brooklyn to Newark in the 1930s and lived in a six-family house on South 18th Street. They had five children, all of whom married — Lillian, who married Max Weinstock (my parents); Max, whose wife was Ruth Goodman; Rose and Arthur Lebersfeld; Leo, who married Miriam Kaplan; and Nettie and Raymond Leven.
These five families produced 12 children — the family’s third generation. They, in turn, had the fourth generation — numbering 32 offspring. Now, with the fifth generation, there is a total of 121 family members — and we’re still growing.
The “fab five,” as the original children were colloquially known, all resided in Essex County, and our families maintained a close bond. The geographic and emotional closeness allowed us to get together frequently on the weekends, nurturing positive relationships among the 12 first cousins.
All five families were active in Conservative synagogues and believed strongly in honoring Jewish tradition and in the celebration of the holidays. Therefore it was only natural that soon after the HerClar Family Club began to have monthly meetings, we decided the entire family would get together on the second night of Passover to share in a traditional seder and socialize as one large family. The founding members also decided to have the seder in a public place rather than in a family member’s home — to avoid competition.
In 1970, we gathered at Richfield Caterers — now Richfield Regency — in Verona for what would become the first annual seder. At the time, we did not know how many years this tradition would continue. However, as each Passover approached, more and more family members anticipated attending the seder so they could see each other and celebrate Passover as the HerClar family.
About 10 years ago, we created “The Seder Plate,” a family newsletter to which each family contributes an article about what they have been up to and highlighting any upcoming milestone events. The articles are sent to our editor, Eric Lebersfeld (a member of the fourth generation), who edits and assembles the newsletter, which is distributed at the seder.
In 2008, with the death of the titular head of the family, Leo Geller — the last surviving child of Herman and Clara — the torch was passed to the third generation to perpetuate the fine tradition of gathering for the second seder.
This year 62 family members will gather at Green Brook Country Club in North Caldwell as my wife, Ellen, and I — the oldest member of my generation — lead the 40th annual HerClar Family Seder.
The original family members all lived in Essex County, but now HerClar family members are dispersed along the eastern seaboard, from Rhode Island to Florida. Though separated by distance, we are all united by the pride in knowing that we are members of this enduring family and tradition.
I hope we can continue for many more years as we grow in numbers and become stronger. I am proud to be part of the HerClar family.