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Sascha and the “Kremels”: A True Passover Story

Sascha and the “Kremels”: A True Passover Story

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Years ago in Minnesota, there lived a Holocaust survivor named Sascha Breslermann (1925–1998). He was a middle-aged German Jew with a ready smile. He was immaculate, bordering on compulsive—you could eat off his garage floor! His charming German accent rendered the English language quite amusing.

Sascha lived in a modest home with his wife, Ruth, and their daughter, Rochelle. Ruth was a slight, stoic American Jew who complemented Sascha’s personality.

Sascha worked for a rental car He was immaculate, bordering on compulsiveagency at the Twin Cities airport. Every day at exactly 8:20 AM, rain, snow or shine, Sascha would leave to get to his job on time. Ruth prepared a lunch for Sascha every morning in a brown paper bag that she placed every day on the kitchen table. And so, day in and day out, year in and year out, Sascha maintained a precise schedule, never deviating, except of course on Shabbat or holidays.

As most Jews know, there is one time during the year when pressure mounts. That is Pesach, Passover. During the week before Pesach, we must finalize the cleaning, removal and sale of all leavened food items. Finally, in the last throes of the Pesach cleaning frenzy, we perform a ritual called bedikat chametz. We carefully prepare 10 pieces of chametz (leavened food), as transmitted by Kabbalistic tradition, and then hide them throughout the house. After saying a blessing, we search silently for the chametz by candlelight. When a piece is found, we use a feather and a wooden spoon to sweep the chametz into a paper bag. Although all of this is a lot of fun, it is serious business. Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi spent hours “searching for the chametz, the specks of arrogance in the soul.”

The following day, the bag with the 10 pieces of chametz, along with the wooden spoon, feather and candle, are burned in another ceremony called biur chametz. The chametz must be burned before the official time designated for each city. This, then, is the final “curtain” for the chametz.

On the day before Pesach, Sascha’s home was even cleaner than usual, if that was possible. Ruth placed the brown paper bag containing the chametz on the kitchen table, which she would bring to a communal biur chametz ceremony on behalf of the family.

That morning, two brown paper lunch bags stood at attention on the kitchen table. Each was folded three times to form a slight handle. Each bag awaited its destiny.

Sascha checked his watch, as he had done at least 10 times since waking, to see that he was on his precise schedule. His last task before leaving work was to get his lunch and car keys and leave the house. He entered the kitchen and, without taking note of anything unusual, Sascha took a brown bag from the kitchen table and drove off to work.

Sascha parked his car in the employee lot outside the airport. He took his usual path to punch his timecard. On the way, he greeted his friend and co-worker Jerry.

“How’s it goin’, Saycha?” Jerry just couldn’t get Sascha’s name right.

“Goot, goot,” replied Sasha, giving him a toothy, friendly smile. As he made his way near his office, his stomach growled. He was hungry; on the day before Pesach, there wasn’t too much to eat in the house. Sascha looked in his lunch bag, and to his chagrin there were only crumbs—“kremels,” in Sascha’s unique vocabulary. He immediately tossed the bag into the big green dumpster, and off to work he went.

Meanwhile, Ruth was getting ready to join the community in the group burning of the chametz, which was the last ritual to divest oneself of all To her horror, there were no chametz pieces insideownership of chametz. After putting on her jacket, Ruth went to the kitchen table and took the remaining brown paper bag. Much to her horror, there were no chametz pieces inside, only Sascha’s lunch!

Time was of the essence! The crumbs had to be burned within an hour. Ruth quickly called Sascha. “Sascha, you must have the chametz!”

“Vat are you meaning?”

“The chametz,” Ruth said, “from the bedikat chametz, the search for the chametz. You took it—it was on the kitchen table, in a brown bag.”

Sascha’s face turned pale. He had immediate recognition—life had thrown him a brown paper curveball.

“Sascha, Sascha, are you there?”

“Ya, ya.”He hoisted himself into the dumpster

“Sascha, you have to bring the chametz back home so I can burn it. We have only a little time left.”

“Ya, ya, chametz, you mean the kremels,” said Sascha, “I bring zem, I bring the kremels.”

Sascha immediately went to survey the big green dumpster. It was 12 feet high. Sascha rolled up his sleeves. He looked to the right and to the left. Luckily, no one was around. He focused on the top rim of the dumpster. After two tries, he hoisted himself up to the top and jumped in.

Sascha looked around him, feeling like Jonah in the whale. Fortunately, the dumpster was not full. Sascha gingerly started to look for the bag with the “kremels.” There weren’t too many brown bags, especially those that were folded quite neatly. After poking and searching around, Sascha found the bag, and yes, the “kremels” were intact.

Now Sascha had one big problem—well, actually, two: how to get out of the dumpster, and what to tell the person who would help him out. Sascha took his cell phone and called Jerry.

“Jerry, I need your help.”

“What do you need, Saycha?”

“Vell, I’m in the dumpster and I can’t get out.”

There was a long pause on the other end of the phone.

“Saycha, you say you are in the dumpster?”

“Ya, can you help me get out?”

“Okay, this oughta be a good one!”

Jerry went to get a ladder and brought it to the dumpster. He climbed up and saw Sascha. “You are in there, all right!”

As he grabbed Sascha’s hands and hoisted him out of the dumpster, he asked, “Now Saycha, you gotta tell me what made you get into this dumpster in the first place.”

“Da vife, she left her watch in the paper bag, and called to tell me to go get it.”

“She left her watch in your lunch bag! Incredible, what wives don’t think of!”

Sascha raced home with the “kremels.” Ruth finished burning the chametz, and Passover started on time that night. And Sascha—well, he started a new habit: checking to make sure his lunch was in the bag, and not the “kremels.”

Goldie Naiditch is a teacher, grandmother and freelance writer who writes about Jewish heroines in Israel, especially those in Judea and Samaria.
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Craig Stanley St Louis Mo March 27, 2017

Oh dearest Sascha....lol.... my beloved father-in-law. Sascha used the "watch excuse" to hide his embarrassment from being the subject of a dumpster rescue, and to give his friend and co-worker a sense of the urgency he felt. Harmless and clever and funny on dear Sascha's part. The recounting of this actual event has made me laugh and has warmed my heart. Thank you Goldie. Reply

Victoria Soames Samek UK April 10, 2015

A lovely account but what a shame that the real reason for being in the dumpster was not relayed, particularly as Jerry was a good friend. A missed opportunity for both trust and honesty. Reply

Chanah Ariella Rosencrantz Seattle April 18, 2014

He " lied" to convey the urgency of the situation; and to save his friend the confusion of not understanding the explanation. Reply

Anonymous Kingman, Arizona April 18, 2014

This was an amazing story! Thank you! I liked the part, "Sascha looked around him, feeling like Jonah in the whale". Reply

miriam karp April 14, 2014

Thank you Goldie for an enjoyable story! Reply

steve johnson san diego April 14, 2014

cell phone? Reply

CK Toronto April 13, 2014

patty: he had to lie probably because he was understandably embarrassed to be found in a garbage dumpster. and how could he explain his non-Jewish co-worker about burning chametz-so he lied.
author- thank you for the story-interesting! Reply

Shoshana Brooklyn, NY April 10, 2014

Patty: I too wonder why he had to lie. I would also be interested to know why you love this story. I would like another person's perspective. Reply

Patty April 9, 2014

Why is it ok for him to lie and say his wife's watch was in the bag? BTW, I love this story, I'm just asking why he had to lie. Reply

Joan gross Cincinnati March 26, 2014

Cute story and written with warmth and humor. Brought a smile to my face. Reply

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