Sometimes I Feel Like a Sederless Child
Want to win my heart? Invite me to your Seder.
When I tell people this, I’m usually greeted with a half-beat of silence, followed by a Henny Youngman-esque “Take my Seder-please!” One friend, who boycotted his in-laws’ Passover dinners for 20 years before his children finally convinced him to rejoin the fray, is particularly unprintable on the subject. “The only decent-tasting thing the whole night long is the charoseth,” he grumbles.
Clearly, not everyone’s a fan. But what’s not to love? Like Thanksgiving, Passover consists of ritualistic elements-people, food, wine, conversation-that rearrange themselves kaleidoscopically each year into something equal parts familiar and new. But whereas the beauty of Thanksgiving lies in its democratic mutability-it can be expanded in any direction to accommodate any immigrant group, any culinary tradition-the allure of the Seder does not. Its themes may be universal-renewal, liberation, justice-but by definition, it’s a holiday that belongs to one group of people, and I am not among their number. In other words, to paraphrase Woody Allen, the celebration I love most is the one I’m eternally in danger of not being able to attend.
Of course, plenty of Seders are open to the public: the Women’s Seder in San Rafael, California; Milwaukee’s African American-Jewish Seder; and the unleavened bread bar at Tabla, Manhattan’s temple of New Indian cuisine, to name a few. But quite frankly, the whole point of the Seder is to be invited by people who like you enough to want to enfold you in the fabric of their family-to embed you culturally, so to speak. Just ask my friend Jen, whose parents have historically gone the community Seder route: “Call me crazy, but it just doesn’t feel like Passover when it takes place at the Harvard Club,” she says.
So I crave a homespun Seder, a place where I’m part of the dialectic. And I’m not alone. My Korean-American friend Grace, whose feather-light macaroons have provided the crowning touch at many a Seder, feels just the same. She’s even developed a Passover rite leading up to the main event. “Every spring, I buy a box of matzoh the moment it appears at the grocery store,” she says. “One year I made it into chocolate-caramel brittle and took it to the office. My co-worker stared at me and said, ‘You only like it because you don’t have to eat it.’ I offered him some, but not before I stuck my tongue out at him.”
Perhaps geography is to blame. After all, Grace and I both live in New York City, home to the second largest Jewish population in the world after Tel Aviv and the birthplace of the George Constanza Syndrome, that mysterious phenomenon whereby every New Yorker, regardless of ethnicity, comes to identify as an honorary member of the tribe. No one embodies this quality better than my friend Kristin, the ultimate Upper West Sider (she was mugged on 73rd and Columbus while still in utero), who also happens to be a blonde shiksa. Normally the soul of diplomacy, during her years of exile (college) in California, Kristin once found herself having the following conversation:
Classmate: “Hey, I just realized that it’s Passover today.”
Classmate (backtracking conscientiously): “Oh, right. So, Passover is this Jewish holiday…”
Kristin (snapping): “I KNOW what Passover is!”
When you live in New York and you know exactly what Passover is, there’s nothing lonelier than finding yourself in a half-empty subway car as the sun goes down on the First Night. There you are, you and all the other Sederless children, making your way homeward to dine on… what? Pastrami on white with mayonnaise? How could you have ended up so… unchosen?
The more you think about it, the worse it gets. As night falls on Buenos Aires, you just know that there’s a side of chimichurri awaiting the matzoh (sorry, matzá). In Melbourne, forget the Manischewitz-you’d be sipping a heavily chilled Kosher-for-Passover rosé from a nearby winery. And the Persian Jewish diaspora everywhere is breaking out delicacies like chicken-and-chickpea dumplings and grape leaves stuffed with rice and barberries.
Never knowing exactly what you’ll get is another reason to love a Seder. After all, if three Jews have at least four opinions, your average Seder (not that there’s any such thing) boasts at least seventeen possible permutations. How much of the Haggadah will be read? Which Haggadah will be read? Who will fall asleep in the matzoh-ball soup? Seder may mean order in Hebrew, but if a universal concept of Sederkeit exists, surely it must encompass not only a state of order but also its opposite: the delightful sense of disorder that can only come when dozens of people-quite conceivably from all over the world-join together to prepare a banquet and then spend hours dissecting the ritual itself between courses.
Still think I’m crazy for pining after the Seder? Imagine the following scenario: It’s three days to Thanksgiving, and no one has invited you to dinner. You’d just buy a turkey and have a few people over, wouldn’t you? But you can’t apply the same logic to a Seder. You can beg, you can plead, you can volunteer to make the gefilte fish-but you can’t host a Seder just because your goyishe little self is in the mood.
Or… can you? After all, last year none other than our own Commander in Chief refused to be a Sederless child, choosing instead to host one all of his own at the White House. If Barack and Michelle have taken matters into their own hands, who am I not to follow suit?
Photo by PinkMoose
Follow us on twitter@thefastertimes
- 1 First Openly Straight Figure Skater Comes Forward
- 2 Brooklyn Man Now Living Entirely Off Own Beard Garden
- 3 “Cra Cra” Now Official Diagnosis in New DSM (DSM-5)
- 4 OfficeMax Marketing Director Struggling to Make Staplers ‘Sexy’ and ‘Conversational’
- 5 Homeless Guy Woos Silicon Valley VCs with Low-Tech Crowdfunding Startup
- 6 Area Man Tailors Life To Be More Relevant To His Hulu Advertisements
- 7 Fan Banging Furiously on Glass Could Be the Difference in Hockey Playoffs
- 8 Survey: 88% of Eagles Fans Too Drunk To Spell Nnamdi Asomugha Last Season
- 9 Attorney Actually Starting to Believe Own Bullshit
- 10 Local Mom Won’t Stop Being First Person to Like Every Goddamn Thing Son Posts to Facebook