More from The Wandering Jew: A return to a place I visited 25 years ago, and some Jewish surprises there
050 | Rewind: Pesach, Patience, and Seinfeld-Era Memories of Matzah and Maror
Passover is one of the highlights of the Jewish calendar and nearing the home stretch of my Jewish journey to conversion, I was truly looking forward to experiencing it for the first time as an adult. The banter, the torah, the weird foods—the gathering is the biggest thing American Jews do during the year.
So naturally Trump ruined it by refusing to acknowledge the plague that was devastating major cities at the time, and egged on protestors who wanted to completely re-open the economy. You know, while hospitals were filling up and New York City’s were already overwhelmed.
But this isn’t a Trump post. Unbelievably I didn’t write about Pesach, my first Passover on my journey! I mentioned it between political and pop culture snark, but didn’t discuss my experience. It was 4 months ago I posted this:
Passover & Plagues: While we sukkah-in-placeA and hope the plague passes over our homes this PesachB, don’t forget to wash your hands. A lot. In fact: Jews staying home and washing their hands may be why they fared better during the plague—and also part of why they were blamed for it.
- A A sukkah is a shelter
- B Pesach, Hebrew for Passover
A few things transpired that kept me from blogging about such a big milestone—and generally feeling a-kilter.
- It wasn’t my first Passover, just my first since studying Judaism to convert!
- I’d looked forward to it for so long only to have it not be online. Again, the only Jew* in the Village
- I had just moved to Fallbrook from LA, and
- I had just started work for Nefesh, my LA Jewish community, keeping me pretty busy, including helping get their first big online event up (our seder, more below).
How did these things feel? I felt shoved out of my home, fleeing disease and looming poverty, and needing to connect with my Jewish brothers and sisters. Truly, the perfect time for passover for all of us. Patience was and is in order.
The first Passover seder I attended was with the Rozens, the family down the street where I grew up. I went to school with Stefani from 3rd grade through college and she was my first girlfriend (not the last). My first boyfriend, incidentally, was also Jewish.
The Rozens were a little weary of Stef and I dating, if you can call 8th and 9th graders dating. But then they saw me play piano and that changed. Either they loved it or realized I was gay or both. I played at Stefani’s sister’s wedding and was invited to my first seder, invited to Washington DC with the family the next year, and deemed a goyish non-threat. If they only knew the path I’d be on!
I don’t recall details from that Clinton-era evening but the format of the seder is meant to teach children about Exodus and Passover, so I learned a lot. I asked why there was an empty chair and Ira, Stefani’s older, always rough-and-tumble brother, told me it was saved for Elijah, who we were waiting for.
“Where is this jerk Elijah?” I thought. I was on time, the goy. How rude of Elijah. I’ll always enjoy telling people I thought this, that the patron spirit of the Jewish elder whose death isn’t mentioned in Torah and therefore he’s still able to return any time per folk legend. Elijah “comes” to all gatherings for weddings and then some.
In 2020, we waited on Elijah—or anybody competent and not orange-tinted—to protect us from disease and fascist overlords. We aren’t enslaved (sorry Karen), but we are under siege by antisemitic forces and politics of hate both.
As it happens Elijah visited one of my two seders this year (Nefesh). How special! For that one I made my first matzah, a gluten-free mess that relied on the only thing I could find in the house, a slightly-sweetened mix. So, not matzah at all. It was a really flat, dry cookie. It was pretty on-brand for 2020. Next year, in the kitchen earlier—or if Trump still is a thing in 5781—in Jerusalem.
Actual footage from the Rozen seder