One of the messages of Passover is to remember that we were strangers in a strange land and that we therefore should welcome strangers ourselves.
So it’s unfortunate that I can’t remember being a stranger myself at a seder — until this year. With no children around for the first time in more than 20 years, my wife and I decided to try something different for the first seder.
We were among about three dozen people who gathered at Haven Restaurant and Bar in Brookhaven. Executive chef Stephen Herman, prodded by friends, decided to open on Monday night and provide a seder dinner for the first time. He supplied the haggadahs and led the seder himself.
It all took place on the Haven patio on a perfect spring night.
We had never eaten at the Dresden Drive restaurant, and we knew no one. But it was an interesting crowd, including many non-Jews who were there with friends or spouses. It’s fun to experience a seder at which people are learning.
It wasn’t the strictest seder. We did most of the steps through Shulchan Orech, the festive meal, including a collective chanting of the Four Questions and the retelling of the Passover story. We sang parts of “Dayenu.” We made drops of wine for the plagues, and we ate our Hillel sandwiches.
We feasted on a delicious, albeit nonkosher, buffet dinner highlighted by melt-in-your-mouth brisket, homemade gefilte fish and Brussels sprouts latkes. We shared the festivities with a fun family, veterans of the legendary Galanti seders, so we learned about various Sephardi traditions in contrast to our usual Ashkenazi practices.
The seder petered out after dinner. We didn’t officially get to those last two cups of wine or welcome Elijah or sing about gathering next year in Jerusalem. We missed the end-of-seder singing, especially “Chad Gadya” and “Adir Hu,” although the two of us may have raced through a quietly boisterous version of “Who Knows One?”
Passover next year starts on a Friday night, so instead of opening on a night when the restaurant usually is closed, Haven will have to give up a weekend night of business to hold a seder.
But if Herman and his partners do opt for a repeat in 2018, I can all but guarantee at least two people who will be there. And if the wine flows as freely as it did this year, Herman might even have a couple of volunteers to lead the after-dinner singing.
About a Headline
Some readers — perhaps most readers — were offended by the headline on Patrice Worthy’s column in the April 14 issue about her experiences as a person who is both black and Jewish. To avoid further offense, I won’t repeat the headline here, but it used a form of the N-word.
Patrice suggested the headline herself, and I thought, despite or because of the shock value, it was appropriate for the content of the column and the upsetting experiences that have arisen from her dual identity.
But before we went to press, Patrice had concerns that the headline might be too much, and I should have listened to her. What she wrote was too powerful and too important to be overshadowed by anger and offense at the use of one word.
The decision to use that headline was mine and mine alone, and I regret it. I apologize to our readers.
You’re never too old to learn, and I will try to learn from this error of judgment and the forceful, understandable response.