It wasn't the weirdest Passover seder I've ever been to -- that honor goes to one that ended with a joint passed around the table -- but it was certainly the most makeshift.
I tend to lose track of time here. I'm off on Wednesdays and Fridays and the week starts on Sunday ... I'm always confused. My Mom gave me a heads up last week that Passover was looming. She may have asked what I was going to do.
What indeed. First, I had to find out if there were any Jews at my newspaper. And if you're reading this in the US, you're laughing out loud. No US newspaper has a shortage of Jewish journalists. (Ask anyone: we run the media). Certainly, any English-language daily with 250 editorial employees should have more than me, right? Well, it turns out it does. One more. There are rumors of a third, but if she doesn't want to be named, who am I to out her?
Personally, I like to think I keep a relatively low profile even as a Jew in America. Here, I'm very quiet about it. I had to note my religion on my visa application, but it doesn't appear on the visa itself. Local opinion seems to be "We like Jews just fine -- we just don't like their (i.e., Israel's) politics".
In any case, I made a quiet inquiry and found a religious fellow-traveler. I introduced myself and asked her if she had plans for Passover. She'd been here a few years, I'd been told, so maybe she knew of any other Jews. She said she had no plans, but agreed to try a seder and she invited some others. In the end, we were six: two Jewish girls, one non-Jew who had been in a Jewish sorority, two non-Jewish husbands, one girl from Northern Ireland and a Canadian.
There were rumors of a Passover care package being Fed-Exed from Ohio, but it did not arrive in time. But it's the thought that counts, right? The hostess couldn't find brisket so she made some sort of very tasty smoked meat that looked like brisket. When you live abroad you discover different cultures cut their meat differently. (Kind of like pork steak in Missouri; what part of the pig is a steak?)
There was a nice charoseth made with almonds, and tzimmes -- carrots and raisins simmered with honey and cinnamon. I was making coconut macaroons for dessert, so all we were missing was matzah.
Yeah, the important part. We used Wasa flat bread instead. Obviously that violates the rule of the law, but we felt it was in keeping with the spirit of things. We were making the effort. Surely that counts for something?
I downloaded a Haggadah onto my Kindle. It was called "Ina Gadda Haggadah" and it's like a Cliff's Notes version of the real thing. Perfect, actually, for Passover newcomers. It explained things, had the prayers and songs, and then a few jokes for good measure.
Paul noted the absence of the hills and rams and lambs part though, oft-remarked upon by my brothers.
We all took turns reading and enjoyed the company of new friends. Isn't that in the spirit of Elijah?
It felt a little naughty, to be honest. Sorta underground.
There is no prohibition against what we did. As long as we were in a private home, we could do as we pleased, religion-wise.
But it wasn't your everyday dinner party in Abu Dhabi.