For the past nine years, my friend (and sometime Lilith contributor) Pamela Rafalow Grossman has hosted a gathering in a diner. As quirky as this might seem at first, it’s still a Seder.
This year, Pam held the Seder on a Tuesday night (not one of the first two nights of Pesach). Eight of us met at a bustling diner near New York’s Penn Station, our third year at the Tick-Tock. Passover is a holiday of liberation, and to me, an important element of freedom is one’s time. The Tick-Tock’s walls are stenciled with various time-related words and mottoes.
And one of the reasons that Pam started the Seder in a diner seems to me to be time-related in a feminist way: “I was tired of what I think of as ‘Leaping Woman Syndrome’. You know—when the person cooking the food for the Seder, and we know that’s usually a woman, is constantly leaping from the table to put something in the oven or check something on the stove.”
Every year the diner gathering is a little different. Last year we used a “hippie” Haggadah from the 1970s. There were more people and more singing. This year, we read from small stapled paper Haggadahs that Pam had gotten from a neighbor in a “no buy” group. Our Seder plate held a pinkish (Easter) egg, parsley, homemade charoset (from Pam’s pal Liz), horseradish, a beet to stand in for the roasted shank. We brought matzoh and extra wine (also ordered a bottle from the diner). For candle-lighting, someone flashed the light feature on a phone. Pam led and we took turns reading from the Haggadah. We ate not at the customary break in the service, but when our kind waiter (Nami, originally from Lebanon) brought our orders. He also hid the afikomen for us!
Pam’s first Seder in a diner started with two other people. They had never attended a Seder before and she wanted to try leading in a low-key situation. As many as 18 people have attended in previous years, but she says “8-10 seems like a great sweet spot.”
We dipped our parsley, ate our “Hillel sandwiches,” discussed how we have found liberation in our own lives (“Hello, Feminism!” said I), and probably puzzled some people at nearby tables. Or not. It’s New York. There, at large booth at a diner, we still absorbed the meaning of Pesach: liberation and reflection. So I raised my glass with the traditional toast, “Next year at the Tick-Tock!”