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Episode 7: Four Questions for Passover



Rabbi-to-be Elyssa Cherney

Rabbi-to-be Margo Hughes-Robinson

Cantor-to-be Lianna Mendelson



In this episode, meet Elyssa, Margo, and Lianna: 3 Jewish clergy-to-be who have stories to tell about Judaism, passover, and welcoming. 

Show Notes

  • 0:00-0:30: Hi! Thanks for listening! I'm Emily Cohen! (If you're reading this, you know that already.)
  • 0:30-1:25 : "Elijah doesn't drive a second-hand Toyota." Margo introduces a sweet anecdote from Passover with her family and her kid brother. 
  • 1:25-2:55: Framing for the episode. What is this whole Passover thing anyway? The episode will be conducted through four questions, beginning with "Who are you?" 
  • 2:55-4:15: Meet Lianna, a Reform cantorial student who grew up in an interfaith family in Rochester, NY. Lianna shares about asking her parents to send her to religious school in 2nd grade when she was upset that she knew less about Jewish traditions than her cousins. 
  • 4:15-4:30: Surprise! Another Southern Jew-by-Choice is on the podcast, and that's awesome!
  • 4:30-5:45: Margo, a Conservative rabbinical student in NYC, discusses her draw from a devout Catholic childhood into Jewish practice and conversion to Judaism just before beginning college. 
  • 5:45-6:00: I introduce the second question, "What is this seder for you?" 
  • 6:00-6:35: We meet Elyssa, a Reconstructionist rabbinical student in Philadelphia. I quote "Fiddler," because, I mean, I kinda have to.
  • 6:35-9:45: Elyssa discusses a seder a few years back, when she was working for Keshet (a Jewish organization that works to train other Jewish organizations to be inclusive of the LGBTQ community). She wanted to shift her family's Haggadah from a Maxwell-house variant to a project of the Jewish Women's Archive: The Wandering is Over-- a Haggadah that focuses on the narratives of women and takes a feminist lens to the story. While Elyssa's Dad was on board, other members of the family were upset with her attempts to "shift tradition." Elyssa talks about the importance of welcoming the stranger on Passover and the need to be tuned in to modern day oppression. 
  • 9:45-10:15: Dah-DAH-dah-DAH TransiTION TranSItion dah-di-dah-di-da-da-da-dah TRANsition! (Gotta keep those fiddler jokes coming) 
  • 10:15-13:05: Lianna speaks about the role of seder in her family as a way in for people of many observance levels and people of other faiths. She speaks of Elijah's seat at the table as representative of the welcoming nature of the holiday. Lianna talks about being a part of a campus community during Passover when she could not attend her family's seder and of the impact that leading a seder had on her sense of being a Jewish adult. 
  • 13:05-13:20: Transition to Margo, with "a tale of 4 seders"
  • 13:20-15:00: Margo speaks of 4 seders she has been a part of. She first tells about her first seder experience: a messianic Christian seder that was very confusing for her as a young teen exploring Judaism. She discusses the Ashkenormativity (the notion of Eastern European Jewish customs being a given without other possibilities) of the seder and the confusion of a seder based in great part on texts (the Mishnah) not compiled until 200 years or so after the time of Christ. 
  • 15:00-16:10: Margo's second seder story comes from Whitefish, Montana (yes, that is Richard Spencer's hometown, and its people have had to deal with quite a lot). While in boarding school, Margo got to take part in a community seder and experience a Jewish community on her own. 
  • 16:10-17:30: Margo's third seder was with family and friends in North Carolina, and her (much) younger brother had a similar jealousy to Lianna about not knowing as much as the other children at the seder. Margo talks about making Jewish ritual kid-friendly and how that positively impacted her exploration and practice. 
  • 17:30-18:45: Margo's fourth seder, which she hosted in college, was for the theater kids and just sounds awesome. 
  • 18:45-19:20: I introduce the third question: What do you eat on Passover and what's your kashrut practice in general? 
  • 19:20-20:30: Lianna talks about her grandma's rule of "kosher in the home" and "lobster in the garage" and of her grandma's brisket. 
  • 20:30-22:10: Lianna talks about a trip to Belarus she took during Passover last year and the experience of realizing that, for some communities, matzah is seen as a luxury. 
  • 22:10-22:20: Dah-DAH-dah-DAH TransiTION
  • 22:20-24:40: Margo talks about her love for crawfish étouffée (you really don't wanna know how badly I spelled that when I googled it) and the complexities of keeping kosher, both for Passover and in general, while part of a family with strong food traditions that she can no longer partake in. 
  • 24:40-24:55: I bring in the fourth question: "What does seder mean for you today?"
  • 24:55-26:00: Lianna speaks of being at the March for Our Lives and the concept of dayeinu- enough- and the applicability of the story of the Exodus to modern day social justice. 
  • 26:00-26:20: TranSItion! 
  • 26:20-27:00: Margo speaks of doing a quick seder with her Jewish husband in order to maximize time with family that is not Jewish. 
  • 27:00-27:20: TRANsition! 
  • 27:20-30:10: Elyssa talks about the complexities of raising a Jewish child (who loves chocolate and rabbits) during Easter. She speaks of seder with a toddler, the need to teach the story in all its complexity, and the desire to make the seder fun for her child. She speaks of the role of ritual to mark occasions both good and bad. 
  • 30:10-end: Wrap-up! Thanks! Read the show notes (good job!). Donate! Give me feedback! Let me know if you want to be on the show! Follow us on social media!