USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Seder’
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There’s No Seder Like our Seder

Informant is grandmother, currently living in Florida having lived most of her life in New Jersey. The following is printed on a series of old, twice-photocopied documents which she stores in a closet in a large bin. These are a familiar sight for the family during Passover, in which the entirety of the song is sung together before beginning with the dinner service.

 

There’s No Seder Like our Seder

(sung to the tune of “There’s no Business like Show business”)

There’s no seder like our seder,

There’s no seder I know.

Everything about it is Halachic

nothing that the Torah won’t allow.

Listen how we read the whole Haggadah

It’s all in Hebrew

‘Cause we know how.

There’s no Seder like our seder,

We tell a tale that is swell:

Moses took the people out into the heat

They baked the matzoh

While on their feet

Now isn’t that a story

That just can’t be beat?

Let’s go on with the show!

 

Of course this song is not traditional jewish canon, as it’s inspired by the song “There’s no Business like Show business.” Somewhere down the line, at a time she does not remember, these papers were copied and it was decided to sing it before opening the Hagaddah (Passover prayerbook read at dinner). I think this song, to her, is a fun family activity which gets all ages singing together and warmed up for the night.

general

Fishman Family Seder Song

Informant “J” is a 19 year male old college student at the University of Southern California, he is studying Neuroscience and is a Sophomore at the time of this interview. He was born in Danville, California to a Jewish father and as a result J has regular exposure to Jewish traditions and customs. Though he does involve himself with Jewish traditions, he does not practice Judaism and considers himself non-religious.

 

“J: One thing my family and I like to do during our Passover Seders is that we have this, at the end of the Seder, we have this dinner and we all like to sing our own song which is called “The Fishman Seder” song, I don’t know exactly how it goes, because we have always had the sheet but it started…

“Wouldn’t it be greater than to be at Fishman Seder, or a Fishman Seder on Meeesssaaa ” (audio attached)

J: And it’s really fun and we’d pound the table and everything and it’s just something that we’d do after every single Seder dinner, which we like to have a lot of our, a lot of our kind of traditions, based on a kind of Jewish Holidays. Granted we tend to go off of my Mom’s religion, we tend to go off Protestant, but a lot of the things we do as families we do during Hanukkah or Passover.

Me: Alright… um, the Fishman song, do your Grandparents, or do any other previous generations sing that, or did you guys originate that?

J: So I think it was actually my Grandparents who came up with it, beacuse the first time we sung it, it was with our Grandparents and they pulled out a piece of paper and they said “we came up with this new song”. They came up with it with my uncle and aunt as well. They all liked it so they were the first Fishman to sing the song.

Me: How long ago was that?

J: I don’t know, before I was born I know.

Me: Do you guys sing it when your Grandparents aren’t around?

J: No it’s sort of only when we’re all together, not unless they’re at Seder with us.”

 

Analysis:

Although “J” informs me that the tune is a familiar one and not a Fishman original, I am not sure of the origin of the song. I welcome anyone with any idea where the tune might be from (from the audio clip above) to comment on this posting. The Fishman Seder song seems to act as a celebration of the family as a whole, and acts as a way to celebrate being part of the Fishman family (“…be greater than to be at Fishman Seder”) as well as their coming together. The family working to build the tune together, as “J” mentions happened before he was born, as well as the families continued insistence to sing the song during Jewish Seder supports this conclusion. As Seder is a Jewish Passover tradition, and as the family is unified during this event, it can help to both reinforce their Jewish identity and its connection to their shared experience as a Family.

As the event is sung at the end of Seder, it may also act to transition from one Passover event to another, or to transition into the end of the evening. Either way the event seems to act to transition during a liminal period of the event while also reinforcing the sense of community the Seder dinner builds, as if to sort of epitomize the event they are concluding.

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PASSOVER

Interviewee: So my family was never really Jewish. My grandfather was always like, “I’m Jew-ish.” Or maybe that’s what my aunt said about him. But he never really practiced. He only went to Temple on the high holy days, like Rosh Hashanah, and even then it wasn’t guaranteed. So we never really celebrated it in our house. But I always keenly aware of the fact that I was different from other kids. And probably that mostly stemmed from me being Hispanic.

Interviewer: It’s hard to celebrate Hispanic culture. Like there are no Hispanic mainstream holidays.

Interviewee: Yeah and like living in the whitest town in the country. I tried to make my family celebrate Hanukkah, and my mom was always open to it even though she was super Catholic. She just loves God, I don’t really get it. But it never really worked out because my Dad didn’t celebrate Hanukkah as a kid, he celebrated Christmas. So that didn’t really work out.

But then my best friend since basically birth, his Mom is Jewish and his grandmother wanted to start doing Passover with them. So they invited us over for Seder. And now it’s become this big thing where I always look forward to Passover, I looked forward to it all year.

So we would get together and the joke was that he is half-Jewish on his Mom’s side, I’m half-Jewish on my dad’s side, so together the family makes an entire Jewish family.

And the thing about this friend’s grandmother is that no one in her family really likes her, but in my family we view her as a god.

Interviewer: How many times a year do you see her?

Interviewee: I make it a point to go see her whenever she’s in town. She’s really funny; she acts just like my grandmother, but she has this thick New York Jewish accent. “JR come over here, let me get a good look at you. Do a turn for me.”

So no one really likes her in that family, but in my family she is the bomb, everyone wants to hang out with her. So we would come over for Passover, and immediately she and her daughter would start fighting. It just made for the most entertaining Seders. She would be reading all slow, and her daughter would be like, “Mom you gotta pick it up.” So she would read it faster, and then at the end, she would be like, “Oh, we didn’t really do Seder this year, did we? I guess you’re not into it; you read it so quickly.” So they would start yelling and bickering.

We had some traditions with Passover that grew. Like my friend’s dad would always have the Elijah Glass. And then there is always a fight because there is a part with four children and there was four of us, me, my brother, my friend, and his sister. And there was a part with like the simple child and the wicked child. So we always fought over who was the simple child and who got to be the wicked child. You wanted to be the wicked one.

There was always the hiding of the motzah. My friend’s grandmother would hide the motzah in the house and kids would team up together and tear through the house to see who could find it first.

His grandmother would cook a brisket. So good. Motzah ball soup. We could get real Jewish.

Interviewer: And you guys didn’t really have the opportunity to get to eat that type of food?

Interviewee: We would never have that growing up. It was always like, “Ooh it’s Passover, we get to eat Motzah Ball soup.” The Seders were always super quick and not really religious. It was just fun.

ANALYSIS:

This is clearly a story about struggling to find one’s identity, as he says above that he never felt like he fit in at his all white school because of his race. I think that by turning to Judaism he found something about his difference to celebrate. That his culture no longer ostracized him from everyone else, but rather included him into this two family Seder. It is clear that the religious aspects of the dinner were not really that important because that was never why anyone really wanted to do it in these families in the first place. It seems like it is so much more about understanding and celebrating ones identity and background. With Passover and my informant’s friends grandmother, my informant was able to experience and celebrate what it was like to be Jewish; what it was like to be different. The grandmother served as the guardian into that world for my informant’s family.

Customs
Holidays

Passover

About the Interviewed: Charly Cohen is a student at the University of Southern California majoring in Theatre. Her background is nomadic, having been born in Kentucky, moved to Washington, then to Israel, then to Vancouver, and back to Washington again! Her ethnic backdrop is Jewish. She’s a fellow classmate.

Charly and I had gotten onto the subject of Jewish holidays. I asked her about Passover and her experiences in celebrating it.

Charly: “Passover revolves around a meal called the “Seder”, which means “order”. It refers to a number of things you’re expected to do around the celebration of the meal. You go through a retelling of the story of Exodus, when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, from slavery. You go through the templates, drink four traditional glasses of wine, and sing songs.”

I asked her about any differences she might have experienced celebrating Passover in Israel versus the United States.

Charly: “Passover in Israel is very different from Passover in the United States. It varies based on levels of Judaism. Many people like to think of Jews as sort of one conglomerate – ‘thing’, but there are a ton of denominations. My particular Judaism is based on my experiences at summer camp.”

“People from all sorts of different walks came to the camp –  So you get a different sort of people who celebrate these holidays in different ways.”

“In Israel, I’ve found that the Seders tend to be shorter. It cuts right to the chase, but the after celebration tends to be longer. The last Seder I went to here [in America], the story was told before the meal, but that was it, there wasn’t much afterwards.”

I asked if she felt that way her family celebrated Passover was any different than the way other families celebrated it.

Charly: “Sort of-  there are general guidelines that the observers have to follow, as laid out in the ‘Haggadah’ [Passover Texts], but many families celebrate it in their own ways.”

Summary:

Passover is a holiday with important historical and religious significance. Those who celebrate it typically follow a strict custom, though traditions vary upon where/who are celebrating it.

Though not Jewish myself, I grew up in a community of pretty active members of the faith. Hearing a summary of Passover and the traditions that come with it was very enriching. Traditions can be rigid, but they also exemplify the celebration and make events like Passover special.

 

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