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A night like none other: City Winery’s 31st Annual Downtown Passover Seder

BY TEQUILA MINSKY | The Artists Seder, hosted by City Winery’s Michael Dorf, marked 31 years of City Winery’s Annual Downtown Passover Seder, a far cry from a traditional Seder.

A loose interpretation of the Haggadah (the order of Seder events) and paying tribute to ancestral practices, the event gathered people who wanted to be together to mark the upcoming holiday. Metro New Yorkers of many affiliations converged in City Winery’s main restaurant at Pier 57, five days before the actual April 22 beginning of Passover.

Al Franken sang “Go Down Moses (Let My People Go).” (Photo by Tequila Minsky)
David Broza, left, and Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul and Mary) make meaningful music together. (Photo by Tequila Minsky)
Dr. Ruth, 95, greeted people at the Seder. (Photo by Tequila Minsky)

With a program that included musical and theatrical artists, community and faith leaders, they gathered in tradition, connectedness and sharing the pain and worry of the times. The menu offered vegan eats and good wine.

Lab/Shul’s Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie lit candles to start and offered a peace prayer. Mid-program, with poignant relevancy, former U.S. Senator Al Franken simply spoke/sang the spiritual “Go Down Moses.” The song’s origins from the African-American slave community references the biblical book of “Exodus,” which is the Passover story. Contemporarily, its verse “Let my people go” literally resonates today.

Maya Angelou was quoted: “None of us are free until we are all free.”

On Passover, the traditional “four questions” are asked. To these, Comptroller Brad Lander added: “How do we welcome the current wave of refugees and asylum seekers, offering them opportunities to work and live and become the next generation of New Yorkers, while confronting the challenges facing those who have been here for a while more — the lack of affordable housing, rising challenges of homelessness and mental health?”

Among his four questions, City Comptroller Brad Lander spoke of refugees and asylum seekers and challenges facing those who “have been here for a while.” He mentioned the lack of affordable housing, challenges of homelessness and mental health. (Photo by Tequila Minsky)
Judy Gold, pointedly funny! (Photo by Tequila Minsky)
Terrence Floyd, brother of George Floyd, called out systemic racism and all the ways we keep oppression alive. (Photo by Tequila Minsky)

Terrence Floyd, brother of George Floyd, called out systemic racism and all the ways we keep oppression alive. Civil rights activist Dr. Benjamin Chavis referred to his initiative, the Black Jewish Action Alliance.

Blowing a mash-up medley of Jewish and other spiritual songs, trumpeters Steven Bernstein and Frank London performed as a duo. Pointed levity emerged through the musings of actor Richard Kind and comic Judy Gold.

From the floor, 95-year old Dr. Ruth Westheimer, attending with her granddaughter, sent greetings,

Rabbi Tamar Manasseh, an anti-gun violence activist, raised Miriam’s Cup, a new ritual. This cup is filled with water, acknowledging that which sustains us through our journeys, as well as the importance of Miriam in the Passover story.

Civil rights activist Dr. Benjamin Chavis, Jr. also spoke. (Photo by Tequila Minsky)
Peace activist David Broza performed. (Photo by Tequila Minsky)
Trumpeters Steven Bernstein and Frank London performed a medley duet. (Photo by Tequila Minsky)

Also on the program were tap-dancing AC Lincoln and singer Nicki Richards.

Quite emotionally moving, Peter Yarrow revived the classic “If I Had a Hammer,” encouraging attendees to sing along. The room resounded with: “I’d hammer out justice! I’d hammer out freedom! I’d hammer out love between my brothers and sisters, all over this land!”

Yarrow was accompanied by peace activist David Broza.

Broza, an Israeli musician, has been performing almost nonstop in a traumatized Israel since Oct. 7. He also performed solo, wrapping up the evening.

One Comment

  1. Carol Frances Yost Carol Frances Yost May 7, 2024

    I’m sure most of the people at the celebration want Israel to stop murdering Palestinians.

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