Cokie and Steve Roberts’s “Our Haggadah”

April 15, 2011

Steve Roberts grew up in a Jewish family but didn’t celebrate Passover until he was married — to a Catholic. At his wife Cokie’s urging, the couple learned about the holiday, which, they write, “transcends ethnic identity.” After all, the Passover seder may be a retelling of the Jews’ exodus from slavery in Egypt, but it’s also a broader celebration of human freedom.

Having compiled their own Haggadah (the book used at the Passover seder that includes the rituals, prayers and telling of the Passover story) from several existing versions, the Bethesda-based journalists have been hosting interfaith seders for their family and larger crowds for more than 40 years. In “Our Haggadah,” the couple tells the Passover story as well as their own. With this participatory and egalitarian handbook, the Robertses create a virtual seat at their seder table through anecdotes from their celebrations, notes on their family traditions and practical advice for anyone hosting a seder — interfaith or not.

While establishment Judaism often struggles to embrace mixed marriages, the Robertses — who have written on this topic before — provide an inclusive guide that extends beyond Passover to address interfaith unions: “We have always tried to emphasize our shared values, not our differences,” they write. “We have tried to educate, not convert, each other.”

— Lisa Bonos

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