Seder Trivia Game, 2024 Edition

At our synagogue's congregational seders for the last several years, we have played the following game: I have collected unusual Pesach stories, and shared three such stories with the community: two true stories, and one fictional story. Participants then have to guess which two stories are true and which one is false. (If you listen to Wait, wait, don't tell me, you get the idea, except that only one story is false.) You can see previous editions of this game here This is what was presented at our congregational seder in 2023. Two stories are true; one is fictional. Answers at the bottom!  (And photos inspired by the stories were created by AI...) 


Seders have taken place in a lot of strange and remote places in the world.  There have been seders in Antarctica, and on Mount Everest, and on submarines deep under the ocean.  But the seder in the most remote location of all took place last year, during Passover of 2022 --  aboard the International Space Station.  

The seder’s one participant was Eytan Stibbe, an Israeli astronaut and the second Israeli in space.  As the first Jew in space during the Passover holiday, he was the first person ever to bring Matzah to earth orbit -- as well as a haggadah, as well as four kosher grape juice boxes (as alcohol is not permitted on the international space station).  He even brought along a kiddush cup for Elijah the Prophet (even though not even Elijah can drink from a kiddush cup in space, because everything just floats around). Stibbe noted that like his own journey into space, the Israelites’ journey through the desert required extraordinary fortitude and mental strength.  

The seder in space was a beautiful experience.  The only problem is, now there will be Matzah crumbs in the International Space Station forever.  

Though it could have been worse -- imagine if he had released a bunch of toy frogs which could have floated around the Space Station forever, in a most terrifying reenactment of the 2nd plague. 

STORY #2: 

On the day before Passover, why is there a stream of religious Jews bringing their pets to a barge that is docked in Brooklyn’s Gowanus Bay?

It all started when Nora Velasquez, proprietor of Brooklyn’s PetSpot dog-walking and pet care service near Borough Park in Brooklyn, noticed that she would get a large number of requests every spring from the Orthodox Jews for the boarding of their dogs and cats, and always for the same week of the year. She started to ask her clients and learned that, for Jews who take the Passover restrictions seriously, it is almost impossible to find Kosher for Passover pet food. Even though pets in Jewish homes are not bound to observe the Jewish dietary laws, the laws of avoiding Hametz on Passover require that Hametz not even be found in their homes and that they not benefit from Hametz in any way.  Thus many rabbis advise actually selling pets over the Passover holiday and to have someone else to take care of the pets outside of a Jewish home. 

Already in 2019, Nora realized that her business was growing so much for the week of Passover that it would be worth it for her to rent additional space for that week, to enable her to care for more and more pets from observant Jewish homes. The pandemic slowed down her plans, but last Passover she started renting some vacant space on the barge.  And now for the 2nd year in a row, on the morning before Passover, more than one hundred Jewish families walk with their family pets through Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood, following the signs that say “this way to Nora’s Ark.”   This year Nora hired an additional staff of 30 people for the week to care for numerous dogs and cats and rabbits and occasional birds and reptiles.  Cameras on the barge take photos of the animals at rest and at play, which the Jewish families can access on the “Nora’s Ark” web site to see that their pets are having a great time.  And on the day after Passover is over, the families come streaming back for a tearful reunion with their animals.

Nora noted that last year, one family joked that some of their children might also enjoy the opportunity to escape the Passover food restrictions and spend the week on the barge -- but this is not in Nora’s plans.

STORY #3: 

It’s nearly a hundred years ago.  You are an advertising and marketing executive, and you have been hired by a coffee company to help them to market coffee to the Orthodox Jewish community in the United States.  But you have a problem - every year on Passover, Ashkenazic Jews have the practice of avoiding rice and corn and beans.  And of course coffee comes from beans. So there are some immigrant rabbis in the New York area who are telling their followers that coffee is not kosher for Passover because it comes from beans. 

So you arrange for an Orthodox rabbi to publicly affirm that coffee beans aren't really beans, they are really berries, and as a result they are fully kosher for Passover.  And as a result, more Jews are buying and drinking coffee on Passover.  

But then you have an additional idea;  the coffee company should publish a Haggadah.  That way, if the question should come up in the future about whether or not coffee is kosher for Passover, everyone will say, “Of course coffee is Kosher for Passover!  In fact, it’s so kosher for Passover that the coffee company publishes the haggadah!”

And that is the story of the origin of …. the Maxwell House Haggadah, the most widely distributed Haggadah in Jewish history.



Story #1 is true (see and and many other news accounts)

Story #2 is false (though it is true that some rabbis suggest that pets should be sold for the duration of Passover; see and   However, there are brands of pet food that are certified as Hametz-free; see  Pet ownership is not very popular in Haredi communities like Borough Park, which is a major reason why this story is false -- though I think a Passover pet boarding service on a boat is a plausible business idea and I hope someone makes it a reality!)

Story #3 is true; see among many other articles about the history of the Maxwell House Haggadah.  It was the brainchild of advertising executive Joseph Jacobs, and the Joseph Jacobs Agency continues to produce the Haggadah for Maxwell House; see 

Chag sameach!!


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