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Abigail Pogrebin


Person at a seder table reading haggadah; glass of wine in foreground

Each year, after my childhood family seders at Uncle Danny’s (first night) and Aunt Betty’s (second night), I looked forward to a whole new world the third night, in New York City’s SoHo or Chelsea.  There was the improvised “table” – patterned fabrics spread on the floor of someone’s loft, the pile of pillows we all brought to sit on in a huge circle, and the myriad platters each guest contributed for the potluck meal.

The Feminist Seder was a highlight of my youth in the 1970s and ’80s. I started attending these innovative, women-only observances at age 12, but hadn’t been to one...

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Fully lighted menorah

Hanukkah wasn’t complicated for me until this year.

I knew the story of the brave Maccabees, the family that fought off the Jew-hating Greeks, because Mom retold the tale when we were little and we acted it out in costumes at the annual friends-and-family Hanukkah party. The Cruel Greek King, Antiochus (usually played by my twin, Robin, in a Tudor crown), decreed that all Jews must stop practicing Judaism; he set up idols for the Jews to worship instead of their God, and led his army to seize the Jews’ holy Temple. But the Jewish warrior, Judah the Maccabee (usually played by me),...

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Plate piled with cheese blintzes topped with peaches and whipped cream

I was never great at pulling all-nighters in college.

But this year I’m pulling one on Shavuot (“weeks”), which celebrates the completion of the “weeks” between Passover and Shavuot – when God gave the Torah to the Israelites on Mount Sinai.

I’ll be at the JCC in Manhattan for its modern iteration of the Tikkun Leil Shavuot (Rectification of the Night of Shavuot), a jam-packed smorgasbord of learning and celebrating from 10 at night until 5 in the morning.

Rabbi Ayelet Cohen, director of the JCC’s Center for Jewish Living, explains that the concept of an all-nighter....

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