Why is that parsley sprig on the Seder plate anyway?

Afikomen on Claremont Avenue

When Ira Steingroot started working at Cody’s Books in 1976, he noticed that the store only had a small collection of Jewish books. Since Passover was approaching, Steingroot decided to stock some more haggadot, the book Jews follow during the Passover Seder.

That casual decision launched Steingroot on a 34-year quest to discover and understand haggadot from around the world. Over the years, he brought in more than 300 different kinds of haggadot to Cody’s, including ones in Yiddish, Hebrew, German, and French. He found books that were geared for Seders attended by socialists, Reconstructionist Jews, lesbians, artists, children, Hassidic Jews, Kabbalists, and more. The only group that seems never to have had a Haggadah devoted to them is gay men, says Steingroot. In a good year, Cody’s would sell $25,000 worth of Jewish-themed merchandise, said Steingroot.

His growing knowledge about this book led Steingroot to write a book called Keeping Passover: Everything You Need to Know to Bring the Ancient Tradition to Life and Create Your Own Passover Celebration.

On Sunday at 3 pm, Steingroot will be at Afikomen on Claremont Avenue in Berkeley to share his knowledge of Passover traditions and to help people craft their own seders. (Passover starts on Tuesday, March 30 the evening of Monday, March 29 this year).

Do you want to know why there is an egg on the Seder plate? Or parsley? Or why some feminists have added an orange? Or the exact method to drip wine to commemorate the ten plagues? Or why Jews even have to eat gefilte fish?


Steingroot is the man to answer those questions for you.