City Desk

This Is the Book of Affliction

The hot new book in Washington circles this spring isn’t a policy tome, or a government exposé; it’s Our Haggadah, the Passover story as written by Cokie and Steve Roberts. The journalist power couple, both mainstays of NPR and Sunday morning shows, combine a memoir of their rise to elite status with a guide to telling the story of the Jewish exodus from Egypt. One review on Amazon notes: “The people who attended their interfaith seders [over the years] are a Who's Who of journalists, media personalities, NPR reporters/hosts (Nina, Linda), and interfaith couples.” The twin book concepts—braggy memoir and familiar seder guide—go together like gefilte fish and horseradish, or at least so hope their publishers at Harper Collins.

If the Roberts—one raised as a non-observant Jew in Bayonne, N.J., the other the daughter of a prominent Washington and Louisiana family whose mother would go on to be U.S. ambassador to the Vatican—can write a Passover book, who can’t? Here are some possible sequels for local and national power-player projects inspired by Our Haggadah, complete with excerpts:

The Tommy Boggs Hagaddah. Why should Cokie be the only member of the Boggs family to help guide your seder? Surely her older brother, senior partner in the most powerful lobbying firm in town, has some helpful insight. Excerpt: “Rabbi Yosi the Gallilean said: How do you know that the Egyptians were stricken by ten plagues in Egypt, and then were struck by fifty plagues at the sea? And his public affairs advisor replied: Rabbi, I’m paid to know that sort of thing. And if Pharaoh had hired my firm, he would have been stricken by five plagues. Seven, max.”

The Sally Quinn Hagaddah. For years, the former Post Style section writer and husband Ben Bradlee have been the ultimate Washington hosts, at least as far as the national political crowd is concerned. Quinn was fired from her column on entertaining after she inexplicably devoted one last February to the plans for her son's upcoming wedding. But that doesn't mean she can't help you pull off an A-list seder. Excerpt: "Why is this night different from all other nights? On all other nights, lawmakers, journalists, and lobbyists gather in Georgetown to circulate conventional wisdom over white wine (not red, lest it stain the carpet if spilled.) On this night, they are gathering over cocktails, instead of wine, because who doesn't like a nice springtime martini?"

The Kwame “Fully Loaded” Brown Hagaddah. The Passover story focuses on the gratitude of the Israelites for how God led them into the Promised Land. This version, by the chairman of the D.C. Council, also focuses on gratitude. Excerpt: “How many levels of favors has the D.C. Government bestowed upon us: If it had supplied our needs in the desert for 40 years, and had not fed us the manna—dayenu, it would have sufficed! If it had fed us the manna, and had not given us the Lincoln Navigator—dayenu, it would have sufficed! If it had given us the Lincoln Navigator, and the interior had not been black-on-black—dayenu, it would have sufficed! Actually, no, it would not have sufficed.”

The Mike Allen Hagaddah. Every morning, Politico Playbook subscribers receive an odd mix of one part news, one part birthday reminders (usually correct), one part copied-and-pasted spin, and one part travelogue of the life of one of the city’s most omnipresent journalists. Between posts, Allen has also written a Passover book. Excerpt: “POLITICO Playbook, presented by Manischevitz—Senior Pharaoh administration sources say Israelites could be released from bondage soon, but not because of carping from opposition pols. Pyramid mindmeld: The Pharaoh is taking decisive leadership to end a debate that has dragged on for generations. Also, he was a little freaked out about the frogs.’ Birthdays: Moses is 3-5; Rabbi Eliezer (hat tip: Rabbi Tarphon).”

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  • Walter Fauntroy

    Obviously, we need a Passover book from the Practical Knowledge folks:

    And if God had only invented the megaphone...
    Dayenu

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