Sporting a matzah tie, Stuart Cohen cheerily led 90 men in a pre-Passover Seder Sunday at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. But this was no ordinary Seder.
It was the third annual Baltimore Hebrew Brotherhood Men’s Seder, and keeping with the tradition of having a theme, the topic was Jewish men of Hollywood.
“Hollywood is paved in Jewish influence,” said Dave Berenhaus, a past president of the brotherhood, who gave a presentation and quiz on Jewish Hollywood with Passover questions interspersed.
The brotherhood turned the social hall into a mini-Hollywood with a red carpet that attendees walked along and a stage where local comedian and juggler Michael Rosman performed between parts of the Seder.
After saying the blessing over the karpas, Ira Kolman, who wore a tuxedo and served as the master of ceremonies, did a “disappearing matzah” trick for the afikomen. After that, Rosman performed a feat few Seders will see this Passover.
“I’m going do a trick I really think captures the essence of the holiday,” he told the crowd.
To make a “matzah smore,” Rosman soaked a marshmallow in gasoline, lathered a piece of matzah with chocolate pudding and sprayed his shoe with cooking spray. He then placed the marshmallow on his shoe, lit it on fire and kicked it in the air to land on the matzah, which he was holding with his mouth. He did not eat the “smore.”
During the Jewish trivia presentation by Berenhaus, attendees learned about Jewish founders and CEOs of film studios, which actors had bar mitzvahs — the list includes Ben Stiller, David Arquette and Jack Black — what gefilte fish means (stuffed fish) and which actors have played God.
Berenhaus brought the men’s Seder to Baltimore Hebrew after learning about it from Men of Reform Judaism.
“The idea behind it being not so much a Seder, but male bonding,” he said.
Joe Boccuzzi, immediate past president of the brotherhood, likened the event to a family get-together.
“It’s like a holiday; you see friends and relatives you don’t normally see,” he said. “So, this is our time to come out and reconnect.”
Sid Bravmann, who chaired the event and made rounds of phone calls to pack the hall, said he likes the challenge of ramping up attendance.
“It takes me out of my personal comfort zone and allows me to reward others,” he said.
The event built on the previous years’ themes — great Jewish men and Jewish men of comedy.
Kolman, the event’s emcee, said the story of Hollywood is a testament to the Jewish people, who made up “100 percent of the founders.” He added that Hollywood was founded as an outlet for Jews who had other skills but couldn’t find work in the U.S. in their trade.
“The American establishment wouldn’t let us into society, so we created our own,” he said.
Kolman said the Seder was proof of the power of the brotherhood.
“We like to pray together, learn together and eat together,” he said.
That message wasn’t lost on the Seder’s younger attendees.
Benjamin Boccuzzi, 17, who was there with his father, Joe, said he thought the theme catered to all the age groups at the Seder and saw value in joining the brotherhood in the future.
“You see everyone you’re connected to in the community,” he said.