At Passover, I have to wonder if Im a Jew askew

Nearly two decades ago, I put together my own haggadah. Hold on. That sentence reads more noble and Judaic than it really is. You see, I’ve also pulled off a number of other Jewish-ish projects, but most with a twist that could impinge upon your reaction.

For example, for my wedding, I made my own chuppah — with glow-in-the-dark moons and stars and glowsticks hanging from the canopy … and five poles!

Then there’s the sukkah I often construct in my backyard, procuring the palm fronds from near the train tracks in East Oakland. Does that make me a sukkah poacher?

And on many Fridays, I make my own challah. But I use a bread machine for the dough (some might scoff) and, even worse, if pressed for time, I forgo the braiding, dump the finished dough onto a cookie sheet, and slather the blob with yolk, salt and seeds before baking.

Baruch atah Adonai, is that any way to bringest forth the bread from the earth?

All this gets me thinking about one of my favorite exchanges in “Slap Shot,” when hockey coach Reggie Dunlop (played by Paul Newman) is talking to Lily about her husband, one of his wayward players. “He don’t run with the traffic,” Reggie tells her.

I guess I don’t, either. Certainly not in terms of being Jewish. Which brings me back to my haggadah.

My cover page includes a big photo of eight Chassidim standing behind Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson. And in the center, the face of one man is replaced with a cutout of my face. I actually look OK underneath that black hat, payes dangling, but that’s beside the sacrilegious point, no?

“The Andy Altman Seder: A Passover Haggadah, Primer and Fun-Time Festival” was “prepared by Andy Altman … with special thanks to Rabbi Eliezer,” or so it says on the cover.

I wrote it by buying about 10 inexpensive haggadahs, pouring over each text, and then fusing them into what seemed most familiar. I also clipped artwork (seder plate, plagues, egg, etc.) from the haggadahs and glued them into mine.

On the first page is “Pesach Trivia,” the first of 17 questions I devised. Example: (true or false) Although the Four Questions are now a universal part of the seder, the practice is a relatively new one, first incorporated by Jews in America in the early 1900s (answer below).

One year, I decided to do a comedy version of my haggadah.

Bad idea. Awful idea. It landed with the thud of a lead matzah ball. My family hated it, and I felt like a complete idiot as the seder progressed. Each joke was worse than the last. I actually was wiping flop sweat from my brow.

“We speak of the tyranny of George Steinbrenner, of the tyranny of beer without born-on dating, of the tyranny of Rosie O’Donnell.”

“May the problems of all who are downtrodden be our problems … May the struggles of the Chicago Cubs be mocked by all.”

“Yo! Behold this here matzah. This be the bread of affliction, which our ancestors ate in Egypt (Ebonics version).”

“The 10 plagues we recall: hemorrhoids, bad breath, John Tesh, genital warts, Pauly Shore movie marathons, skunky beer … “

Needless to say, that was only a one-year tradition.

A tradition that simply wouldn’t die, however, was my mom hiding the afikomen before the seder … about 40 of the little buggers, each one half the size of a postage stamp — some Scotch-taped into place! There were so many, she wrote down their locations, better to help with the “You’re getting hotter … no, no, now you’re cold.”

If that wasn’t enough, I was in the search up until eight years ago! There I was, a large man in my mid-30s — with my wife, my siblings and their spouses — scouring my Mom’s living room and foyer, where her collection of 35 mirrors offered ample placement options.

I must have caught a look at myself in one of those mirrors and finally said, “Oy vey, what the heck am I doing?” Not running with the traffic, that’s for sure.

Andy Altman-Ohr no longer writes religious texts: true. The answer to the question about the Four Questions: false.

Andy Altman-Ohr

Andy Altman-Ohr was J.’s managing editor and Hardly Strictly Bagels columnist until he retired in 2016 to travel and live abroad. He and his wife have a home base in Mexico, where he continues his dalliance with Jewish journalism.