89.1 WEMU

Actors, Singers Raise Money For CDC Charity With Virtual Seder

Apr 13, 2020
Originally published on April 13, 2020 11:08 am
YouTube

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

This past weekend, stars like Idina Menzel, Sarah Silverman and Josh Groban celebrated Passover virtually with storytelling and music and comedy. The online "Saturday Night Seder" raised some $2 million for the CDC Foundation's Coronavirus Emergency Response Fund. NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: Dozens of actors and singers, Jews and non-Jews, showed up throughout the Seder, which lasted a little more than an hour. It began with Jason Alexander sitting at a dining room table.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO, "SATURDAY NIGHT PASSOVER SEDER")

JASON ALEXANDER: This is a holiday that celebrates transitions.

BLAIR: He promised the virtual celebration would be a lot of fun, a little bit traditional and very relevant.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO, "SATURDAY NIGHT PASSOVER SEDER")

ALEXANDER: (Singing) Tonight is even stranger than the average Pesach meal because we're trapped in our apartments and the plagues are effin' real. Dayenu, dayenu - enough's enough's enough.

BLAIR: Actors Debra Messing and Richard Kind helped tell the story of the Exodus when Jews fled Egypt. Henry Winkler told the story of the 10 plagues from a children's version of the Haggadah, interspersed with Billy Porter singing "Go Down Moses."

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO, "SATURDAY NIGHT PASSOVER SEDER")

HENRY WINKLER: And painful boils covered everyone's skin.

BILLY PORTER: (Singing) So Moses went to Egypt's land. Let my people go.

BLAIR: Then there was the Passover ritual where the youngest child asks or sings the four questions. Comedian Nick Kroll said he tried to fudge it.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO, "SATURDAY NIGHT PASSOVER SEDER")

NICK KROLL: I just used to sing, you know, "Hakuna Matata" and then my grandfather would cry in embarrassment.

BLAIR: Idina Menzel does know how to sing it.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO, "SATURDAY NIGHT PASSOVER SEDER")

IDINA MENZEL: (Singing in Hebrew).

BLAIR: In between the music and storytelling, we're pleased to donate to the CDC Foundation. The idea for this virtual Seder started with Benj Pasek, whose credits include "Dear Evan Hansen." He told me it didn't take much to get people onboard.

BENJ PASEK: And every day kind of as we continued to work on it, it just kind of snowballed, and it would get bigger and bigger. And we wanted it to have as far a reach as possible.

BLAIR: The program loosely follows the structure of a traditional Passover Seder. Rabbis like Sharon Brous talked about how the holiday resonates right now.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO, "SATURDAY NIGHT PASSOVER SEDER")

SHARON BROUS: Even though things are painful and hard and we are incredibly vulnerable right now, that we will survive this, that our story doesn't end here.

BLAIR: The Passover Seder often ends with the phrase next year in Jerusalem. This idea of looking forward to something better inspired Benj Pasek and his friends Mark Sonnenblick and singer Shaina Taub to write the closing song.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO, "SATURDAY NIGHT PASSOVER SEDER")

SHAINA TAUB: (Singing) 'Cause next year, next year the doors will break open. Next year, next year we'll breathe in the sky.

BLAIR: Towards the end, it's no longer just celebrities talking. It's health care workers in masks.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO, "SATURDAY NIGHT PASSOVER SEDER")

UNIDENTIFIED HEALTH CARE WORKER #1: Next year in my mom's kitchen in Long Island.

UNIDENTIFIED HEALTH CARE WORKER #2: Next year by Lake Michigan in Chicago with my family.

BLAIR: This holiday is something everyone can relate to right now, whether you're Jewish or not. Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO, "SATURDAY NIGHT PASSOVER SEDER")

TAUB: (Singing) Oh, next year. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.