Two more at the seder table

Marnie Fienberg of Falls Church created 2 for Seder in memory of her mother-in-law Joyce Fienberg who died last October in the Tree of Life mass shooting in Pittsburgh. Photo by Samantha Cooper

Joyce Fienberg had special recipe for Passover popovers. According to her daughter-in-law, Marnie Fienberg, of Falls Church, nobody else could replicate the recipe perfectly. Nobody is quite sure what Joyce Fienberg’s secret was.

For 12 years, the two co-hosted the family seder. But when Passover starts at sundown on April 19, Joyce won’t be there.

Joyce Fienberg was one of the 11 people shot dead at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last October. She was 75. Her family was hit hard by the loss, and as Passover came closer, Marnie realized that she needed todo something to honor mother-in-law’s memory.

Joyce Fienberg Photo provided

“I was very lucky to know Joyce,” Marnie said, “If you met her once you were a friend for life.”

Joyce’s outgoing and vibrant personality inspired Marnie to come up with the project 2 for Seder. It encourages families to invite two friends, co-workers or neighbors and introduce them to the Passover seder.

“This is my coping mechanism,” she said, “We’re in very deep mourning.” The mass shooting at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, last month “has bought everything back. I completely understand what those families are going through. This is why 2 for Seder has to exist.”

But Fienberg said 2 for Seder is less about talking about anti-Semitism and more about Jews gaining acceptance through teaching about Jewish customs and culture.

“If we’re going to change the dialogue, we need to reach out to neighbors and friends who are not Jewish. We don’t know what it means for them to be Muslim, Hindu or Christian. [2 for Seder] is a proactive thing we can do,” she said.

2 for Seder comes with a kit with a timeline of pro-Semitic and anti-Semitic events in the United States to use as talking points.

Joyce Fienberg had always welcomed guests into her home, especially for the holidays. And Passover seemed like a particularly good holiday to introduce people to Judaism, Marnie Fienberg said. After all, it’s the only Jewish holiday with a built-in guidebook.

“[2 for Seder] requires you to invite two people to join you, to do what we’re already doing, which is to ask questions and have discussions, which is exactly what the Haggadah is designed to do,” said Rabbi Evan Ravski of Congregation Olam Tikvah in Fairfax, where Marnie Fienberg is a member.

Some 400 families have signed up to participate, including 40 in Virginia, according to Marnie Fienberg.

There isn’t much a family needs to do to participate: register with the site ( to access the host and guest guides, which Ravski helped to create.

He said his family will participate in the program at their seder in Connecticut.

“Very early on, I got my parents involved in it and got them turned on to the website and everything,” he said. “I don’t know the two extra people. They’ll probably be from my father’s office. But that’s the point.”

He believes that this program could help start a conversation within and outside the Jewish community.

“One of the things I loved when Marnie came to me with this idea, was that it doesn’t matter what your seder looks like. It could be a seder that goes until 11:30 at night. It could be a seder that goes 90 minutes long. It could be something that is very traditional or it could be something that is more modern. [2 for Seder] doesn’t require your Judaism look one particular way to
engage with it,” he said. n

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