TV review: Passover UK: A Jewish Journey. Late but great

Sam Holder’s programme about Pesach gave me warm, fuzzy feelings


Edwin Shuker at his interfaith Seder

Passover UK: A Jewish Journey


When Passover UK: A Jewish Journey showed up on ITV’s schedules nearly a week after the end of the festival, it caused a fair bit of head-scratching and chortling among Jews. “It’s like putting on a programme about Christmas on January 2,” said my husband as we settled down to watch Sam Holder’s exploration of the ways in which British Jews celebrate the festival that (as Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner told him ) is in some ways the Jewish equivalent of Christmas because everyone asks each other where they are going to go. 
But all doubts disappeared as we watched the programme.  It was late, but it was great. For non-Jews there was a great explanation of what Pesach involves and how Jews celebrate it. For Jews there was a warm, fuzzy feeling of being portrayed on television in a positive and authentic way – and that doesn’t happen all that often. And just as Holder unexpectedly bumped into his Auntie Susie as he filmed in Kosher Kingdom, so I was spotting people I knew on screen as he travelled from London to Glasgow, Leeds and Belfast and attended three seders (all the while assuring us that usually he’d be at home with his own family). 

The diversity within our community was a theme, from the strictly Orthodox blow-torching their cooker hobs to progressive Paula in Belfast who includes an orange on her Seder plate to symbolise marginalised Jews. Then there was the lady at a communal Seder musing that the theme of freedom could be applied to the Palestinians. But in general this was a programme light on politics, keen to show traditions and unifying values.

The great advantage of making the programme this year and airing it after the festival was the opportunity to show the empty chairs families had left for the hostages. And the over-arching message was that differences among Jews were small compared to the importance of remembering that we were slaves in Egypt.
The last Seder, led by Edwin Shuker, was my favourite – an Iraqi Seder, held in Hebrew, English and Arabic, according to the traditions of Shakur’s family who had lived in Iraq for 2000 years before fleeing antisemitism in the 1970s.
He had invited guests from other faiths, and it was truly heart-warming to hear the Muslim mayor of Newham talk about how moving she’d found the experience.

 I felt for Holder’s mum when he tasted the date-based charoset made by one of the owners of Honey & Co and declared it “Better than my mother’s”. Maybe it was a good thing that in the interests of programme-making Holder wasn’t going to be at his parents for Seder this year? Just kidding, his family must have missed him. But they’ll have been kvelling as they watched his programme.

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