There’s No Seder Like a Showbiz Seder

There’s No Seder Like a Showbiz Seder


For the final performance, the singer and songwriter Shaina Taub sat at a piano and sang her forthcoming song “Huddled Masses,” which was inspired by a protest poster that quoted from Emma Lazarus’s poem “The New Colossus,” which she noticed at Kennedy Airport after President Trump first proposed restrictions upon travelers from certain countries, including Yemen.

Listen to “Huddled Masses”

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“That was very powerful, and very special,” said Jeffrey Richards, a producer who has helped stage plays including the 2015 revival of “Fiddler on the Roof,” in which Mr. Kantor played the role of Motel the tailor.

Each of the Seder performances connected to Mr. Al Samawi’s story, which was told by him and Daniel Pincus, 39, a Jewish businessman and philanthropist who helped him escape Yemen, and whose apartment was the setting for the dinner.

Mr. Al Samawi was raised a Muslim, and taught to hate Jews, Christians and Americans. He eventually committed himself to multifaith advocacy and found himself in grave danger amid violence in Yemen brought on by Al Qaeda and other extremist groups. Three years ago, Mr. Al Samawi hid alone in a bathroom, posting about his plight on Facebook. Four virtual American strangers responded and spent the next two weeks trying to save a man they barely knew. “Jews and Christians saved my life,” he said.

Mr. Al Samawi has written a memoir about the experience, “The Fox Hunt,” which will be published by William Morrow next week. The film rights have been optioned by Marc Platt, who produced “La La Land,” and Mr. Pasek will also be a producer. (Becky Sweren, Mr. Pincus’s wife, is Mr. Al Samawi’s literary agent.)

By 9:30, a kosher dinner of Persian jeweled rice and pomegranate and walnut stew was served, prepared by Behzad Jamshidi, a child of Iranian refugees. A microphone was passed around for impromptu interpretations of “Moses Song,” guests congratulated performers and snapped selfies, and Mr. Al Samawi tried to take it all in.

“I was hiding in a small bathroom waiting to be killed and now I’m here,” he said.



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