While Passover is a joyous holiday, the Seders— the two consecutive dinners during which the story of the Jews’ liberation from slavery is retold — have their fair share of somber moments. Jews gather for one or two evenings to eat, drink, pray and read from a Haggadah, a text that guides the Seder service. In addition to detailing the woes the Jewish people suffered under the yoke of an Egyptian pharaoh, it recounts a host of plagues God inflicted on the Egyptian people in a bid to win the Jews their freedom.
But in a year of many drastic changes, a young Edgemont native, Danielle Brody, is seeking to shake up this observance. The 28-year-old is putting the “ha” in the Haggadah with her new version of the ancient tome: “Don’t Fuhaggadahboudit,”which she bills as “a funny, modern, illustrated, pandemic-themed Seder in (just about) a New York minute.” It’s available in English, French and Hebrew as a digital download for $8 to $10 at danielleindoodles.com; print copies are $20 each, or $65 for four. Brody will drop off print orders to people’s homes in Westchester this weekend, in time for Passover.
In addition, on March 28, from 6 to 7:30 p.m., Brody will be hosting a free, second-night Zoom Seder (https://bit.ly/3f7Y4DT). Expect comedians, a singer and, of course, a hilarious retelling of the Passover tale, courtesy of “Don’t Fuhaggadahboudit.”
The idea to make a Haggadah “goes back a little bit,” said Brody, a 2010 graduate of Edgemont High School. “I started making these cartoons, called ‘Danielle in Doodles,’ at the end of last summer. I’m Jewish, so I’ve done some Jewish doodles — I did one about the nine types of people on Hanukkah, and one about Purim, and Jewish guys I’ve dated, and actually the one on Jewish guys I’ve dated performed very well on TikTok. So the Jewish stuff seems to do well, and people relate to it, and it is just natural for me to make cartoons on Jewish culture and life.”
Eventually, Brody said, she turned her hobby into a hustle, offering custom birthday and bar/bat mitzvah cards on her website (which links to her Etsy store, https://etsy.me/31lHI29). “Then my dad said, ‘It seems like you have Jewish customers and a Jewish audience, so why don’t you make a Haggadah?’” she remembered. “I was like, ‘That’s so genius,’ because I’ve always wanted to write a book, and I already had a drawing partner in mind because I knew I couldn’t draw the whole thing by myself.”
Brody reached out to her friend Alice Blanc, a fellow doodler who lives in France, and the two got to work.
“I started this whole project on February 28th, and I finished designing it on March 14th,” she said.
Though the execution was swift, it’s a thoughtful work, filled with sly and gentle humor, much of it keyed to the pandemic. Regarding the custom of purging one’s home of foods that contain leavening prior to Passover, she suggested, “Use religion as an excuse to carbo-load: If you’re going through pandemic cravings, you can eat all the carbs before Passover starts.” Later, she joked, “The matzah ball soup is simmering on the stove — if you’re lucky enough to still have your sense of smell.”
“Don’t Fuhaggadahboudit”is, of course, richly illustrated as well. “There are almost 30 drawings. I did half, and then my drawing partner did the other half,” Brody said. “I wrote the whole thing and I was the creative director, so I had the vision for all the images. I kind of assigned [Blanc] the drawings I knew she would be better at, because she is a little more talented as an artist than I am, technically.”
If the Haggadah’s humor seems to flow naturally, it’s because Brody, who lives in Brooklyn and works as an associate editor for Insider Studios (the custom content department for Business Insider), has a background in stand-up comedy.
“It’s related to Edgemont,” she observed. “When I was in high school, we did a ‘Teacher [version of ‘American] Idol.’ I somehow convinced my friend to let me be a judge … and I loved being on the stage. I really enjoyed coming up with things in the moment and making jokes that people laughed at.”
Several years ago, while living in Queens, she learned that a local comedy shop was holding an introductory class. “I did that and I really enjoyed the creative outlet, and being on stage and making jokes,” she said. Since then, she has performed in Astoria, Brooklyn and Manhattan, and hopes to resume after the pandemic.
For now, people can find comic relief in “Don’t Fuhaggadahboudit.”And why not? “With the pandemic, everyone’s Seders don’t look the way they used to, which for me was a nice opportunity to [create] something new and different for people,” Brody explained. “It kind of lightens the mood a little bit, because it’s been a tough year. I hope that people find it’s almost like a de-stressor, because that’s what comedy is.”
Doubtless, readers will be touched by the Haggadah’s finale: Instead of saying “Next year in Jerusalem,” like a Haggadah normally says, this one says, “Next year hopefully in person.”