Obenzinger, Hilton. “Treyf Pesach”, Ithuriel’s Spear, 2017.
A Fascinating Poetic Look at Judaism
We live in a world where blasphemy has become something we see and hear almost everyday and, in fact, I am not even sure I know what it is anymore. Certainly the works of the Westboro Baptist Church are blasphemous because they are so negative and often disgusting but when one takes potshots at his own religion in fun, I am not sure that we can call that blasphemy. This is what Hilton Obenzinger has done in “Treyf Pesach”, his collection of outrageous and exciting poems about traditional Judaism. There is a great deal of truth in what he has to say. Poet Obenzinger takes radical steps away from rituals, formats and conventions and gives us alternative Passover Seders, Yom Kippur liturgy, Thanksgiving prayers, psalms and other poems and he does so through the use of “proclamations, resolutions, jazz improvisations, incantations, rants, orations, comic monologues, oil spills, life spills, songs, visions, undocumented documents, borders, suns, farewells, minutes of meetings, talk-stories, and all accompanied by provocative drawings of Treyf Passover Seder plates by artist Charles Steckler.”
They symbolic Seder plate that sits at the middle of the table at every Passover table here is decorated with un-kosher food and the story of the Exodus is related with different meanings such as using whiskey instead of wine as we recount the continual slavery of wars and military occupations.
The various poems take place over years and occasions that include “vicious aggressions, to absurd walls, to smallpox blankets, to oil spouting across the Gulf, and more, all framed by the first months of the Trump regime.” Some of these have been read at Seders, Yom Kippur services, Thanksgiving Day benedictions, Sunday fellowships, and other ceremonies but most, because of what they say and how they say are best read silently. Nonetheless, I already have a few ideas for next year’s Seder.