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No Kvetching In This Interfaith Marriage

No Kvetching In This Interfaith Marriage
Journalists Cokie and Steve Roberts join us to talk about marriage and faith. The Roberts have been reporting on stories for more than 40 years, just about as long as they've been married to each other. They're out with a new book about how they've joined two faith traditions into a long, successful marriage.


Cokie and Steve Roberts will discuss their book, "Our Haggadah: Uniting Traditions For Interfaith Families" at The Distinguished Author Series, presented by the San Diego Center for Jewish Culture at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, on Wednesday, March 16, at 7 p.m. at the David and Dorothea Garfield Theatre. A book signing follows their presentation.

Early every Monday morning, listeners to this station can hear the Washington insights of reporter Cokie Roberts. She and her husband, fellow journalist Steve Roberts have been reporting on stories for years and commenting about them in print, on radio and on TV. Most people who follow the news are very familiar with this Washington power couple. But what you might not be familiar with is the Roberts Passover seders.

It seems that Cokie and Steve Roberts have made a effort for years to honor their two different faiths within a strong and lasting interfaith marriage.



Cokie Roberts is a political commentator for ABC News and a senior news analyst for NPR. She is co-authored of the book, "Our Haggadah: Uniting Traditions For Interfaith Families."

Steve Roberts has worked as a journalist for more than 40 years, and he appears regularly as a political analyst on NPR and the ABC radio network.

Read Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. Early every Monday morning listeners to this station can hear the political insights of reporter, Cokie Roberts. She and her husband, fellow journalist Steve Roberts, have been reporting on stories for years, in print, on radio, and on TV. Most people who follow the news are very familiar with this Washington power couple. But what you might not be familiar with is the Roberts' passover seders. It seems that Cokie and Steve Roberts have made an effort for years to honor their two different faiths within a strong and lasting interfaith marriage. They are here with some stories and lessons with the experience of it's a pleasure to welcome Cokie and Steve robbers to These Days. Good morning. Thank you for being here.

COKIE ROBERTS: Maureen, it's terrific to be here.


STEVE ROBERTS: Thanks so much.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And you know, I think I'm going to mispronounce the name of your book if I say it. So why do not I have you start to say it.

STEVE ROBERTS: The book is called our Haggadah. And the Haggadah is the book that is read at pass over, which will be next month. And it's a very ancient tradition. First Haggadahs were written down in the 9th Century. And the first ones printed in Italy in the 16th Century. And this has got all of the prayers, all of the rituals, it's got all of the symbols, all of the stories that surround the Passover story, and while it's a very, very ancient concept, we want to thank our new press agent, Hosni Mubarak, for helping remind us that there is this may I approach ancient of stories that's very relevant to modern life. I mean, the great symbol, the great theme of pas over is let my people go. And we heard it virtually 84ed for word from liberation square in the middle of Cairo just a few weeks ago.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That's so interesting. I want to invite our listens to join the conversation. What are the challenges in an interfaith marriage? What are the strengths? Call us with your questions and comments. Our number is 1-888-895-5727. That's 1-888-895-KPBS. Your book, our Haggadah, has a subtitle, uniting traditions for interfaith families. So is that why this is your Haggadah?

COKIE ROBERTS: Yes, it is. I'm a Catholic, Steve is Jewish. And some 40 plus years ago when we were actually living in Southern California, I sat dun at my little old manual Smith Corona typewriter and typed out our Haggadah. And it was a mishmash of things that I had pulled from other Haggadahs, and I stapled them together, the sheets of paper, and we've been using that for some 40 plus years. And now it's a very pretty book. It's between hard covers. But it is -- it's not in any way christianizing the seder, the ceremony of pass over. This is the additional seder, but with a little bit more modern language, a little bit more accessible. Women are included. It's not the four sons, it's the four children. And then we do also in this version explain everything. Every symbol, every name, and include some readings from people that are not part of the traditional seder, and you can use them or not use them. But from people like sitting bull and Pope John Paul on the subject of freedom.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, take us back, if you would, Steve, to the 1960s when you and Cokie started to seriously date, and you're talking about getting married. The issue of your being of two different faiths loomed very large.

STEVE ROBERTS: It did. I'm having a little trouble remembering the 1960s. But from what I recall, this was -- you know, my family were very Jewish in a very tribal and cultural sense. But not in a religious sense. And in some ways, there were two problems, one was I was marrying a Catholic. The other was I woman of faith. And that was almost as strange for my parents as anything else. And we had this agreement that we would raise the kids in both traditions. We would practice both traditions. It was hard for my parents, but at one point, I knew it was gonna be okay with my father said, you know, it would be a whole lot easier to oppose this marriage if it wasn't so completely obvious she's the perfect girl for you. And then I knew it was gonna be okay.

COKIE ROBERTS: It took a while.

STEVE ROBERTS: It took a while. It took four years. And then after we got married, Cokie decided as a woman of faith that she actually would keep this promise that we had, and in many ways, she was the one who led my family back to Jewish ritual. And she was the one who insisted to my parents that they hold the four seder, my mother till the day she died just a few months ago at 91, always said the first seder I ever went to was organized by my Catholic daughter in law, and that was because she was a serious woman of faith. She took these rituals seriously. She took our promise seriously. And she's always been known as the best Jew in the family.

COKIE ROBERTS: But it's a very low bar.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, tell me, what concerns did your families have about your marrying?

COKIE ROBERTS: I think all families to one degree or another, when their children bring home someone whom they don't automatically recognize as being like them think that they are going to be -- well, first they worry about the children, they worry that the children are gonna be unhappy. But they also worry with themselves. They think that they're going to be strangers in their children's households. And they think that it's a rejection of them. And I see it all the time. Steve teaches at G. W, George Washington university, and I see it with the young people around me at work, their parents are nervous that they are in some ways turning their backs on their parents and their traditions, and their upbringing. And of course that's not what they're doing for the most part. Ive mean some might be. But for the most part, they've just fallen in love with somebody, and they're looking to that person, they're not looking away from their families of and I think -- but I think parents think that that is what's happening.

STEVE ROBERTS: And also in some ways, of course, the rising rate of intermarriage, and it's not just among Jews of one out of every seven marriages in America today are interracial. And in a community like San Diego I'm sure it's even a lot high are. And what's happening is in many ways, success of immigrant groups who are -- whether it's Hispanics, whether it's Jews, whether it's Asians who are moving into mainstream America, they're going to universities like San Diego state, they are meeting people who are not from their church, not from their community, not from their home town in Mexico or Hong Kong. And it's a sign of them becoming successful in America in some ways. And that can be hard for the older generation, the immigrant generation who was the one who first came to America. And that's what we're seeing. And it goes judicial into the Jewish community, but it goes far beyond the Jewish community of the almost every ethnic group in America is going through exactly the same thing.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with Steve Roberts ask Cokie Roberts are and we're talking approximate their new book, our Haggadah: Uniting Traditions for Interfaith Families. We're inviting our listeners to join the conversation. Our number here is 1-888-895-5727. That's 1-888-895-KPBS. Now, of course you're here and you're talking about it, are and it's very jovial, and you've got good stories to tell, but did you face challenges because of your different faiths within your marriage and.

COKIE ROBERTS: No. It's interesting. All the challenges were really before we got married. And we were very -- we were very young, we were 18 and 19 when we met. But we were very puzzled about how we could make this work. And it did take a lot of conversations and a lot of tears, and a lot of really, kind of struggling through. But because we did that before we got married, I think that it smoothed the path for our marriage in a lot of ways, not only in terms of religion. But in terms of other areas of disagreement where we, you know, had a -- we had a model of our own that we had established. So religion really never ever ever -- I mean we've certainly had our nights but not over religion.

STEVE ROBERTS: Well, you know, there was one moment. Our son was in high school and he was unhappy in the public high school, and he asked to go to a Jesuit high school. No, normally you threaten kids with the Jesuits, right? And this is a child who wanted -- who wanted the order and discipline, he knew better than I did.

COKIE ROBERTS: There are some really good Jesuit schools here in San Diego.

STEVE ROBERTS: I know there are. I know there are. And he chose this for himself, and as a Jewish dad, this was not part of the original deal, but it was a very learning experience for me because I went to the school, I felt that they understood where I was coming from, and they understood my heritage, they respected it. I knew from the moment I walked through that door that Lee would find a loving and disciplined environment there. And it taught me a profound lesson about parenthood, which is that if you allow your kids to do what they want to do, within the limits of safety and finances, all the incentives align. He acquired a vested interest in convincing us that he was right. So he worked harder than he ever had in his life, and if you force kids to do something they don't want to do, then the incentives work in different directions. So that taught me not only about parenting, it talk me the values of Cokie's church. Which I knew because she was raised by nuns. But it just reinforced my notion that this was a positive impact on my son's life that he was getting a religious education.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We're taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Mario is on the line from San Diego. Good morning, Mario, welcome to These Days. Mario, are you with us?

COKIE ROBERTS: He's under water.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Ed, from Lakeside are you with us? Good morning ed?

NEW SPEAKER: Yes, I'm definitely here. And the reason I -- I have one question, and that is since you have a Catholic and a Jew there in the family, I have just read James carol's Constantine's sword, and I saw the movie. And the whole book is devoted towards the relationship between Judaism and the early Christian church all the way up to the present time. So it's mostly about the Catholic church. I was wondering, are you familiar with the book and its premises and such?

COKIE ROBERTS: I haven't read the book. I love James Carol's writing. And I've heard about the book. But I have not read it. But one thing that is true is that in modern times, and it just happened again recently with some statement from the Vatican, in modern times, I'm happy to say finally, all of the horrors that were inflicted on Jews by the church really have been reversed. And there's a great celebration of Judaism in the Catholic church.

STEVE ROBERTS: And one of the things Cokie did in researching this Haggadah was outlining all of the ways in which the Jewish traditions and the Christian traditions are intertwined. Of you can explain them --

COKIE ROBERTS: Well, particularly, of course pas over is the story of the exodus, of the Jews escaping from Egypt and crossing the red sea, and all of that. Well known to people of the Judeo-Christian heritage. But Easter is, of course, and it's usually just a few days later, Easter is the story of resurrection, of going from darkness to light, from death to life, from bondage to freedom, which is exactly what the story of pas over is. And of course the last supper was a pass over meal, a seder, where the sacrament of the Eucharist was instituted. But the gentleman was talking about -- Ed was talking about the early church. What I didn't know was that the rabbis who are referenced in the seder, in the Passover ceremony were very influential in the early church because they were the teachers of the apostles of Jesus. And so their theology is very much still reflected in the church of today.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I think it's very interesting in your book how you go to great lengths to say that even though you wanted to open up the Haggadah and pass over Haggadah, you also did not want to dilute the essential Jewish nature of that ceremony. How did you pull that one off?

COKIE ROBERTS: Well, it is both unique and universal. It is a Jewish festival. And I feel very, very strongly and -- actually the bishops wrote at one point, we shouldn't baptize pass over.

STEVE ROBERTS: Even though a lot of churches do have seders.


COKIE ROBERTS: Because this is something that -- it's not right to do that. This is very central to Judaism. And people for thousands of years, all around the world, have celebrated this feast. And sometimes at great personal payroll. And so to in some ways try to steal that I think is just not the right thing to do. To celebrate it, to understand that there are echos of the Passover celebration in the Christian liturgy, that's a different thing all together. But I don't incorporate that into the ceremony itself. That's much more the commentary around the ceremony.

STEVE ROBERTS: And the readings we provide. But also so many of the families we hope will find this youthful are either interfaith families where a partner has come into this tradition and doesn't know how to do, it doesn't know how to cook, it doesn't know how to say the prayers or even a lot of young secular Jews who were never exposed to this tradition. And it's by far the best way for any couple who wants to connect to the Jewish tradition to do it. You don't have to gin a Temple, you don't have to contribute to the building fund, you don't have to buy tickets to high holy days. You can do this at home, on your own, and a lot of the commentaries that point out the relationship of Judaism and Christianity are designed to make an outsider feel welcome, feel connected, feel that I'm part of this tradition in some way.

COKIE ROBERTS: And our whole aim was accessibility. So for instance, most Haggadahs read back to front because that's the way Hebrew goes. This one reads front to back, so you're feeling funny when you're passing around a book and going around the wrong way. But also how to set the table, where to buy a seder plate or how to substitute for a seder plate if you don't want to buy one. And recipes, the most simple minded recipes you'd ever want to eat. Really easy to cook but really good food.

CAVANAUGH: We'll continue our conversation with Cokie and Steve Roberts, talking about Passover seders and traditions for interfaith families. And we're gonna be inviting your phone calls at 1-888-895-5727. You're listening to These Days on KPBS.

I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, you're listening to These Days on KPBS. My guests are journalists Steve and Cokie Roberts. And we're talking about their new book, our Haggadah, uniting traditions for interfaith families, we're talking about interfaith families and about passover seders and taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Mario is on the line from San Diego. Hi Mario. Are you --

COKIE ROBERTS: Shalom to all.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Yes, hello. I'm so glad we got a chance to talk to you. How request we help you?

NEW SPEAKER: Well, it just struck home your program because I happen to be pretty much in the same -- and I have embraced religion, you know, ever since. However, my wife is Catholic, and we have a daughter that's attending the Catholic school.


NEW SPEAKER: So the thing about it, what you're saying is that it's kind of hard to --

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We're going in and out, Mario. I'm sorry, I think we're gonna have to take another call or maybe someone in our room can just jot down what it is that you would like to ask. Pat is calling us from oak park, good morning, Pat, and welcome it These Days.

NEW SPEAKER: Good morning, and thank you for taking my call. I could talk for hours and ask dozens of questions because I was in the same boat, unfortunately I'm divorced from my daughter's father. He was Jewish, and I was raised in the episcopal church either neither of us was particularly religious. However when we were married and ironically, we were married by a Catholic priest who was leaving the priesthood to become a clinical psychologist.

COKIE ROBERTS: There you go.

NEW SPEAKER: But we combined both, you know, both traditions, had a -- didn't have a hoopa, but Jim broke a wine glass and all of those kinds of things might have daughter is just about -- she doesn't know this yet, but she's just about to become engaged to a devoutly Catholic person. And she was raised in Judaism with my blessing. And my question for you, because they do plan to work out their own things.


NEW SPEAKER: And their own issues, she's for one thing going to be an older bride, and if nay do have children or try to start a family, she's going to be in that category of women who are high risk for problem pregnancies.


NEW SPEAKER: And knowing the intensity of some of the values of Catholicism against terminating a pregnancy, for example, and that's just an off the top of my head example, how do the two of you work out those kinds of frequents?

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Pat, you have given us an awful lot to respond to. Let's have Cokie start.

COKIE ROBERTS: Well, we fortunately never had anything that -- like that occur in our marriage. And so there was never an issue like that. We do, though, on the subject of abortion disagree. And it's more of a political conversation than a personal conversation. But I think those decisions are such hard decisions under any circumstances that people make them based on all kind was criteria, not religious one, necessarily, first and foremost.

STEVE ROBERTS: And I think that the key to any situation like this, it's easy to say hard to do in practice, but I believe it's profoundly, is tolerance. It's respect. The fact is, every marriage is a mixed marriage. You start with a marriage between a man and a woman. The notion that somehow religion is a bigger difference than gender? Anybody who's been married more than three weeks knows that's not true. And even if you have a same sex couple, you meet two Italian guys from around they corner, and they're still gonna have to have the same --

COKIE ROBERTS: Mama made meatballs differently.

STEVE ROBERTS: The same sense of toleration, the same sense of respect, and I think that part of what a lot of Jewish partners in these couples don't fully do, they expect their partners to learn about Judaism, which is true, absolutely. But they should learn about Christianity too, or Hinduism or Buddhism or whatever is the faith tradition of their partner. It has to be equal.


STEVE ROBERTS: And it has to be a mutual sense of respect and recognition of the value of each other's traditions.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Shabaz is on the line from San Diego, good morning, Shabaz, welcome to These Days.

NEW SPEAKER: As-Salaam Alaikum. Good morning.

STEVE ROBERTS: Good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS: Wa-Alaikum Salaam.

NEW SPEAKER: I just wanted to say that I'm Islamic, my wife is Christian, and we both respect each other's tradition, serving one God. And I think that's the main focus, whether you're Muslim, Christian or Jew, you know, there's only one God, one Jehovah, one Jesus, Allah, you know what I'm saying?

COKIE ROBERTS: Right, right.


NEW SPEAKER: And I think that we all -- what we really pay attention to is that we all have the same human aspirations. We all want good things for our families.

COKIE ROBERTS: That's right.

NEW SPEAKER: And I think if we focus on those, then -- and respect each other's, like Muslims we pray five times a day, we first during the month of Ramadan, etc., etc., and Christians they do some fasting and they pray, and so forth. We go to our congregation and services on Fridays, ask Christians go to theirs on Fridays.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: But then again, that mutual respect. Right.

NEW SPEAKER: And I think we can all just practice being better human beings.

COKIE ROBERTS: That's exactly right.

NEW SPEAKER: And respecting each other and respecting God, I think that answers a lot of questions.

COKIE ROBERTS: You know, the Catholic bishops in talking about teaching Judaism to Catholic children says we must accept our responsibility to prepare the world for the coming of the mess y by working together for social justice, respect for the rights of persons and nations, and for social and international reconciliation. To this we are driven, Jews and Christians, by the command to love our neighbor. That's what you're talking about. And that's exactly the -- those are the values that matter, and that's -- you raise your family with those values, the world is a better place.

STEVE ROBERTS: And you know, the caller is reflecting something else too, which is the Muslim community in America, as it becomes more integrated, and has it becomes more widely dispersed is gonna run into exactly the same issues, which is intermarriage. I have students at George Washington, I have a significant number of Muslim students.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: A colleague of mine pointed to a number of New York Times wedding announcements with Jewish and Muslim people getting married and with the support of their families.


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Do you think that as you pointed out that that statistic about how many interfaith marriages there are.


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Is this becoming less of a problem for people?

COKIE ROBERTS: Yes, yes. Absolutely. It's done. You know, when we got married, it was embarrassing because Steve's parents' friends had not had the children marry outside of Judaism. And so it was embarrassing. But that's not true anymore. Everybody's got somebody in the family. And as with everything else in this country, over the years, people do become much more tolerant of interfaith marriage, of interracial marriages, of same sex marriages. The turn around on that is just incredible. In a very few years. And so what happens is people come out of the closet in all kinds of ways. And their families understand that it's not the Other, it's our family we're talking about.

STEVE ROBERTS: It all comes down to the individuals, you know? You might fear and it might be very upset about the abstraction of the other of a foreign upper coming into the family, and then you meet her. As my dad met Cokie, and it changes. But it's also true that it's as awe community, the Jewish community, a very good example, as so many families have children who are marrying out, it's not as embarrassing, it's not as shameful or defensive. Of course everybody's going through the same thing. In just ten years, we did a book about ten issue 11 years ago, called about from this day forward, which is about our religious heritage, and as we traveled on that book people would whisper to us, my son married an Italian.


STEVE ROBERTS: Today they talk about it openly in public. It's different.

COKIE ROBERTS: The fact that we will be at a Jewish center tonight is very indicative of that.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Exactly. You know, since I have you here.


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We'll get back to talking about the book, but since I have you here, I'd just like to digress from time to time, and Cokie, I know that you covered three-mile island in 1979, and I just want to get your thoughts about this crisis at the nuclear power plant in Japan.

COKIE ROBERTS: Well, it all sounds so familiar to me. You know? One of the things that was true at three-mile Island was no one knew who he or she was talking about. So you couldn't get straight information from the utility, from the company that built the reactor, from the regulatory commission, or from the governor. Now, it wasn't his fault. He wasn't getting straight information either. And I'm hearing exactly the same thing in Japan right now, there's a lot of different information. And of course the irony of Japan of all places being affected by radiation, you know, with all of the memories of the bombs. But this morning on Morning Edition, Linda Wertheimer did an interview with a scientist from Texas who's part of the Chernobyl project, and he actually was very sort of calming about the effects of radiation, that they have now studied Chernobyl and the area around Chernobyl for years and that things are not in terrible shape at all.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I heard that report of it was a little bit of good news.


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: In the midst of some very scary news.

COKIE ROBERTS: Terrifying news.

CAVANAUGH: Steve, I know that you not only are a journalist, you teach journalism. How do you think that this story is being covered? The Japan story?

STEVE ROBERTS: Well, I think it -- let's start with the fact that it reminds us how important foreign news is. At a time when a lot of are major news organizations are being forced to cut back on their foreign coverage because of finances.


STEVE ROBERTS: But not NPR. And it's a reminder that so many stories -- this is one good one, what about the finance ministry in Beijing? The decisions they make about buying American bonds are gonna have a tremendous impact on the American economy. Talk about global warming, that's a huge international story that's also a domestic story. International diseases, and epidemics. Stories about the oceans and pollution. One of the things I talk to my students about is how the line between foreign and domestic stories are blurring significantly. And that therefore the need for stronger foreign coverage is greater than ever. And without, you know, I'm gonna put in a pitch for NPR, won't work for NPR but I'll tell you when I'm asked by audiences all the time, who do you trust for information, my 50 answer is NPR and one of the reason system because as everybody else is shrinking their foreign coverage, NPR is expanding it, and this story just reminds us.

COKIE ROBERTS: 17 foreign bureaus, that really is remarkable.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: In this day and age. Yes. We weren't looking for a plug but we got one. I want to go back to your book, our Haggadah. And I didn't say that correctly. And talk to Abed near the college area. And good morning, Abed, welcome to These Days. Okay, Aaron is on the line from San Diego. Good morning, Aaron, ask welcome to These Days. Okay.


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Oh, my. I think we made them wait too long. Well, I have a couple of questions for you. And that is we just talked about the fact that is not as much of an issue as it used to be. How -- do you think that your children have profited from having an inter-- two people of different faiths?

COKIE ROBERTS: Sure. Of course they have. Because it's a broader world. And so I think that having knowledge of the two religions, having the heritage of celebrating them, I think sure that they've benefited from that.

STEVE ROBERTS: And look, I -- we do not preach intermarriage. We're not --

CAVANAUGH: Sure, sure.

STEVE ROBERTS: -- evangelists for it. It just happened to us. And it creates problems. Our son said to us many years ago, you know, it was easy for you, you knew who you were. We were the experiments.

COKIE ROBERTS: He was a teenager.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: They'll say anything.

COKIE ROBERTS: That's right.

STEVE ROBERTS: He was right with about that. And it does take more effort in some ways. But doing it consciously as I said earlier, I'm convinced made me a better Jew because I had to think about it. I was confronted with this. So many people just any along and they sort of -- if they marry someone under their own tribal or religious tradition, well, you know you're Jewish, you know you're Muslim, you know you're Italian because of what you eat and who your grandmothers are. And having to choose consciously how you're going to do things is actually a fascinating experience, and I do think it benefits the kids because they know why you have chosen this and not simply inherited a tradition without question.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Well, one of the things that I got out of this book, our Haggadah, is the fact that I would really like to go to a Roberts' pass over seder. Tell us what you're planning this year.

COKIE ROBERTS: Okay. Well, what's happened, ask this is a happy problem, is that nobody ever wants to not be invited back. And the children who were at our pass overs 30 some years ago are now grownups with children of their own, so it's gotten awfully crowded. So we've reached the point where we can't all fit this dining room table kind of thing. So we have a glassed in porch, and we put in these -- we rent these long conference room tables, which we put decent table cloths on, but it still does look like a VFW hall, and we squeeze everybody in, and then we say the prayers, and you know, read the story of the exodus, and all of that, and then and there we just start sort of throwing food at them because it's getting hard to get the food around all of that.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Keep it hot, right.

COKIE ROBERTS: But I always serve a middle eastern pass over meal because it's my view that we know where the first pass over was, it was in Egypt. We know what they served, it was lamb. And Egypt in the spring probably has some zucchini and some okra and some tomatoes, and so those are the kinds of vegetables I serve. That got me all kinds of hoots and hollers when I started doing this, because of course a lot of American -- most American Jews are from Europe, and that food was the food that was available in Europe. And it wasn't wonderful. You know, it was boiling something to death because it wasn't fresh. You know? And so I am not a huge fan of boiled chicken or over cooked vegetables. So I did it my way, and the original group all sort of laughed at me until thankfully the New York Times came out with this is back in the '70s a Sephardic Jewish menu for pass over. And it was basically my pass over meal. So that was a good thing.

STEVE ROBERTS: The other thing for NPR fans, two of our dear of the friends in the world, have been for many years, Linda Wertheimer, and Nina Totenberg. So you sit down at the Passover and hear some very familiar voices reading the prayers, and a lot of people don't know about the women of NPR, a lot of them are wonderful singers. They have these trained voices for radio. So the song part, the singing part is quite extraordinary -- Nina in particular has this operatic quality --

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You're just making us more and more jealous. I'm sorry we just simply have to end it there.

STEVE ROBERTS: Well, Nina a father's a musician so the songs are terrific.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: But we can experience it from Afar by the new book, our Haggadah, uniting traditions for interfaith families now Cokie and Steve Roberts will be featured speakers at the distinguished author series at the Lawrence family Jewish community center, that's tonight at 7:00 PM a book signing follows the presentation. And I want to thank you so much for being here.

COKIE ROBERTS: Thank you so much Maureen.

STEVE ROBERTS: Thanks Maureen.

COKIE ROBERTS: It was great to be with you.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Coming up, a story about setting up radio Shangri-la, that's as These Days continues here on KPBS.