At Google Passover seder, 'koogle' is served

At 6 p.m. on Thursday night, hordes of hungry employees streamed into the No Name Cafe on Google's central campus in Mountain View, Calif. On most nights, the No Name chefs serve up a free, gourmet dinner to the cafe's ravenous occupants; on this night, service was invitation-only.

The Google Passover seder--marking the Jewish holiday telling the story of the Israelites' escape from Pharaoh's Egypt--was the brainchild of Google massage therapist Joel Finkelstein and his buddy Todd Koenigsberg, a chef at No Name Cafe. Why not host a friendly seder for the company's Jewish employees and guests, they thought. "We threw this together in a couple weeks. It was very last minute," Finkelstein said.

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In just a few weeks the duo secured the cafe and printed haggadot--the booklets used annually to retell the Passover tale--complete with a humorous cover spoofing Google's famous search tool. Menus were printed, kosher wine procured, and the security detail assigned.

Finkelstein, a rabbi's son, steered the festivities. Googler Dan Ratner's four-piece band played klezmer and Israeli tunes. The 100 guests dutifully dunked flat-leaf Italian parsley into salt water, drank four glasses of commemorative kosher wine, and networked.

Servers carried out 11 dishes for the family-style meal, including house-made gefilte ("stuffed") fish; a Sephardic vegetable rice wrap acknowledging a branch of Spanish-Jewish traditions; and potato "koogle," a Google-ized take on kugel, the Yiddish word for a type of baked pudding or casserole. At one point, Google employee Matt Stone commented on the repast: "It was great enjoying the company of my fellow Googlers accompanied by the best food and drink I've ever experienced at a seder. Sorry, Mom!"

Finkelstein never called for guests to find the afikomen, a customary scavenger hunt for a hidden half piece of matzah, leaving my corner of the table slightly wistful. But the seder did end in the customary Hebrew words, "B'shana haba'ah b'yerushalayim": Next year in Jerusalem! If that's too far for most employees to travel, perhaps next year again will be at Google.

Tech Culture
About the author

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.


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