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Passover is coming, which means that Passover-themed parodies of pop songs are showing up on my Facebook news feed, and possibly yours too. I love watching these videosâ€”theyâ€™re a nice break from cleaning out the chametz (leavened products) from my kitchen and thinking about what Iâ€™m going to serve at my seder.
Last year, I wrote about my Top 7 Passover Song Parodies. This year, Iâ€™ve got another listâ€”with some new parodies as well as some that Iâ€™ve discovered since last year.
1.Â In the final paragraph of my blog post last year I wrote, â€śWith Passover less than a month away, Iâ€™m disappointed that I still havenâ€™t seen any good 2016 Passover pop song parodies. Maybe the Maccabeatsâ€¦will release a video before Passover. I can hopeâ€¦â€ť Well, my hope was fulfilled. The Maccabeats DID release a music video before Passover in 2016: A â€śJustin Bieber Passover Mashup,â€ť which was a parody mashup of Beiberâ€™s â€śLove Yourself,â€ť â€śSorryâ€ť and â€śWhat Do You Mean?â€ť
2. Another great parody that was released for Passover 2016 was by a group called the Y-Studs, an all-male a cappella group from Yeshiva University. The Y-Studsâ€™ â€śSeder â€“ Passoverâ€ť was based on Michael Jacksonâ€™s groundbreaking â€śThrillerâ€ť video. I, for one, canâ€™t resist anything based on the â€śThrillerâ€ť video.
3. Congregation B’nai Shalom and Friends also released a fun video in 2016, â€śNow We’ve Got Matzo,” a Passover-themed parody of Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood.”
4.Â The catchiest Passover song parody of 2016? In my opinion, it was Six13â€™s â€śGod Split the Ocean (2016 Passover Jam),â€ť based on â€śCake by the Oceanâ€ť by DNCE. Warning: Be careful if you listen to this songâ€¦itâ€™s hard to get the catchy tune out of your head.
5.Â Just as Passover 2014 was all about parodies of â€śLet It Goâ€ť from the Disney movie Frozen (for example, see here, here and here), not surprisingly, in 2017, Disney’s MoanaÂ served as inspiration for a Passover parody. Congregation Bâ€™nai Shalom and Friendsâ€™ â€śWhy Seders Are Slowâ€ť is based on the movieâ€™s â€śHow Far Iâ€™ll Go.â€ť
6. If you’re a fan of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You,” you’re sure to love Six13â€™s â€śSeder Crew (2017 Passover Jam).â€ťÂ I’ve already listened to it countless times, and Passover is still several days away.
7.Â My favorite movie in 2016 wasÂ La La Land and my favorite Passover parody video of 2017 is definitely the Y-Stud’s “La La Passover,” which I can’t seem to get out of my head…and I don’t even mind!
Hang on:Â one last video. Itâ€™s not a parody, but itâ€™s a great video. Trust me, you donâ€™t want to miss it. Itâ€™s a creative multi-genre twist on the classic Passover seder song â€śDayenuâ€ť recorded by the Maccabeats in 2015.
Chag Sameach! Have a happy Passover! And let us know: Whatâ€™s your favorite Passover song parody?
As a kid, my mother taught us to put an orange on the seder plate as an act of feminism. Around that same time, she gave me a hot pink T-shirt with rainbow sparkle letters that read, â€śAnything boys can do, girls can do better.â€ť It was the â€™80s and my passions for girl power, rainbows and Jewish rituals were ignited.
My mom, and many other feminists, passed on the famous origin story of the orange, that Dr. Susannah Heschel was lecturing in Miami, and, while she was speaking of feminism,Â an Orthodox man supposedly shouted that “a woman belongs on the bimah [pulpit] as much as an orange belongs on the seder plate.â€ť And so, as feminists, we all added the orange as an act of resistance; a symbol of women’s rights.
But, alas, that story that I had heard and retold for decades was a myth
(IFF/Philadlephiaâ€™s Rabbi Robyn Frisch discusses the myth here). And while I was studying at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, I was quite surprised as the story was debunked by my rabbi and I learned what REALLY happened.
It was the 1980s, and Heschel was speaking at the Hillel Jewish student group at Oberlin College. While there, she came across a Haggadah written by a student that included a story of a young girl who asks her rabbi if there is room in Judaism for a lesbian. The rabbi in the story replies in anger, â€śThereâ€™s as much room for a lesbian in Judaism as there is for a crust of bread on the seder plate!â€ťâ€”implying that lesbians are impure and are a violation of Judaism.
The next year, Heschel put an orange on her seder plate and shared that she chose the orange â€śbecause it suggests the fruitfulness for all Jews when lesbians and gay men are contributing and active members of Jewish life.â€ť
The seeds of the orange, like other items on the seder plate, symbolize rebirth and renewal. And some folks have taken on the tradition of spitting the seeds to remind us to spit out the hatred experienced by all marginalized members of our communities.
Since the addition of the orange, other symbols have been added to the traditional seder plate (watch our fun video guide for what to put on a seder plate). Some vegetarians and vegans have added a â€śpaschal yam,â€ť in place of the shank bone, which traditionally represents the paschal lamb. Others have included olives for peace in the Middle East. And some have placed potato peels on their plates to commemorate Jews who starved during the Holocaust.
Most recently I learned that members of Rabbis For Human Rights, who work to support the under-paid and over-worked tomato pickers in Florida, have included a tomato as a symbol of contemporary slavery.
â€śWe who believe in FREEDOM, cannot rest until it comes.â€ť This year, as I prepare to lead the Passover seder for my family and friends, I am emboldened to add these various symbols to our plate as reminders of who is not free. What segments of my community are still enslaved? What human rights issues must be addressed?
I am empowered to take action and commit to do the social justice work to bring equality and dignity to everyone. In the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., â€śNo one is free until we are all free.â€ť
Passover meant a big seder, with my grandfather chanting at the end of the table. My cousins and I would scramble around the house, hunting for the afikomen. Then my uncle would play the piano in the basement while we all sang. It was a wonderful holiday.
Passover also meant skipping my usual PB&J and taking buttered matzah to school, wrapped in aluminum foil. I remember how the butter would melt into shiny globules, and Iâ€™d rub them in with my finger. There was something nice about being â€śThe Jewish Kidâ€ť in the class, with my special food. I loved the rituals. I liked the hyper-awareness of Passover, the symbolism of the seder plate. Mortar and tearsâ€”the sense that everything mattered.
And while we didnâ€™t celebrate Easter religiously at our house, I did get a basket from my (Catholic) mom, filled with jellybeans and chocolate eggs. This was nice, tooâ€”that while I got to be â€śThe Jewish Kidâ€ť I also didnâ€™t feel totally left out of Easter. Sometimes there was a neighborhood parade and we made Easter hats from cardboard, glue and feathers.
Then came a year when the holidays overlapped. My parents were newly divorced, and not communicating well. My mom did her best with Passover. If memory serves, I took my matzah to school like usual. But then on Sunday morningâ€¦ I got my Easter basket. Filled with bright jelly beans.
I tore into it, of course, mouth filled with sweetness, until I crunched through a blue candy shell into the crisp goodness of a malted robinâ€™s egg. And suddenly, it hit me. Easter wasnâ€™t Kosher for Passover! I spit the candy out into my hand, confused. What should I do?
For the next few days, my Easter basket sat on top of the fridge, waiting for me. I remember staring up at it, thinking about how it wasnâ€™t fair, that nobody else I knew had to wait to eat her candy. But the truth was, my dad wasnâ€™t there to enforce the rules anymore. It was all me. I had put the basket on top of the fridge, and I felt conflicted, but also firm in my resolve.
Years later, as an adult, the holidays overlapped again, and remembering the basket on the fridge, I did a funny thing. I assembled a Kosher-for-Passover Easter basket for myself. I did a good job, hunted down fruit-gels and made chocolate-covered matzah. The basket looked lovely.
But you know what? It was no good. It didnâ€™t make me happy at all. Staring at that basket of fruit slices and jelly rings didnâ€™t feel the same as waking up to an Easter basket. Not remotely. It feltâ€¦ wrong.
I think sometimes, in the interfaith community, we seek to smooth the ruffled feelings, to reconcile all our conflicts and contradictions. We want to believe that weâ€™re creating families in which everything can blend, fit and make sense. But hereâ€™s the thingâ€”some things are distinct, even mutually exclusive. Some years, choosing to keep Kosher for Passover means not eating Easter candy. And thatâ€™s annoying, but also OK. Things donâ€™t have to be easy to matter.
In a way, I feel like I undermined the essence of each holiday in that Eastover Basket I made. For me (and I can only speak for my own experience), Passover is about the restrictions, the rigor. Passover feels powerful because of its deprivation. And for me, Easter baskets are the oppositeâ€”about abundance, sheer pleasure.
This is fine! These two holidays donâ€™t have to blend. Each holiday holds a special place in my memory. Easter and Passover can co-exist without merging. And you know what? The truth is that all the most meaningful experiences of my life have included conflict. Every deep relationship Iâ€™ve had has been imperfect, particular and occasionally inconvenient. Often, rituals matter most when we have to wait for them, or forego something else. Sometimes, conflict serves a purpose.
When I was a kid, I stared up at my Easter basket on the fridge and thought about both holidays. I owned them both and recognized that they both mattered to me. That year, for the first time, I truly decided to keep Kosher for Passover. It mattered more than it ever had before. And then a few days later, I decided to eat my robinâ€™s eggs.
They were delicious.
In March 2015, InterfaithFamily conducted its 11th annual Passover/Easter Survey to determine the attitudes and behaviors of people in interfaith relationships during Passover and Easter. The survey attracted 1,136 responsesâ€”an increase of about 21% over 2014. Of those 1,136 respondents, 730 said they were in interfaith relationships. Of those, 501 have children and of those, 444 (89%) are raising their children with some Judaism, though not necessarily exclusively.
To simplify our findings, here are the top 10 things we learned from just those 444 respondents. (Of course, this does not reflect the behaviors of interfaith couples in general, or the behaviors of all interfaith couples with children, and the figures should not be reported as representative of all interfaith families.)
1. Passover matters. The overwhelming majority of respondentsâ€”more than 92 percentâ€”celebrate Passover, and for most, it had some religious significance. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being â€śdeeply religious,â€ť 67% rated Passover a 3, 4 or 5. Only 7% said it was entirely secular. For those who were having or attending a sederâ€”420 respondentsâ€”most said it would include a seder plate (94%), reading from a Haggadah or telling the Passover story (92%), food rituals like dipping parsley in salt water, making a matzah sandwich, etc. (93%), hiding the afikoman (85%) or discussing the meaning of Passover (76%). And going to a seder wasnâ€™t newâ€”99% had been to or hosted one before.
2. Itâ€™s about the kids. When asked why they celebrate Passover, the vast majority of respondentsâ€”more than 86%â€”said â€śto share the holiday with my children,â€ť and â€śsharing the holiday with my kidsâ€ť was also respondentsâ€™ favorite part of Passover. Almost 70% said they were looking for â€śways to make the seder fun for kids.â€ť
3. And food. 86% of respondents said they would be eating matzah as one of their Passover activities, with 49% following dietary restrictions for most or all days of Passover. And the resource people wanted most, next to ways to make the seder fun for kids? Recipes.
4. If youâ€™re going to buy a Haggadah, Maxwell House is still the haggadah you count on. More than half who responded said they use a store-bought haggadah (54%), and of those, 25% were planning to use the Maxwell House Haggadah this yearâ€”more than any other haggadah mentioned, which we found surprising considering how many new haggadahs are on the market these days. However, of those who planned to use a store-bought haggadah, 36% were not sure/couldnâ€™t remember which one and 26% said â€śOtherâ€ť to the haggadah options we providedâ€”using everything from Sammy Spiderâ€™s Haggadah to congregational haggadahs. More than 8% planned to use the 30 Minute Seder and 7% said A Different Night, The Family Participation Haggadah.
5. Interfaith families look for resources to meet their specific challenges. 41% of respondents were looking for resources to make the seder comfortable and meaningful for relatives and friends who arenâ€™t Jewish, while 38% wanted help navigating the Easter/Passover overlap. 88% would be or might be interested in a haggadah specifically for interfaith familiesâ€”weâ€™ll have one ready next year!
6. Many interfaith families raising their kids with Judaism also celebrate Easterâ€¦ About half of respondents (49%) said they would be participating in Easter celebrations this year, and another 16 percent said that they â€śmaybeâ€ť would.
7. â€¦ But itâ€™s a secular holiday for most. 59% said it was an â€śentirely secularâ€ť celebration. Most celebrations centered around Easter egg hunts or basketsâ€”56% said they would be participating in an Easter egg hunt, and 51% said they would be decorating eggs, while 47% said they would give Easter baskets to kids or extended family. Another 55% would be attending an Easter meal at the home of family or extended family, while 15% would host an Easter meal (vs. the 47% who host a Passover seder).
8. Easter is not seen as a threat to Jewish identity. Likewise, 62% donâ€™t think celebrating Easter will affect their childrenâ€™s connection to Judaism. (27% said not applicable, which may mean that Easter is not celebrated.) Said one, â€śItâ€™s a secular celebration thatâ€™s basically just having food with family. I was raised Jewish and I still ate Easter candy, decorated eggs, etc.â€ť
9. Most do not struggle or expect to struggle with observing Passover and/or Easter, but of those who do…Â Of the 444 respondents, 261 responded to this write-in question asking what they struggle with, and many of those simply said these holidays weren’tÂ a struggle for their family. Responses included:
â€śMy in-laws are extremely open and welcome my Passover traditions at their Easter mealâ€”they regularly put out matzah, without a request from me, and make desserts that are flourless for my benefit.â€ť
â€śNone. Weâ€™ve been doing this long enough, we have it down,â€ť another said, while a third remarked:
â€śI expect the same challenges that I experience in other areas of my married life with a partner [who is not Jewish]. There are many areas of negotiation with this part of our identities; we practice good communication in order to resolve and acknowledge differences. There [are] always going to be challenges of understanding, of belief and of acceptance.â€ť
Of those who answered with a specific struggle, some cited in-laws and extended families, or balancing the needs of both partners or holidays. Said one, â€śWe have wondered whether to let our son eat Easter candy that contains corn syrup during Passover,â€ť while another struggled with â€śRestrictions on my children eating chametz or bread during Easter.â€ť Some cited in-laws and extended families as a concern, or simply that the extended family wants their children to observe holidays differently than how they are being raised. Several people expressed frustration with these family members not understanding or appreciating the Jewish holiday or trying to balance everyoneâ€™s needs during the two holidays.
One respondent said â€śMy Catholic Motherâ€”she is trying very hard to be supportive, but struggles to find a way to feel connected to her grandchildren during holidays,â€ť while a spouse said: â€śI love Easter merchandise: the colors, the bunnies, the eggs. I find all of it so cute but I don’t buy my daughters any of it because we’re raising them fully Jewish. It can be hard for me.â€ť
10. Passover is a â€ślot of workâ€ť holiday.Â We were interested to hear why people think that surveys often indicate fewer interfaith couples participate in Passover seders than couples where both partners are Jewish. The overwhelming response was that Passover is a holiday celebrated at home and takes a lot of work; that it can be intimidating if it is not a holiday you grew up celebrating and the rituals are unfamiliar. As one person explained, â€śPassover is pretty involved. It’s a lot more than just showing up for a one hour service at a church. It takes a big commitment.â€ť
Another said, â€śTry[ing] not to hurt anyone’s feelings, not having all the resources, not knowing where to start,â€ť while a third responded, â€śIt takes a serious time/travel commitment to attend one or both seders, especially if they’re during the work week. We typically return to my parentsâ€”a four-hour drive awayâ€”so if one member of the couple doesn’t take that commitment seriously, it’s hard to do.â€ť
If you, like me, are past the age of 40, you may remember years ago hearing the claim that Little Mikey of LIFE cereal fame died from the explosive effects of mixing Pop Rocks candy with soda pop. Or you may have heard that childrenâ€™s television show host Mr. Rogers (Fred Rodgers) always wore long-sleeved shirts and sweaters on his show to conceal the tattoos on his arms he obtained while serving in the military. Or perhaps youâ€™ve heard that alligators live under the New York City sewer system. But, in reality, none of these stories are true. Theyâ€™re all â€śurban legends.â€ť And Iâ€™m proud to say that I never believed any of them (well, except the one about Mikey and Pop Rocksâ€”I did believe that one for awhileâ€¦).
But thereâ€™s another urban legend, one connected to the Passover seder, that Iâ€™ve believed for years. In fact, Iâ€™ve told this story many times at my own seders. Itâ€™s the story of the â€śorange on the seder plate.â€ť And until this week, I always thought the story I told was trueâ€”after all, Iâ€™d heard it so many times, and read it in so many different places.
The story goes something like this: Professor Susannah Heschel was giving a lecture in Miami Beach, when a man stood up and yelled: â€śA woman belongs on a bimah like an orange belongs on a seder plate.â€ť In order to show that women DO belong on the bimahâ€”that women have the right to a place in Jewish ritual and in Jewish leadershipâ€”Heschel and others began to place oranges on their seder plates. (According to another version of the story, the man yelled: â€śA woman belongs on the bimah like a piece of bread belongs on the seder plate.â€ť Wanting to make a point about womenâ€™s rightful place in Judaism, but not wanting to place bread, which is forbidden on Passover, on her seder plate, Heschel replaced â€śbreadâ€ť with â€śan orange,â€ť since the incident took place in Florida, â€śThe Orange State.â€ť)
I learned the story of â€śthe orange on the seder plateâ€ť sometime in the late 1990s, when I was a rabbinical student. At the time I was in my early 30s, hosting my own seders for the first time.Â Like many of my colleagues, I strived to make my seders authentic, relevant and meaningful by balancing tradition with creativity and innovation. I embraced the traditional symbols of the seder (the four cups of wine, matzah, egg, parsley, etc.) and also newer symbols, such as Miriamâ€™s Cup and the orange. For the past 15 years or so, when Iâ€™ve gone to the produce store to buy parsley, horseradish and apples and nuts for my charoset, Iâ€™ve made sure to purchase an orange for my seder plate as well. And at every seder Iâ€™ve hosted, Iâ€™ve shared the â€śstory of the orange on the seder plateâ€ť and how it represents womenâ€™s equality in Judaism.
But recently I found out that the story Iâ€™ve been telling simply isnâ€™t true. Hereâ€™s the TRUE STORY, in Professor Susannah Heschelâ€™s own words, from an article that she wrote for The Jewish Daily Forward in 2013:
â€śAt an early point in the sederâ€¦I asked each person to take a segment of the orange, make the blessing over fruit and eat the segment in recognition of gay and lesbian Jews and of widows, orphans, Jews who are adopted and all others who sometimes feel marginalized in the Jewish community.
â€śWhen we eat that orange segment, we spit out the seeds to repudiate homophobia and we recognize that in a whole orange, each segment sticks together. Oranges are sweet and juicy and remind us of the fruitfulness of gay and lesbian Jews and of the homosociality that has been such an important part of Jewish experience, whether of men in yeshivas or of women in the Ezrat Nashim.â€ť
Heschel went on to write of the Miami Beach lecture urban legend:
â€śThat incident never happened! Instead, my custom had fallen victim to a folktale process in which my original intention was subverted. My idea of the orange was attributed to a man, and my goal of affirming lesbians and gay men was erased.
â€śMoreover, the power of the custom was subverted: By now, women are on the bimah, so there is no great political courage in eating an orange, because women ought to be on the bimah.
â€śFor years, I have known about women whose scientific discoveries were attributed to men, or who had to publish their work under a male pseudonym. That it happened to me makes me realize all the more how important it is to recognize how deep and strong patriarchy remains, and how important it is for us to celebrate the contributions of gay and lesbian Jews, and all those who need to be liberated from marginality to centrality. And Passover is the right moment to ensure freedom for all Jews.â€ť
Iâ€™m glad to have finally learned the â€śtrue storyâ€ť of â€śthe orange on the seder plate.â€ť And now that I know it, will I still put an orange on MY seder plate this Passover? I sure will! But, like Professor Heschel, Iâ€™ll invite each of the participants at my seder to take a segment of the orange, make the blessing over fruit that grows on treesÂ and eat the segment in recognition of gay and lesbian Jews and of widows, orphans, Jews who are adopted, interfaith couples and families and all others who sometimes feel marginalized in the Jewish community.
After all, the Passover seder is very much a time for asking questions (for the importance of questions in the Passover sederâ€”beyond the â€śFour Questionsâ€ťâ€”see my blog from last year about the seder). And if Iâ€™ve learned anything from discovering the truth about the urban legend of the â€śorange on the seder plate,â€ť itâ€™s that we need to constantly be questioning: even those things that weâ€™re confident we already â€śknow.â€ť
Like all Jewish holidays in my family, Passover with my family is an entirely interfaith affair. There are Catholic adults and kids, Jewish adults and kids, Christian adults and kids and one 92-year-old Russian Orthodox (Christian) grandma.
But the emphasis is on the kids: Between my brothers and me, we have 10 children. My brothersâ€™ are Catholic and Christian and mine are Jewish, and so, itâ€™s important to me that the Passover seder is interesting and fun and meaningful for them.
For as long as I can remember, our family has used the Maxwell House Hagaddah. The old oneâ€¦from 1932â€¦which I love and have fond memories of. But I wanted something different, something more accessible for the under-18 crowd and for a group that is mostly not Jewish.
I never thought about creating my own until my friend and colleague, IFF COO Heather Martin, told me about the one she created for her family, and shared it with me. I was hooked. I wanted our own personalized haggadah with silly Passover songs sung to the tune of â€śMy Favorite Thingsâ€ť and â€śTake Me Out to the Ballgame!â€ť You see, while this may not constitute a very traditional haggadah, whatâ€™s important to me is creating a seder in which family members who are not Jewish feel comfortable and connected, and in which all of the kids participate and enjoy.
And so, using Haggadot.com and JewishBoston.com and some of Heatherâ€™s haggadah as a jumping-off point, we made our own. We cut and pasted and pulled bits and pieces from different sites, including a quiz for the older kids at the end.
It was a big hitâ€”the seder was fun and silly (vital for the under 7 crowd) and accessible and interesting (important for everyone else). Most importantly, it was relevant to our familyâ€”it made sense for the people sitting around the table, who mostly werenâ€™t Jewish but were there to celebrate Passover in a way that was meaningful. We left a lot out in order to create an abridged version that worked for my family, and I made sure to include the pieces that were most important for me to share the meaning of the holiday. Yours might look completely different, but youâ€™re welcome to use this as a starting off point, or even to bring into your seder if you wish.
Here it isâ€”take a look. Like it? Hate it? Iâ€™d love to hear what you think.
I have visceral memories of Passover as a child. It was a time, not a meal. My mother who worked more than full time was home.
We would rush to the kosher butcher for a huge slab of brisket. I loved going (this was the only time we went to the butcher during the year) because I felt part of something. There were so many other women there shopping for their Passover food. We spoke the same language, we were sharing the same busy-ness. It didn’t matter who was Orthodox and who Reform. We were one extended family. We brought a list to the supermarket for our food and other items (something that signified major cooking). We bought Manishevitz at the liquor store. I felt that everyone knew we were celebrating Passover. I felt that each stop was one step on the journey of doing Passover. We bought flowers for the table at the florist.
There was adrenaline and joy in my young soul. I was with the women of my family. We did Passover the same way each year. The familiarity of our preparations was warm to me, and precious. We set a beautiful, fancy table. I loved setting the table as a child. I had a job. It was a real job. People admired my work.
My beloved grandparents were at my house. I dressed up and so did everyone else. My Papa, of blessed memory, sang Chad Gadya in one breath. We dipped fingers in wine for the plagues. I proudly sang the Four Questions, showing off. We looked for the afikomen and claimed our dollar prize from a man at the tableâ€”tradition?
Fresh, bright, spring, freedom.
I loved eating matzah with cinnamon and sugar. I don’t think I can replicate this heaven. My family is scattered geographically. My child doesn’t sit still. I don’t cook like my mom did. I am a rabbi married to a rabbi. You could have predicted my profession from my love of Jewish holidays.
Now I have two lenses by which I view Passover. I think about the seder in terms of my kids. I think about the seder in terms of interfaith families. How does someone who didnâ€™t grow up with Passover experience it in a loved oneâ€™s house with their family? When does one become part of the family? How does the message of going from slavery to freedom translate? How can someone with no memories of a holiday come to make it their own as an adult?
But the truth is, only my family has the memories I have. It draws us close and it is fun to reminisce. Those years are forever a part of me. What memories will stay with my children about Passover?
Who will they remember?
What foods will they long for?
What traditions will they hold in their hearts?
Passover is one of the most widely celebrated Jewish holidays and many Jewish families have some type of Passover seder, but preparing to host a seder can be intimidating. This is true whether or not you grew up Jewishâ€”and, as I can personally attest, even if youâ€™re a rabbi!
Seder means â€śorderâ€ť in Hebrew, and there is a set order for how the seder is to proceed, set forth in the haggadah. As an avid haggadah collector, I can tell you that there are LOTS of different haggadot to choose fromâ€”or you may put one together yourself. But even once youâ€™ve selected a haggadah, if you have kids coming to your seder thereâ€™s the added pressure of wanting them to be engaged throughout the evening.
Here are some things that have worked for me in the past:
MAD LIBS, COLORING PAGES, ETC.: One year, when the kids arrived at my seder, I gave them a Passover Mad Libs game.Â Playing Mad Libs is a great way to keep kids busy before the seder starts (especially if you donâ€™t want them running all over your house!) or after they have eaten their mealâ€”which we all know takes kids a lot less time than it takes adults. If there are kids who are too young for Mad Libs, you can give them Passover coloring pages and crayons to keep them occupiedÂ (Google â€śPassover Coloring Pagesâ€ť and youâ€™ll find lots of pages you can print for free)Â or if you happen to be using a digital haggadah, like this one from JewishBoston.com, the younger set can enjoy this fun onlineÂ seder matching game. Coloring in their own Passover placemats (which you can buy in many grocery stores, Judaica shops or onlineâ€”or make your own) kept my kids happy and quiet during seders when they were little, as did kidsâ€™ haggadot that they could color in.
PASSOVER GRANOLA: Several years ago, I attended a pre-Passover workshop led by Noam Zion, one of the authors of A Different Night, The Family Participation Haggadah. Zion suggested that when the seder begins, the host should give each guest a bag of granola, which they can nosh on so they wonâ€™t be hungry and anxious for the meal, and thus will be more engaged during the pre-meal part of the seder, which is the majority of the haggadah. So when we all sat down, I gave everyone, adults as well as children, a bag filled with raisins, nuts, and Kosher for Passover chocolate chips and marshmallows. I explained that just as our Israelite ancestors went on a long journey after leaving Egypt, we too would have a â€śjourneyâ€ť before we began our meal, and the bag was filled with some food to keep us nourished along the way. (I also promised my guests that our journey would be a lot shorter than 40 years!). Another fun thing about the Passover granola was that my daughter, who was four at the time, had a great time preparing all of the bags with me before our guests arrived.
BINGO: One of the biggest hits was when I used a website to make a Passover Bingo game for my younger guests. The squares on the Bingo game had phrases such as: â€śI recited the four questions,â€ť â€śI drank the second cup of wine/juice,â€ť â€śI asked a questionâ€ť and â€śI tasted maror.â€ť I gave each kid a small cup of raisins, and told them to put a raisin on a square once they had done what was written in the square. This kept the kids engaged throughout the eveningâ€”nobody wanted to miss doing something and not be able to fill in that square on their card. I recently found a similar Passover Bingo game online here.
QUESTIONS! QUESTIONS! AND MORE QUESTIONS!: Any good seder involves a lot more than just the Four Questions in the haggadah. Originally, the items on the seder plate and many of the Passover rituals were meant to spark questions. Your seder wonâ€™t be nearly as rewarding if you just read through the haggadah without taking time for questions and discussion. Here are some fun ways to incorporate questions into your seder:
Ask lots of questions: Before the seder, go to a Dollar Store or party store and buy a bunch of cheap little toys to use as prizes. Throughout the seder, stop to ask questions about the story and celebration of Passover. Whoever answers the question correctly gets a prize. Youâ€™ll probably find that the adults like to play along and show off their knowledge as much as the kids do. Or better yetâ€¦
Have your guests ask the questions: Encourage questioning by giving out a prize every time someone asks a question. Then let someone else answer the questionâ€”and they can get a prize too.
Put questions under everyone’s plates: One year I put an index card with a Passover-related question on it under each plate before everyone arrived at my seder. Some of the questions were serious (e.g., â€śIf you could invite anyone to a seder, who would it be and why?â€ť) while others were more light-hearted (e.g., â€śIf you could eat only one thing for the rest of your life, would you rather it be matzah or bitter herbs?â€ť). At different points throughout the seder, I would randomly pick a person and ask them to take the index card out from under their plate (no peeking at the card until youâ€™re called on!), read their question and answer it.
Advanced planning is key to a successful seder. But that being said, once your planning is finished and your guests arrive, do your best to relax and enjoy!
Are there things youâ€™ve done at a seder in the past that have been fun for kids and kept them engaged? What are you planning for this year?Â
What memories do you have of growing up? How did your family celebrate holidays?
My favorite holiday has always been Passover. While I was growing up, my parents hosted the Passover Seder for the extended family. Weâ€™d add tables, outgrowing the dining room and â€śkidsâ€™ tableâ€ť until we had a series of three tables spanning the dining room, entry way and into the living room. My aunts, uncles and cousins would all come to our house for a few days and weâ€™d celebrate Passover.
Living in Northern California, we did not have an abundance of kosher-for-Passover options. Luckily, my aunts would buy out all the markets in Los Angeles and bring delicacies with them that would last throughout the week of Passover.
After the crowds left, my mom would make matzo meal pancakes. Light and fluffy, made mostly of egg whites and air, they were my favorite (probably because I ate them with tablespoons of white sugar on top).
It wasn’t until a month ago that I learned where the matzo meal pancake recipe came from. I should have known that my momâ€™s mom was not the source. My grandmother was raised Mormon and converted to Judaism before marrying my grandfather. They raised three wonderful Jewish children and always had a Jewish household (see nature vs. nurture).
During summer break, while my mother was in high school, she traveled to Indianapolis to visit my father for a weekend while he was working there for the summer. At that time, not yet married, it was not â€śappropriateâ€ť for them to stay under the same roof, so while he was living with his cousins, my mother stayed with my fatherâ€™s grandmother.
One morning, my great-grandmother made the pancakes for my mom. Mom immediately fell in love with them. My great-grandmotherâ€™s recipe has been a family treasure ever since.
InterfaithFamily is here to help families discover long-lost family recipes and traditions, to create your own traditions and to help you explore what aspects of Judaism you want to incorporate into your lives as you create new traditions for your family.
In the Bay Area, newlyweds and nearly-wedded couples can begin this process by joining us for our Love and Religion â€“ Online workshop which begins July 29.
If you are lucky enough to be invited to a seder this year, here are a few tips. As you may already know, there is a wide array of observance in the Jewish religion. Every seder is a little bit different just like every family. A new person to the seder is always a delight; a new participant at the family seder is a wonderful addition. At minimum, the new guest(s) are a new audience for the often-repeated family story or family joke. If you are a little nervous, don’t be — the goal of the holiday is to learn about and discuss freedom. It is a great opportunity for you and everyone to learn.
Here are a few tips for you.
Hope you have a wonderful seder! If you have any questions or other items to add to the protocol, add them to the comments section and we will address any questions or suggestions that you post.