This Passover Let Your Creativity Go Wild


This post originally appeared on Jane’s Interfaith and Jewish blog.

reuse-plastic-easter-eggsIf you or your Jewish partner is like me, you remember your childhood Passover seders as long and boring affairs. There was no child-friendly Haggadah, toy plagues, or jumping around as everyone sang “Frogs here! Frogs there! Frogs were jumping everywhere.” Maybe there was a kids’ table, which was acknowledged only when the youngest was asked to recite the Four Questions.

As an adult, whether you are Jewish or from another background, you may have wondered, why can’t Passover be fun? The answer is, it can be. The holiday can retain its serious and important message and be enjoyable. It just takes a little creativity.

When my son was a toddler, I thought a lot, about how I wanted him to view Judaism. As an intermarried Jew raising a Jewish child, I wanted him to associate observance with fun and enjoyment, rather than obligation. I didn’t wanted his childhood memories of faith to be the same as my husband’s or mine–more serious than fun.

Because of our early experiences, my husband and I shared the feeling that it was important to make the holidays and Judaism enjoyable in order for our son to develop a strong connection to the Jewish faith. I only needed to look at my own extended family to see what a lack of positive religious experiences did to a person’s desire to continue to be observant when they reached adulthood. A Jewish relative, who inmarried, observed the holidays out of obligation and not because he derived any fulfillment from the experience.

My husband and I believed that by increasing the fun quotient of holidays when our son was young we could make the celebrations more memorable, without diminishing their significance. We felt this was especially important for an interfaith family because by creating positive Jewish experiences year-round, we avoided the need to pack a full year’s worth of Jewish identity building into December.

So, we spiced up our Passover observance. When our son was a toddler, we read Passover children’s books and sang the holiday songs learned in preschool. We told the story of the Exodus using a Shalom Sesame coloring book. I photocopied the pages and let the kids at our seder color them while the adults read the story. We read Sammy Spider’s First Passover and Dinosaur on Passover instead of reading a traditional Haggadah. We used a child-friendly seder printed from the Internet. As our son got older, we watched the many Passover parodies on YouTube.

We didn’t worry that how we told the Passover story was unconventional. After all, we were simply commanded to tell the story. Contrary to what Jewish parents of a certain generation thought, there was no rule to how it was told. A Haggadah wasn’t required nor did a seder need to be the same as our mothers’ or mother-in-laws’. We were free to do what we wanted.

As you get ready for Passover, think about how you can create happy memories by celebrating the holiday in a slightly different way. Work to nurture your child’s connection to Judaism so that it will be the foundation for observance later in life. Use a less traditional approach to connect members of your family from different backgrounds to the holiday. Remember the words of Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi, the editor of the Mishna (Jewish Oral Law codified about 200 CE.), “For only the lesson enjoyed is the lesson learned.”

Below are a few suggestions for injecting some creativity into your Passover celebration. Use them or come up with your own.

  • Introduce nontraditional elements into you ritual. Watch Passover-themed parodies of popular songs. Distribute toy plagues to all guests. Read a children’s book. Draw parallels between the Exodus and contemporary life – political and personal.
  • Sing or play contemporary children’s and Jewish Passover music–go beyond Dayenu. Check out The Maccabeats, The Fountainheads, ShirLaLa Passover, and Six13.
  • Make matzah pyramids and decorate them gingerbread-house-style.
  • Tape bubble wrap to the floors and let kids and adults run and jump on it to simulate the hail plague.
  • Do a Passover science experiment–place different types of red liquids/wet ingredients in bowls (water dyed red with food coloring, red paint and strawberry yogurt, etc.). Give each child a straw. Ask them to “part” the Red Seas by blowing into the straw over each bowl. Which liquid is easier to move or part? How does the density of the liquid affect movement? If the Red Sea was made of a thick liquid how easy or hard would it have been to cross? Would the Israelites have escaped the Egyptians?
  • Play Passover bingo and other games. See Jewish Holidays in a Box for ideas.
  • Introduce new foods to the meal. Food is an easy way to honor different backgrounds. Serve a dish that is respectful of Passover dietary rules, but a traditional part of a family member’s or guest’s Easter dinner. Celebrate the ethnic background of those at your table by including Passover dishes from the cultures represented at your seder. Look at the cookbook Entrée to Judaism for ideas.
  • Borrow from the Easter bunny. Eggs are a symbol of Passover and Easter. Have an afikomen egg hunt. Break the afikomen into small pieces. Place the pieces inside plastic colored-eggs used for Easter baskets. Hide the afikomen-filled eggs. Have the children search for them. Give out Passover candy as prizes.




Ma Nishtanah HaLaila HaZeh?

Why is this night different from all other nights?  Other than eating Matzah, how can we make the Seder meaningful and not just another family dinner?

How many times is Moses’ name mentioned in the Haggadah?  Why do you think that is?

What does it mean to be free?  Why does it say we are slaves this year, but next year will be free?

What other questions can we ask during the Seder?

and why should we be asking all the questions anyway?

This post is part of Twitter’s @imabima’s list of writing prompts for the first two weeks of Nissan leading up to Passover.




Chametz is such a curiosity to me.  During the rest of the year, we can enjoy it in its various forms, Challah, pizza, cakes…but in the days leading up to and all through Passover, we eliminate it from our lives.  We seek it out, remove it and even burn any remaining Chametz.

We replace Chametz with Matzah, flat breads, made quickly.  The Jewish people ate Matzah because they were in such a rush to leave Egypt (who wouldn’t be?) the bread had no time to rise.

Shabbat meals include fresh, yummy fluffy Challah.  Passover, dry Matzah.

I had learned that when it comes to a Mitzvah (or say, being rescued by G-d from slavery) we should rush and do it.  No hesitation, Just Do It as the Nike slogan says.

There are times when we need to sit back and just be, like Shabbat.  We eat Challah which usually takes hours to prepare (after rising and baking).  We hold on to Shabbat for as long as we can, with meals such as Melaveh Malkah.

Shabbat is meant for Chametz activities.  I admit, sometimes I am a bit more Chametz in the day to day.  I don’t always feel like making dinner.  Or laundry.  Sometimes I want to just sit in my pyjamas all day and relax.  Eventually I push myself through, but my body, yearns to be Chametz.

This post is part of Twitter’s @imabima’s list of writing prompts for the first two weeks of Nissan leading up to Passover.

A few Passover stories


I was never able to come up with a cohesive post about Passover, but below find a few of my musings.

Did a little last minute Passover shopping today, and, for the first time in almost 20 years, I found a lamb shank bone in the meat section.  I was so over-come, that I considered buying all of them so that they would have them next year.  Usually we have to order them from the butcher many, many, many moons in advance.  I am not that organized.  I generally live in a state of Passover denial, until the very last minute I don’t do anything and then it is a mad rush to get it all done.

I decided to just buy one, surmising that I couldn’t possibly be the only last minute shopper and I didn’t want to deny another last minute Jew the excitement of finding a lamb shank in the meat department.  How thrilling would that be?

I texted a few friends about my amazing find.  I call my husband.  This year, sweetie, we are having a REAL lamb shank bone, I gleefully tell him.  No plastic one.  No marrow bone pretending to be a lamb shank.  No pictures of one from the internet.  This year we get the real thing.

A friend of mine posted on Facebook that her car was chomtez free.  It got me thinking, it NEVER in a million years occurred to me that I should clean my car of leavened products.  I mean, face it, my van is a trash can on wheels.  While we generally do not eat in the car, the reality is that food is consumed in my car periodically.  When we go on long road trips the kids have snacks in the car.  So, there are crumbs and what not on the floor.  I remember my husband joking about people who light their houses on fire as they try to burn the last crumbs of bread in their cabinets.  Could you imagine what would happen if I tried that in my car?  It wouldn’t end well.  My response back was, the only way that could happen with my car would be if I got a new car.

The great tortilla debate is about to fire up.  I already see research being conducted.  A brief look at our browser history shows a few google searches on tortillas during Passover.  The argument is, if a tortilla is made from flour and water, just like matzoh, why are they forbidden?  Of course, why is corn not ok, if Sephardic Jews allow corn, rice and lentils?  The debate rages every year.  The Talmud is quoted, interpreted, articles are referenced.  It has become part of our tradition.  Of course, no one has ever really come up the answer to how a cat can eat a kid.

Happy Passover!

Thinking of Passover


With Purim now done, we look forward to pushing the clocks an hour ahead, spring and Passover (cleaning). 

What do you do for Passover to prepare?  Is there a massive clean up?  Do you plan a special menu or stick with tradition? 

I enjoy our Seders, which has been just my husband and myself.  We always have additional readings and talk about various themes of Passover (like freedom).  When we are elsewhere, people always want to zip through the Haggadah and get it all over with.  I guess since I’ve only been doing this with my husband for the last 3 years, it is still so novel and fun to me, and with all the preparation, I want to enjoy the Seder

I am looking forward to hearing my son ask the four questions, and adding games and activities that will whet his appetite for Seders.