This article was originally published in the May 2017 Shofar.
A truly wonderful year. I am filled with gratitude for the dedication, talent, skill & compassion of our staff. When asked to share some fond memories or special ways they celebrate Passover, the teachers reminded me of what it is we are really trying to do here; to fill up with joy, to nurture our souls and to share the love in the most rewarding ways. Enjoy:
At the Jelken Passover Seders, we have props for the 10 Plagues–plastic insects, red dot stickers for boils, etc. We also sing the Passover Rap at the end of the Seder
When it came time to sing, the host of our seder used to call out for particular groups to sing the next verse, “OK, now all the handsome people…OK, now sing if you love dessert…OK, now all the funny people…OK, now sing if you’re the best in your family at bumper cars…”.
I have enjoyed the chance to lead seders at the Colorado Women’s College the last few years. One tradition that we enjoy is to broaden the meaning by including and inviting the stories of contemporary women who lead in terms of liberation. They can be Jewish (Ruth Bader Ginsburg), or not (Harriet Tubman). And we sometimes read the Haggadah from a Jungian perspective — the rich dream imagery of a burning bush, plagues, and Elijah. Just the idea that the stories could be our collective dream imagery is very nice for me.
In terms of our family, we let it run wild. It’s a family dinner that begins with the seder as a prompt, but whatever needs to come out is free to come out. That’s a freedom.
One holiday we’ve embraced is our variation on Hanukkah. My wife is a convert, who enjoys her memories of Christmas’ past, our son identifies as a devout atheist, I enjoy all the messages of the winter holidays, and so we’ve developed Hanukwanzatheitmas. That knotted up all-inclusive twist has made it one of my annual favorites. One year our family was invited to a friend’s home along with one other family. I didn’t know we were going to be opening presents … and then one family surprised their son with a bike, and next thing you know the other two families are giving their children the night’s gifts. Well, I was able to give each of our kids a pencil. Now, every year, I hear “hey Dad, are we getting pencils again this year?” And yes, they do.
Some of my fondest Passover memories are with my family in California. My parents made it a point to fly us all in for Passover. My father was very silly and loved to play with his grandchildren. For the plague of boils, he would put circular band aids all over his head (he was bald). It was an LOL moment and a wonderful memory.
In addition to our playful 10 Plagues, the Morris Family frequently hosts the 2nd night Seder at our house. We sit on pillows on the floor in the living room under a pop up tent. The canine members of the family have always been very partial to this family ritual. They can participate with us “in the desert”.
On the Seder plate, we have a beet instead of a shank bone. This Halachically approved choice is a great option for us vegetarians.
For the festive meal, we eat in the dining room. When the kids were little, the focus was always to make it kid friendly and interactive. Now it is more about the conversation about the meaning of Passover. Like Rich, it does always begin with Seder, but where we end is an expression of our freedom.
We are so blessed with each Passover adding new little ones at our table. So far, the standard group is 18 and one Passover we had 27! My memories are getting ready the week before having my children and the grandchildren coming up searching for the hametz. At the Seder we first sign our Haggadah . We use the same book each year that started in 2002. The pages are filled with notes from friends and family. We laugh at some of the notes and are saddened by seeing the notes from friends that have passed. The smells in the house several days before the night are wonderful and as I fall asleep my dreams are of years before and I smile all through my slumber. As with Todd and Carol, we have puppets, masks and various toys that show the plagues. It gets pretty rowdy at times but I love it.
I am a convert so I do not have childhood memories of the yearly Passover Seder.
My ex-husbands extended family for 20 years gathered and was very inclusive of both Jewish and non Jewish guests. They patiently told the Passover stories and explained in detail symbolic and historic parts of the Seder. The food was fantastic and the company was wonderful.
Over the past 15 years I never was in need of a Seder because friends always called to include me with every warmth and kindness.
As a religious school teacher over the last 30 years I have helped with many a school Seder. Helping with these large community Seders was a joyful inclusive feeling and gave me the confidence that I was no longer like the child who did not know what to ask. Instead I Can now be one to help pass on the traditions and stories to the newer generations.