Each year, we try to come up with variations on the Seder’s rituals and themes so that our seder participants will experience anew and reflect more deeply on this year’s Seder. This year’s Seder ideas include a reading on Glee characters as depictions of the Four Children, a new ritual for the Zeroah (shankbone) and presentations by grandparents and college students. Make sure to peruse previous years’ seder ideas (including my favorite – Why is there a football and a corkscrew on the seder plate?).
Secrets to Success: Most excitingly, our Seder made the jump from child-focused to adult-focused. Our secrets to success included:
- Providing enough dipping foods to keep us sated (and not starving) during the Haggadah reading
- Embracing a healthy flexibility ensuring that while we did ever ritual and blessing, we moved things around as the story and stomachs determined necessary
- Preparation that included giving more than half the participants responsibility for sharing their answers to a question.
Setting Expectations for Thoughtfulness: Now that we are all older (no kids to roll around on the floor), we have an opportunity to experience the Seder in a profoundly new way. We are called together once a year – only once – to really think about our mytho-historical past as part of a people who went from slavery to freedom, from oppression to pain, from hopelessness to hopefulness. We will consider where and for whom freedom still is but a dream. And we will consider how our Biblical memory goads us to be agents of change. So for one meal we will talk, think, listen, and argue, and only then sit down for the meal.
Preparing Grandparent and College Student Presentations in Advance: We asked the grandparents each to be prepared to talk about one of these questions:
- What were the Passover Seders like when they were children?
- How did the messages of the seder influence their lives?
- In what ways do they value the freedom we have in America?
Similarly, we told the college age participants to be prepared to speak about:
- One place or situation in the world where freedom still does not exist.
We lovingly told them that they will be singing for their supper so the meal would not be served until each of them spoke.
The results were fabulous. Grandparents reveled us with stories of their childhood sedarim; the college-age participants spoke about immigrants and the Dream act, anti-semitism around the world as seen through the eyes of college roommates, and marriage equality. A mixed race relative spoke about racism while growing up in the deep south while her child talked about anti-semitism experienced in his middle school.
Dayeinu: We explained that this song Dayeinu (“it would have been enough”) recounts the many blessings brought by God into the lives of our ancestors – the plagues, the exodus, the Torah at Mt. Sinai, manna in the wilderness, arriving in the promised Land – and that how any one blessing would have been enough. So we invited each participant to recount one blessing – great thing that happened – in his/her life. After each person spoke, we said “dayeinu”. Then, we sang Dayeinu.
Got a Bone to Pick with Passover: A New Ritual Reading for the Zeroah/Shankbone. We explored the move from idol worship to monotheism and potentially back to idol worship. What are the things we worship today?
Glee-ful Passover: On my wife’s suggestion, we adapted the article The Four ‘Sons’ as Characters from Glee into a Seder reading: Glee, the Passover Four Children and How We Connect to Judaism. Then the leader asked people to respond by either answering the questions at the beginning of the reading, or just saying what it said to them. The discussion continued for a while as people spoke about their own connection to Judaism, how Jewish self-perception changed when they went off to college or to Israel, and how Jewish connections were different in open and diverse areas like the Bay area but less so in small towns.