Leading a Passover Seder: The Freedom to be Creative!

February 28, 2013Rabbi Vicki Tuckman, z"l

I do not have enough fingers and toes on which to count the various kinds of Passover seders I have participated in or led. So many have been close to my heart, building and reinforcing my Jewish identity year after year. All have fulfilled the educational imperative of the Seder, imprinting the story of the Hebrew slaves' quest for freedom onto my soul and into my Jewish psyche.

It is no easy task to create or lead a seder that is age-appropriate, meaningful, and challenging all at once. Although the seder involves neither the physical labor of cleaning one's house of chametz nor cooking a complicated meal, it is based on deeply held traditions. As such, it often can include eye rolls from testy teens or grumblings from cantankerous relatives so used to the Maxwell House Haggadah that they believe Moses received this sacred text from Shop-Rite's kosher section and not from God atop Mt. Sinai.

The most important thing in leading a Passover seder is feeling that you have the freedom (pun intended) to be as creative as possible. As a seasoned educator, the most important factor is SIZE; meaning "how many" people are coming and the "height" of the participants. If the majority of your guests and family members are elementary-school age and younger, you must choose a Haggadah that is family-friendly. Experiential moments and physical activities must be at the heart of the seder experience. This, of course, is hard when all of the little people are driven to your seder by larger people with licenses (i.e. their parents and grandparents). If you think about the brilliance of Sesame Street, they were able to create a show that thoroughly taught and entertained their preschool viewers, while also slyly engaging the parent audience with interesting and mature graphics, characters that do not grate the nerves, plus interesting adult guests (like Julia Roberts, Michelle Obama, and music acts like REM).

A few years ago, I could not find a seder suitable for my gathering of 30 people, which included babies through grandparents. Thus, I hit the computer and created a PowerPoint presentation that we projected onto the living room wall. It was modern, colorful, and appealed to the various array of tech-savvy toddlers, teens and adults. I embedded 3 video clips and personal quotes from family members that I solicited in advance. It was an exciting twist on the tradition taking turns reading around the dining room table.

Bottom line –

Give yourself time over the next few weeks to read, research and re-invent! As Reform Jews we are given permission to continuously adapt and reform our tradition in a way that feels modern and relevant. Passover is a holiday meant to empower individuals and families to teach each other about Passover. You know your family and guests best; your job is to lay out enough delicious morsels, along with Grandma's china dishes, to spark the conversation and tell our ancient tale anew.

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