How to Make Your Virtual Seder Lively, Engaging, and Meaningful
Passover is an experiential holiday, a time when we typically come together with loved ones in celebration of our Judaism. For some families, this is the one time each year when everyone joins together in person to share traditions, tell stories, and create lasting memories.
But this year’s COVID-19 pandemic means that we cannot share physical spaces – so what are we to do? Thanks to modern technology, we can still gather online to create fun, engaging, meaningful, and memory-making holiday experiences – together.
Still, even seasoned seder hosts may feel stumped as they prepare to take the tradition online, wondering, “With guests watching from home instead of sitting around the table together, how can I keep everyone feeling connected and engaged?!”
It’s time to get creative.
This multi-part resource can help you re-imagine your usual traditions and incorporate digital content that will enliven the virtual rendition of your Passover seder. From choosing a Haggadah to saying “Next year, in Jerusalem,” each section includes curated ideas and digital content (including videos, activities, discussion questions, and more).
Pick and choose what speaks to you in order to, ultimately, create a fun, engaging, meaningful, and memorable Passover experience, even in the age of quarantine. Let’s get started – and chag sameach!
1. Choosing a Haggadah
The most important part of the story is the way you tell the story – your framing, your intention, the way you want people to feel…
These considerations will help you decide which Haggadah is right for you – and this year’s unique circumstances may even present the opportunity for you to use more than one.
- Reform Haggadot and Other Passover Resources: CCAR Press shares discounted Haggadot (both print and online), free flipbooks, and more to help you lead virtual Passover celebrations and allow seder guests to follow along from afar.
- Kid-Friendly Haggadot: These eight great Haggadot have been recommended by Jewish educators as being imaginative, accessible, and child-friendly but not childish.
- Build Your Own: Choose from classical texts and contemporary interpretations to create a customized Haggadah.
2. Setting the Atmosphere
Passover celebrates the story of the Jewish community’s transformation into a free and liberated people. Our celebration of this holiday is a joyous one, and the seder itself is intended to share the Exodus story with generations, from the youngest to the oldest.
This is the chance to create an experiential learning experience par excellence. Your seder can be fun and interactive, inspiring questions and invoking memories – while creating new ones, too. Dive into the chance play with the seder, argue, celebrate, inspire, and, most of all, create meaning.
- Perfect Passover Playlists: Use these curated Spotify playlists to help create atmosphere throughout your seder. They include songs that are perfect for your youngest participants, as well as old-time, family-friendly favorites.
- A Shalom Sesame Parody Video: “Les Matzarables” will surely get everyone in the mood for the excitement of the seder! Join with familiar, furry characters as they sing about Passover to a tune reminiscent of the classic Les Miserables.
- Make Holiday Cocktails: This is a great year to try out new drinks to share during your seder. Everyone makes and modifies their own, but you can all share a drink together.
- Easy Seder Activities You Haven’t Tried Yet: No need to do things the same way you always have (unless you want to, of course). These creative, experiential ideas will enliven the whole seder experience
- What Goes on the Seder Plate: This handy video and infographic will refresh your memory and help you be sure you have what you need.
- Passover Hopscotch: If (and only if) you have access to a safe, isolated outdoor space, you can teach kids about the order of the seder using this fun, interactive activity.
- Centering Immigration Justice in Your Passover Celebration: This resource will help you think about a current story of migration – that of asylum seekers arriving in the U.S. – and help you incorporate discussion and advocacy into your seder experience.
- Send an eCard: This year, more than ever, it’s important to reach out and connect with this we love. Why not share a fun Passover ecard with friends and family?
- What would you add to the seder plate as a symbol of this unusual Passover?
- What are some new ways to invite people to your seder? Technology? Requesting or sending messages? Brainstorm together.
- How will your table setting include the people you care most about, even if they aren't with you in person?
- What do you find most exciting or interesting about this year’s seder?
- Which symbol on the seder plate is the most important to you?
3. Kadeish: Sanctification
One of the ways we make this moment holy is by reciting the special Passover Kiddush blessing over the wine (or juice). We lift up the first cup to remember our exodus from Egypt and taste the sweetness of freedom.
- Passover Evening Kiddush (Weekday Version): Help your community prepare by sharing this link in advance of the seder, which will help guests become more familiar with the blessing and follow along.
- A Social Justice Reading on the Four Cups: With each cup of wine, this reading asks us to think about our own ability to create redemptive change in the world.
- Passover Food and Drink Pairings: Diverging from the holiday’s traditional red wine, this entertaining guide suggest holiday-themed pairings for your seder and beyond.
- Traditionally, wine is intended to signify joy. What makes this seder joyful for you?
- What are you filling your wine glass with? What is filling you up right now?
- Freedom is the primary theme of Passover, what freedom are you celebrating tonight?
4. Karpas: Greens / Vegetable
The first time we eat during the seder (and our first truly Passover-like ritual) is the dipping of greens into saltwater. Saltwater is a significant part of our story, a reminder of the tears shed during slavery and for enslaved people.
But dipping the greens – the first shoots of spring, which always return, whether we witness their budding or not – are signs of hope amid dark times. Hope emerges, even while damp with tears.
- Karpas symbolizes hope for the future. Jewish tradition always embraces hope, even during uncertain times. What are you hopeful about?
- What signs of spring are you noticing today, wherever you live? If someone at your virtual seder lives in another place, are they seeing different signs of the season?
- What experiences in your life have given you hope? Tell about some struggle to change something that worked. What did you learn from it?
5. Magid: Telling the Story
The Passover story tells of the Jewish people’s journey from slavery to freedom, narrating the Exodus from Egypt and describing each of the ritual items and their purpose.
This is when we ask the Four Questions – and then, in the rest of the Magid, we answer those questions in some the most popularly known elements of the seder.
- The Passover Story in 10 Scenes: Journey through the story of the Exodus with PJ Library’s beautiful, artistic animation and easy-to-follow narration.
- An Animated Song about Siblings: BimBam’s catchy music video tells the story of siblings Moses, Miriam, and Aaron and their familial devotion to one another; it also includes the crossing of the Sea of Reeds.
- Kids Retell the Passover Story: In this fun video, young children tell the Exodus story in their own words – with a few twists.
- 10 Great Discussion Topics: One of the most important elements of the seder is our commitment to the continuous act of asking questions – a reminder of our freedom. Here’s a list of imaginative questions to get guests thinking all seder long.
- Write Your Own Passover Poetry: Using the model of six-word poetry to foster creative storytelling, invite your guests to write their own and share with the group.
- Test Your Passover Knowledge: Want some friendly competition? Invite seder guests to take this quiz to see what they know (and don't know!) about the holiday.
- What moment in the Exodus story would you love to be able to transport yourself into and experience with the Israelites? Why?
- Where do you see bravery in this story?
6. The Four Questions
One of the highlights of the seder is when we ask the Four Questions, typically sung by the youngest seder guests.
Using the refrain “Why is this night different from all other nights?” each question leads us to consider what makes this moment of remembering our exodus from Egypt so special.
- A Four Questions Singalong: This animated BimBam video isn’t just for kids! The "bouncing ball" helps everyone follow along with Hebrew, English, and transliteration. (Scroll to the bottom of the page for the video.)
- A Four Questions Printout: Help everyone follow along and participate by emailing, screen-sharing, or printing of this simple but valuable PDF, which includes Hebrew/Aramaic, translation, and transliteration.
- An Audio Track of The Four Questions: Sing the Four Questions together with this mp3 version and/or encourage guests to follow along with a printout of the words. You can even get creative and share your own images.
- Four Questions about Racial Justice: In this seder insert, clergy and teachers from diverse backgrounds address racial justice through the lens of the Four Questions.
- Four Questions about Immigration Reform: These thought-provoking questions encourage us to consider our own history as immigrants and how we can fulfill the legacy of the Passover seder today.
- The seder is all about invoking curiosity. This year, our seder is different in so many ways. What are some questions you’re asking tonight?
- Four is a key number in the Haggadah. Can you name some things in your life that come in fours?
- It customary for the youngest person at the seder to ask the Four Questions, yet anyone can ask, “Why is this night different?” What Four Questions are you asking tonight?
- If you were to create a new tradition for the asking of the Four Questions, who would you choose to ask the questions? Why?
7. The Four Children
Throughout our history, the Four Children of the Passover story have sparked conversation, artistic renderings, songs, debates, and more.
This important moment in the seder – a moment of stereotypes and truths, educational philosophies and parenting insights – can invite everyone into conversation about ourselves as children, as adults, and as members of a community tasked with leading new generations into the future.
- An Animated Telling of the Four Sons: Sophisticated, clever animation brings to life the Four Children (here called the Four Sons) in an engaging and accessible way.
- A Social Justice Discussion on the Four Children: This short reimagining of the Four Children asks us to look at each child through a modern-day social justice lens.
- The Four Children of Star Wars: Take a fun foray into “a galaxy far, far away,” where beloved Star Wars characters illustrate each of the traditional Four Children.
- The Four Children of Climate Change: This piece, which can be read aloud or individually, draws parallels between the Four Children and the way people think about climate change.
- The Four Children could be perceived as four personalities within one person. When and how do you see yourself as each of these children?
- Where do you see the four children reflected in yourself, your family and the world?
- Think about your favorite TV show, movie, book etc. Which characters would you label as each of the Four Children?
8. The Ten Plagues
Our freedom from slavery came only after great suffering on the part of the Egyptian people in the form of the Ten Plagues.
God brought the plagues against the Egyptian people with the potential that each could lead to the Israelites’ freedom. Instead, each plague led only to another until, finally, the ultimate plague: Death of the Firstborn.
To honor the weight of the terrible suffering brought upon the Egyptian people, we pour out a drop of wine for each of the Ten Plagues, each one signifying the cost of our celebration.
- Learn about the Plagues: This animated video from BimBam both shows and tells viewers about the plagues God sent upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians.
- Ten Plagues of Inequality: This modern-day reimagining of Ten Plagues encourages us to think about issues of climate change, gun violence, and criminal justice reform – and agitates us to work for change.
- A Prayer and a Poem for Refugees: These moving words about the refugee experience urges us to consider our people’s history and our responsibility to respond to the current refugee crisis
- What makes you uncomfortable about the Ten Plagues? Why?
- How can we understand the celebration of our own freedom in light of the pain that the plagues caused others? On a personal level, how do we reconcile celebrating when members of our community are suffering?
- Which of the plagues do you think would be easiest for you to experience? Which would be most difficult?
9. Singing “Dayenu”
Dayenu, it would have been enough… but then there was more!
Particularly in times of stress, this moment in the seder, full of singing and simple repetition, can be a stark reminder of the importance (and the challenge) of practicing gratitude.
What might have been enough… until another meaningful moment appeared around the next corner? How can we see our time of gathering for seder as Dayenu, when we received a moment of grace, when perhaps we thought we’d had enough?
- "Dayenu" with A Prairie Home Companion: This upbeat, jaunty rendition is sure to get your seder guests movin’, groovin’, and singing along.
- “Dayenu” with BimBam and Jason Mesches: Use this engaging video as background music or as the main attraction when you sing the classic Passover song at your own seder.
- What are you grateful for this year?
- In this unique year of COVID-19, which is impacting our Passover celebrations, what moments of gratitude can you share – even on the days when you feel like you’ve had enough?
- Throughout the last few weeks, what have you learned about yourself and your awareness to find gratitude even in difficult times?
- If you could add a verse to “Dayenu” this year, what would it be?
10. Maror (Bitter Herbs), Charoset, and Koreich (Hillel Sandwich)
In ancient times, the Talmudic scholar Hillel ate lamb, matzah, and bitter herbs together to symbolize the interconnectedness of slavery and freedom.
Today, we honor this tradition at our seder by making the famous koreich, also known as the “Hillel Sandwich.” Between two pieces of matzah, we combine sweet charoset (which represents the mortar used to build the pyramid) and maror (bitter herbs), a reminder not to forget the relationship between bitter and sweet.
- A Little More about Maror: Hanan Harchol’s animated video offers a compelling introduction to the idea of maror – what happens when we experience bitterness and then have the opportunity to think about how to respond
- Podcast: "Life Up Your Eyes": With your seder guests, listen to this short story about how to experience bitterness and pain in a way that can be miraculous, good, beautiful, sweet, and even holy.
- Texas-Style Charoset: Share this recipe with guests in advance for a classic Ashkenazi charoset recipe… with a little Lone Star State twist!
- A Seder Activity about Freedom: How else might we create the sweetness and bitterness represented by the Hillel Sandwich? This list encourages you to think about food combinations that could create similar experiences. Poll your guests to see which combinations they may want to try next year.
- We eat bitter herbs twice before eating the meal. How does tasting the bitterness increase our enjoyment of the sweet?
- The maror reminds us of the bitterness of slavery. What makes you bitter?
- When in your life have you experienced bitter and sweet concurrently?
- Has there been an experience in your life that was bitter at first but, in retrospect, feels sweet?
- What do you do to move from bitterness to joy and sweetness? What helps you accept the bitter and move to joy?
- What are the origins of your favorite charoset recipe?
11. Shulchan Oreich: Eating the Meal
It’s finally time to enjoy our festive meals!
In past years, maybe we all sat together and ate the same food around the same table, arguing about whether the matzah balls were too dense or too light. This year, we’re eating different meals at different tables in different places, but we’re still able to come together as a community.
There’s more to do after the meal, so check back later to complete the seder. B’tayavon (and, pssst: Try not to chew too loudly into your microphone).
- Passover Recipes: This treasure trove of recipes includes dishes from around the world, giving you lots of new ideas for your seder and for the rest of the week, as well. Send this link to guests in advance to encourage them to try a new recipe this year, too.
- What’s your go-to main course on Passover?
- Share a story about a dish on your seder table.
- What are the must-have dishes at your seder?
12. Finding the Afikomen
At the start of the seder, we broke the middle piece of our three pieces of matzah, removing half and wrapping the larger section in a separate cloth to serve as the afikomen, the “dessert” matzah that will mark the official end of the seder.
Hiding the afikomen for young people to search for and find at the end of the seder is a highlight of the holiday – and yet another example of how the rabbis designed the seder to be interactive and experiential. Kids will stay awake throughout the seder if a game (and maybe a prize) awaits them!
Throughout the seder, children may look to see whether they can catch the leader hiding the afikomen, and when they’re given the go-ahead to start looking, they’ll likely race to find it. Typically, once the afikomen has been located and a final blessing said, everyone shares the afikomen, and then the seder concludes.
- Dog vs. Afikomen: This year, you may not all be able to search for the afikomen together – but that doesn't mean you can't have fun with the ritual. Share this video and see what you think!
- Make Your Own Matzah: If you've never made matzah from scratch, now's the time! Kids will love helping... and then finding the afikomen they made themselves.
- Though the afikomen represents our liberation from slavery, other types of slavery and bondage still persist today. What can we commit to this year to support the liberation of those oppressed by other forms of bondage?
- The afikomen reminds us that what is broken can be repaired, and what is lost can be found. What are some things you hope to find and repair before we meet again for seder in 2021?
- What strategy did the kids use to find the afikomen? What skills did they use?
13. Hallel, Elijah, and Miriam: Moments of Praise and Hope
With our stomachs full, we spend a few moments offering our praise and gratitude – for God, and for freedom.
This is also a moment when we recognize Miriam, a leader of the Jewish people in her own right, for helping to protect Moses as an infant and leading the Israelites in song after crossing the Red Sea.
We also welcome to our table the prophet Elijah, a symbol of redemption and a harbinger of a messianic age when the world will be healed.
- Podcast: “Small Things”: Elijah represents a hopefulness for the future, a redemptive time to come – but we cannot arrive at that time without everyone doing the work of redemption. Listen to this short story, then invite guests to share their own stories of small actions that make a big difference.
- Raising Up Miriam: This poem by Ruth H. Sohn raises up the voice of Miriam, which helps us to remember the power of belief, miracles, and song.
- We open the door to welcome Elijah in order to usher in hope for the future. What do you think Elijah needs to bring this year?
- What will we do this year to help bring hope to the world?
14. Nirtzah: Looking Ahead
The final step in the seder is the song “B’shanah Habaah B’Yerushalayim (Next Year in Jerusalem).” We conclude the evening with hope for the future and for increased healing in the world – and with our own commitment to strive to create a better and more complete world in the year to come.
This is the time in the seder when we sing classic songs like “Chad Gaya (One Kid Goat),” an allegory for the reality of consequences.
- An Uplifting Final Perspective: Whether you encourage people to read this piece on their own or separate it into parts to share aloud together, it takes a thoughtful, hopeful look at what it might mean to say "Next year in Jerusalem."
- Now What? Finish off your seder with this video from BimBam, which teaches the how and why of counting the Omer from now until the holiday of Shavuot.
- We conclude our seder looking toward next year. What do you hope for next year's Passover?
For even more Passover content, visit ReformJudaism.org/Passover.