Stories We Tell: Zoo Seder

Judaism has a deep and rich tradition of storytelling, of passing down stories from one generation to the next. To carry on that tradition, Stories We Tell, from, will share a new story with you every Thursday. Whether you listen while driving to work, preparing Shabbat dinner, or taking your kids to school, each episode will give you a new story to reflect on and discuss with the people in your life. Stories We Tell is a project of the Union for Reform Judaism, a leading voice in the discussion of modern Jewish life.

On this special Passover episode of Stories We Tell, Rabbi Mark Kaiserman, Rabbi of the Reform Temple of Forest Hills, tells the story of a little girl who’s excited for a very different Passover seder her family is planning and how a little imagination might be what we all need right now.

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[URJ Intro] Welcome back to Stories We Tell, a podcast presented by Judaism has always had a deep and rich tradition of passing our stories down from one generation to the next. And we continue on with that tradition each week here. This week, Rabbi Mark Kaiserman, the rabbi of the Reformed Temple of Forest Hills, is going to share the original story "The Zoo Seder."

[Rabbi Mark Kaiserman] Emily was excited for Passover. She loved going to the home of her bobah and zaydah. That's what she called her grandparents. Last year, she had found the afikoman, the matzah that is hidden during the Passover Seder. Although it was easier to find it with just her brother and sister looking, too.

But she liked it more two years ago at Passover when the cousins from California and the cousins from Cincinnati and the aunt from Dallas were all there, too. They weren't coming this year, she remembered. Recently, things had been weird. No going to school, no playing with friends, staying home all the time. Her brother had played with her a little. Her sister just rolled her eyes and video chatted with a friend.

Emily was headed to the kitchen when she heard her parents talking. Her dad said, so that's settled. We're not going to your parents for seder. We'll stay home and have a zoo seder instead. Emily was shocked. How could they not go to Passover? And what was a zoo seder?

She went back to her room and thought about it. A zoo seder. She'd miss seeing her grandparents, but a zoo seder sounded great. All the animals could join in and lead the seder.

For sure, an owl would help with the four questions. Owls were very wise. And the rabbits would love eating the parsley but probably not with saltwater. A giraffe could help her find the afikoman, for sure. And they could sing Chad Gadyah, the song at the end of the seder with an actual goat, cat, and their dog, Falafel. But at a zoo seder, no one would get hurt. Emily never liked that part of the song.

But best of all, the monkeys would sing Chad Gadyah. Her brother and her dad sang that song during the seder pounding on the table. She could just imagine it. [SINGING IN HEBREW] [IMITATING MONKEY NOISES]

When Passover came, Emily's mom had her dress and her prettiest outfit. She thought it was strange outfit to wear to the zoo. Emily walked to the dining room and found her brother, sister, and parents all gathered around the laptop. There wasn't an animal in sight except for Falafel sleeping under the table.

Where are the animals? Where's the zoo? Emily asked her family. They all stared at her with confusion. For the zoo seder.

After a pause, everyone burst out laughing. Everyone except her sister, who just rolled her eyes. It's not a zoo seder, her brother said between laughs. It's a Zoom seder.

They stepped aside, and she saw on the screen were her bobah and zaydah, waving and laughing. Her dad pressed a button, and suddenly lots of boxes appeared with different people. There were the cousins from California and the cousins from Cincinnati and the aunt from Dallas. They were all there, too. Then she saw her aunt and uncle who lived in Israel and her bobah's sister who was in New Jersey. Everyone in the family was there.

The Zoom seder was nice. Emily had found the afikoman again, but her parents did one for each of them this year, so it wasn't hard. And her parents' roasted chicken wasn't as good as her bobah's brisket. What did you think of your first Zoom seder? her mom asked.

She thought about it. She would have liked the owl and the rabbits and the giraffe and the goat, the cat, along with Falafel the dog to be part of it. She looked at her mom and said, it was really good. But next year, let's get monkeys to sing [HEBREW].

[URJ Outro] After hearing the story "The Zoo Seder," what's the best part about letting your imagination go wild? We'd love to hear about it if you want to share that with us on social media. And thanks for listening to Stories We Tell. If you enjoyed this week's story, please subscribe and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.

You can always find new episodes every Thursday on And don't forget to visit to learn a little bit more about Jewish rituals or culture or holidays and more. Stories We Tell is a project of the Union for Reform Judaism, a leading voice in the discussion of modern Jewish life. And until next week, L'hitroat.