One Seder, a Million Ways to Be: a Guide for a Multi-Faith Seder

April 02, 2019

Each Passover Seder is a unique experience, weaving together generations of ancient and family traditions with new concepts and rituals. We curate the food we eat, the stories we tell, and the items on our Seder plate into an experience that reflects our present day selves. For this Passover season, Kolbo is excited to present a series of four themed Seder Guides to help you create a Seder with perhaps new, meaningful and interesting twists. We encourage you to use these guides to help make your own Seder reflective of that which is important to you and those around your table. This week, we are proud to present a Guide for a Multi-Faith Seder.

ל דכפין ייתי וייכל. כל דצריך ייתי ויפסח.

Let all those who are hungry come and eat. Let all those who are in need come and rejoice in Passover.

Growing up in a Jewish home, my family’s year was colored with the brightness of the different Jewish holidays. Among my favorites has always been Passover; my parents and brother and I would pile into the family car and make the drive to New York to spend the Seders with my grandparents and cousins. Seeing my cousins and relatives always enlivened the Seders and made for much festivity and familial warmth, but our family members weren’t the only guests. Every year we’d have several guests of honor — family friends, often from outside the faith, who would add their own spark and flavor to the Seder.  

I always saw this as one of Passover’s special strengths: the ability to bring people together from different faiths and different walks of life. One verse from the haggadah always stood out, which I’ve quoted above, inviting everyone who is hungry and in need into our homes.

Different families give different interpretations to this verse. One family I know opens up their front door at this point in the Seder, and invites in the first passerby they see. Their Seder is open to whoever happens to be walking by; open to that person’s views, that person’s questions, that person’s story. Though there were never many passersby in my grandparents’ neighborhood, we managed to bring in varied opinions with our inclusive guest list.  

How does one go about creating a Seder that caters to the needs of different people and different faiths? We at Kolbo have compiled some tips about ways you can make your Seder inclusive and accessible to all.

  1. Provide some transliteration of the Hebrew and Aramaic. Biblical and Talmudic verse can be daunting to anyone, and all the more so when presented in dozens of pages in the original Hebrew or Aramaic. Help bring your Seder participants along through the story by transliterating some (or all) of the original text. This will allow those who don’t read Hebrew to follow along such central passages as Ma Nishtanah and Dayenu, and can allow them to feel truly included.  
  2. Throw in some tunes.  On the theme of central passages, consider including sheet music to bring life to the page for those festive songs that appear throughout the Seder litany. Many Passover songs’ musical notation can be found online.  
  3. The why and the wherefore.  In addition to focusing on the wording of the texts, try offering explanations as well. Elucidating not just what we are doing, but also why we perform the rituals will help clarify for everyone present the myriad customs that every Seder brings to the table.  
  4. Invite questions. One of Judaism’s most central methodologies, asking questions, is what stimulates the mind and keeps the religion, beliefs, and customs alive. Every participant will have their own viewpoints and life perspectives, and the questions they bring will shed light and elicit new understanding, often to parts of the Seder we thought were already set in stone. You’ll be surprised how creative some questions can be, and how amazing the answers everyone and their haggadah bring to the table. You never know when a simple question will bring a complex and colorful answer, a heartfelt story, or a good laugh.
  5. Explore the Seder themes. The Seder is filled with many details, both in the verses we expound upon, and the fifteen ritual steps that comprise the night. Exploring the meaning of what we do and what we say is important, but just as important is bearing in mind the larger implications of what we gather to celebrate: liberation, oppression, and overcoming one’s personal Egypt, one’s limitations, to name a few key concepts. In what ways do the Seder guests appreciate freedom in their own lives and faiths? How do the Seder themes focus on the Jewish people, and how do these themes unite other peoples across their varied cultures, histories, and present day experiences?

Whoever the guests are that honor your Seder table, there is a Seder that can nourish them, and a Seder to which they can contribute. No two Seders will be the same, but they will all echo the framework of our age-old Passover tradition, and reverberate with new life as we celebrate, discuss, and share the Seder’s multifarious aspects.  

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