Passover, when working like a slave wasn't a metaphor.
Passover starts at sunset Wednesday, April 5, 2023 and ends at sunset Thursday, April 13, 2023. Yeah, that seems like a lot of time to us too. Traditionally there are two Seders, one on the first night and one on the second. The rest of the eight days is when you stay away from bread and close to matzah. The two Seders are exactly the same except that the chicken soup tastes better the second day. The reason for two Seders has to do with the moon, and the calendar, and that the rabbis weren’t exactly sure which night it started in the Diaspora, so they decided we should cover our bases and celebrate Passover twice. True story.
The Passover Seder, where you learn the history of our people. And that Pop Pop can't read.
Passover is when we celebrate the liberation of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery by retelling the story of the Exodus at a Seder. If you’ve ever seen the classic movie The Ten Commandments starring a ripped Charlton Heston or A Rugrats Passover, you probably know the story. The name Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) comes from the last of the 10 plagues, when the firstborn children of the Egyptians were killed while the Angel of Death literally passed over the Jewish homes. Brutal for sure, but it was the only way to get Pharaoh to release the Jews from slavery (you’d think hail and locusts, etc. would’ve been enough, but the guy really hung on).
Why open the door? Because Elijah doesn't come down the chimney.
So many Seders are as dull as a piece of plain matzah, but leading a kickass Seder is both highly do-able and super important. There are 14 steps to the Seder. The steps help us retell the story of the Exodus, which is when the Jews fled slavery at the hands of the Egyptians, across the desert to their ultimate freedom in the land that was supposed to be flowing with milk and honey, aka: the promised land, aka: Israel. Retelling the story is also meant to take us through our own experience of slavery and pain and to think about what holds us back from freedom in our own lives. We open the door to peace when we welcome Elijah the prophet; we honor women with Miriam’s cup; and we give thanks to people who are Jewish through choice or marriage or spirit with Ruth’s Blessing. This is all explained in detail in our Haggadah so that friends and family at your Seder table who are not Jewish — or who are but didn’t get much Jewish education or maybe need a refresher — won’t feel left out or confused or jewbarrassed.
Looking back, Pharaoh thinks, "I really should have just let them go."
This year we have strong, black coffee on our Seder table as a symbol for the Jewish community, and anyone who stands for justice and against hate, to wake up to the vicious rise in antisemitism. Many of our ancestors came here as refugees, worked hard and contributed to society so we could enjoy good lives. But something has shifted and the insidious nature of antisemitism is growing. Antisemitism has become normalized. Even if you have yet to experience it personally, keep reading because it may just be a matter of time. It was the “paranoid” Jews in Europe in the 1930s who survived. The good news is that it’s not too late to wake up and activate. Start now.
(Take turns reading the plagues aloud while everyone takes a sip of their coffee.)
Plague 1: Self-centered
“I’ve never experienced antisemitism, so how bad could it be?” Well, very. Even if you have not experienced it, your people have, your community has, your family has. Isn’t that enough? Frankly, antisemitism has become so normalized that you may not always notice it. Like when someone says Jews are cheap, or run the media, or that our community doesn’t need allies because we’re all white/privileged. That’s antisemitism.
Plague 2: Academia
43% of Jewish students in American colleges and universities have personally experienced antisemitism or witnessed antisemitic activity on campus. Enough said. We need to listen, learn and support our kids.
Plague 3: Webinars
There is a well-funded, professional antisemitism campaign masquerading as social justice. This organized effort working to promote antisemitism is flourishing. Yet too often the Jewish community wants to “educate” the problem away. But education only works when people are open minded. When people hate Jews, it is real and dangerous, and webinars alone can’t fix it.
Plague 4: Silence
From tucking your Star of David necklace into your t-shirt, to letting an antisemitic slur slide, to not using your platform for good – if we assimilate out of fear and abandon our Jewishness, the bigots win.
Plague 5: Inequity
Name the social cause and Jews are often standing out front supporting it. It’s outrageous that Jews are unwelcome by some progressive groups. While a basic Jewish value is to improve the world, it is important that Jews support the Jewish community, too. Standing up for others more than ourselves isn’t the answer.
Plague 6: Instagram
Not everyone needs to be a Middle East expert, but getting information from social media influencers on a complex geopolitical situation is not the way to go. We must elevate experts with the credentials to accurately discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, rather than blindly trusting influencers and celebrities.
Plague 7: Narrow-mindedness
It is entirely possible to stand for the humanity of both Palestinians and Israelis. We do not need to be pro anything except pro-peace.
Plague 8: Politics
Politicians on the far right and left are using the Jewish community as a political football because it plays well with their radical biases. But, this isn’t a game and we aren’t political pawns. We must depoliticize antisemitism.
Plague 9: Blame
When antisemitic crimes take place against Orthodox Jews who are visibly Jewish, the reaction is often, “Well, they asked for it.” Since when is being outwardly Jewish “asking for it?” This perpetuates an atmosphere of fear. Jews are not responsible for the hate that is targeted against us.
Plague 10: “Who’s the better Jew?”
This is a game with no winners. Please stop judging other Jews for how they practice. Everyone is on their own Jewish journey, from those with no Jewish education to the most observant at the table. We make each other stronger.
Plague 11: Horns
We put out a request for personal experiences of antisemitism and received so many similar responses that we categorized them and created a booklet called Horns, You Killed Jesus, Pennies: Your Antisemitism Stories. (It’s on JewBelong.com in the Antisemitism section.)
Plague 12: Only Playing Defense
Athletes know that it’s more fun to play offense than defense. Same with being Jewish! Fighting antisemitism is hard, but being a proud Jew? That is a joy! There is a reason that the Jewish people have survived for thousands of years. Stay on the offensive. Be proud, loud and continue to use Jewish values as a touchstone in this very troubled world.
-A JewBelong original with help from our amazing friends, Hen Mazzig and Rabbi Danielle G. Eskow.
Hosting a Seder is a lot like throwing an awesome dinner party with props and a set agenda. It includes lots of drinking and eating and singing, which generally makes for happy guests. And you don’t have to worry about what to serve or whether your guests will find anything to talk about. The Seder will keep them busy, and since most of the food is traditional, menu planning is a snap. Just remember that making the Passover story come to life for your guests matters more than the matzah balls. What if it’s the only Jewish experience some of your guests have the entire year? It’s your job to inspire them with some fun and spirituality. Yes, that’s a lot of pressure, but you’re up to it! (Plus, we’ve got you covered with these steps for a Kickass Seder.) Side note for hosts: We’re not sure whose genius idea it was to ask the littlest kid at the table to recite the Four Questions, in Hebrew no less, but if you’re planning to go with tradition, make sure to check in with the kid or the parent first. Clearly, we’re projecting, but some of us at JewBelong still remember the anxiety we felt when it was our turn.
Gefilte fish: We don't know what's in it either.
Passover is a big food holiday, with many traditional foods and one big “don’t.” The don’t is bread or any leavened food. That leaves lots of other foods to eat though, starting with matzah — which includes matzah balls, matzah brei, matzah kugel… you get the picture. Hard boiled eggs, green herbs dipped in saltwater, horseradish and matzah and charoset sandwiches help us experience the Passover story. Another traditional Seder dish is gefilte fish, which is like a cold ground fish mousse. (You either love it or you don’t.) Many families will also have the kinds of foods they’d normally eat at Thanksgiving at their Seder, minus the stuffing, obviously. Keeping kosher for passover means not eating bread or other leavened foods (a.k.a chametz), but there are way more rules than that, like not even having foods with leaven in their homes. Many people keep kosher for Passover the whole eight days of the holiday. For families with little kids a dramatic part of Passover preparation is searching for the last traces of chametz in the dark using just a candle to find any lingering crumbs. There are lots more rules and activities like that. Google them if you’re ready to take a deeper dive.
Passover, the keto diet with prayers.
Wrap a baby doll in a small blanket. Place it in a basket. Garnish with some straw.
Ta-da! It’s baby Moses in his basket!
No Seder is complete without a Baby Moses Centerpiece!
1) Fill a shallow serving dish with red Jell-o and let set.
2) Create two areas of "land" on each side, using whatever items you have handy. (Go nuts! Literally. Use nuts, matzah, kichel, macaroons - literally anything works.)
3) Finish by adding figurines to represent Moses and the Israelites.
4) Too extra? We don't think so!
Get in touch with your 7th grade diorama skills in a few easy steps!
A Passover drinking game!
Every time you hear the name Moses, do a shot of Fireball. Recline as needed.
Get it? Fireball = burning bush? :)
We love this reading! Try having one person do the “On this night” and the rest of the table read responsively all of the other lines all together.
First line: We retrace our steps from then to now, reclaiming years of desert wandering. Last line: We journey from now to then, telling the story of freedom…
Start your Seder with this short reading. It might sound corny, but push through and do it anyway. It will get everyone’s attention and help them to make sacred time and space.
First line: Let’s take a moment to be thankful for being together. Last line: Next year in the land of Israel…
From the traditional to some that you haven't seen before.
Sing to the tune of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.” Quick, easy and fun!
First line: Take us out of Egypt, free us from slavery. Last line: For it’s ten plagues, down and you’re out at the Pesach game…
Sing to the tune of “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” Guaranteed to have everyone at the table smiling.
First line: There’s no Seder like our Seder, like no Seder I know. Last line: Let’s go on with the show!…
They had to rush on Passover. You shouldn't.
Don’t miss this one. You are supposed to light the candles anyway on Passover and this reading is a notch above. It includes an introduction to bring attention to our quest for truth, social justice, and peace. First line: READER: The day ends. The earth turns from sunshine to dusk and then to darkness. Last line: We praise God, Spirit of the Universe, who has directed us to kindle [the Shabbat] and holiday lights…
An additional candle blessing for women to read. It’s sweet.
First line: May you grant my family and all Israel a good and long life. Last line: Let the light of Your face shine upon us. Amen…
Kiddush, the traditional blessing over the wine, is said as we fill the first of four cups of wine. We also add in Shehecheyanu, a blessing said during celebrations, to say thank you for bringing us to this happy moment.
First line: Fill your cup with the first glass of wine, lift the cup, say the Kiddush, and drink, leaning to the left. Last line: We praise God, Spirit of the Universe, who has kept us alive, raised us up, and brought us to this happy moment…
So. Much. Wine.
Whether you’ve heard the Passover story 87 times or this is your first time through, you NEED this skit. It tells the Passover story in a way that everyone will love (and seriously, who doesn’t love a skit?) but more importantly, friends and family at your Seder table who are not Jewish – or who are Jewish but didn’t get a lot of Jewish education – will never feel left out or confused or…JewBarrassed. Think about who to assign roles to in advance. You will notice that we tell you at the very beginning how many lines each part has. We do the skit around the table so no need for props or staging. But if you want to go full on staging, go for it!
First line: What If God Hadn’t Taken Our Ancestors Out Of Egypt? Last line: In the meantime, Happy Passover!…
Immigrants, we get the job done.
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