My Jewish Experience: A Seder To Remember

6 years ago Leighest 0

By Sam Hollander

Every year for Passover, my family and I usually go to our rabbi’s house for one Seder and a family friend’s house for another. We always have a good time and leave satisfied that we had taken in the meaning of the holiday, while enjoying ourselves with friends. But this past year, my family wanted to experiment.

We went to a Seder in upstate New York led by the Jewish organization, “Oorah,” and I was surprised to find out that the normal small Seder that I was used to turned into a three hundred person extravaganza.

My family and I arrived a day before the holiday and were please to settle into nice little apartments on a lake. There was a pleasant air about the place, with breathtaking mountains stretching to the horizon, the laughter of young children outside our doors, etc. But the party was about to begin.

It finally came time to celebrate the late night meal and storytelling that we call the Passover Seder. Swaths of families rushed around, getting the kids dressed, preparing g for prayers, and finding a place to take a quick nap before they couldn’t for hours on end.

My brother, father and I went to go pray in the Temple, and I was surprised at how beautiful this seemingly underused Synagogue was, with little manikins of animals representing Noah’s ark, displays of what the original Jewish Temple used to look like, etc. It was almost like a museum, and I loved it.

Amidst our prayers, many felt the urge to sing and dance, and we joined in, getting tired even before the meal. But we wanted to take it all in with the many families around us joining in as well. It was beautiful to see so many people from different backgrounds coming together to sing, dance, and pray, all in this little museum-like Synagogue.

But now, after prayers, it came time to take part in the Seder meal. We walked in the main dining hall, and it was huge (although it had to be since there were a few hundred people there). They set up two big tables for us to get some Passover toys for the kids and wine for the four cups, while the rest of the needed items were placed on rows of tables, where we would all end up sitting. The interesting thing was how they explained their reasoning for the row setup. By the time we would get up to the main course of the meal, the people in one row would turn around and eat facing the people behind them, so as to bring the people together, and it definitely did. I met many great people who made the night very exciting and who kept me awake the whole time. And hence, the meal went according to plan.

We went through the motions, singing songs, reading the story of the Exodus from Egypt, playing games for the kids, and asking what was different about this night than from all other nights, despite the song being repeated about ten times so every child could get on stage. But in my head, this really was a night, one different from all other Seder nights I had ever taken part in. Yes I was tired, but I was also alive, I was happy to know that there are so many people out there who still celebrate the holiday and take part in the excitement of the day. I was happy to know that no matter where we all came from, we were all Jewish, and we were all one family.

Despite a lack of much needed coffee on site, the rest of the holiday went well, with more meals, another Seder, and a lot of family bonding. I was happy that my family experimented with our annual traditions, because if not, I wouldn’t have had such an amazing experience, meeting many Jewish families who all wanted to observe their family traditions and learn more about their religion. Those were truly nights different from all other nights, and if I had the choice I would do it all over again, but next time, I would make sure to bring my own coffee with me.