Passover is approaching and my thoughts are turning to some of my favorite Seder moments from the past. Along with the different locations, the varying amounts of wine, and the year that included re-enactment complete with costuming, I realized my favorite memories have been the inclusion of non-Jewish first-timers.
Inviting the uninitiated to a Passover Seder is the best introduction to Judaism we can provide, and it makes our own Seder experience even better. Here’s why:
Family, Food, and Interactive
What is more Jewish than family and friends sitting around a big table, eating, telling stories of how we overcame some form of oppression, drinking wine, and singing a few songs?
This is exactly how I want others to experience my heritage, and I see the Seder as very inclusive. How?
- The kids are actively involved and participating
- The service/story is easy for anyone to follow along with
- The Seder is held in a comfortable setting
- The songs are catchy
- Non-Jewish guest can participate by reciting a paragraph or two without feeling as though they’re turning their back on their own faith
- Questioning, teaching, and discussing during the service are encouraged
- Family Seder traditions add to the comfort and family feeling of the activities
Inviting your non-Jewish friends makes the Seder better for everyone.
For one thing, it prevents us from taking short cuts, reducing the service to the 3-5 minute version. Telling the Passover story and teaching it to the new guests makes for a better presentation then simply reading it out of the book the same way you do every year since you (or your parents or grandparents) bought the Hagaddahs.
Encouraging your guests to ask questions and really learn the story will probably result in everyone at the table learning and thinking about the story in new ways.
Joining our Seder this year will be a Hindu family, ranging in age from seven to 60 years old. As a result, our semi-potluck Seder will include native South Indian vegetarian dishes. How many Seders can boast that? And the bonus is that because they’re vegetarians, they won’t need to pretend they actually like Gefilte Fish.
But what if your guests don’t come from a region that has some of the best food on the planet? Encourage them to bring their own family favorites. How about some hot dish? Seven layer salad? Maybe even a bologna sandwiches on Wonder bread or an all out pig roast! Okay, maybe not a pig roast…
For all these reasons and more, I highly recommend you invite your favorite non-Jews to your Seder table.
Passover is the best balance of family tradition, Jewish history, and inclusiveness.
It’s a kid-friendly event in a comfortable home with a great meal. It’s not proselytizing, not even close. It is simply sharing our tradition with others. I’m excited to share our Seder with my friend and her family. Next week, I’ll add a comment below and let you know how it goes.