I relocated this winter to a city where I didn’t really know anyone. I’ve managed to make some great friends, but they’re all in the stage of life where they go home for holidays. I guess I am too, but for logistical reasons, I can’t travel for seders this year. None of my new friends will be around, and I don’t have anywhere to go. How can I find a seder invitation in a new city?
One of the most common lines in the seder is, “All who are hungry, let them come and eat.” While this can be interpreted to emphasize the importance of supporting people in our communities who can’t afford food, this phrase is also often used as a motivation to welcome people to a seder who don’t have another place to go. Because of the centrality of this concept, many communities work hard to make sure that anyone who wants a seder has a seder. You may have to put in a little work, but I’m confident you’ll be able to find a place to go.
Start by asking the friends you’ve already made. While it can be scary to put yourself out there and say, “Do you know of anyone hosting a seder I could attend this year?” using your network is the best way to expand your network. These friends may know other people beyond your immediate circle who are hosting. Or, even if they’re going to a family seder, some of them may live locally, or close enough that you could get there easily. Hopefully, they can help point you in the right direction.
If that approach doesn’t yield an invite, you still have a lot of options. Here in the Twin Cities, TC Jewfolk has been doing Passover seder matching for several years. But alternatively, you call the Jewish Federation or Jewish family service agency, which may have a resource compiled with multiple different options for a seder, or a person on staff to tell you about options. You can also Google “community seder” plus your city, or just call or email a couple of local synagogues. Local Hillels may welcome community members, or they may be equipped to offer some other suggestions. Most cities also have a Chabad that provides seders. Again, it can be scary to put yourself out there, and it can take some work to make these contacts, but these are all organizations designed to help people access the Jewish community, so really, you’re just enabling them to do their jobs.
One thing to keep in mind is the wide range of what a seder looks like. If you have specific dietary needs, either in terms of kashrut or allergies, make sure that you are clear about that when you start exploring options. If you are hoping for a full, traditional seder, specify that. If you prefer a shorter or less traditional seder, target your search to organizations (or individuals) that are likely to appeal to your sensibilities. Be prepared that a community seder could cost you anywhere from $10-$60 or more. If you are going to someone’s home, you should be prepared to bring a bottle of kosher wine or another host gift that shows your appreciation.
Finally, one last option to throw out there is to host your own seder. Since you know you are looking for one, I am absolutely sure there are other people in your city, in your age range and interest level, who are looking for one as well. You would likely still need to use many of the above strategies to locate those people, and that may be above and beyond what you’re hoping to accomplish this year. But seders can be led by anyone, even you, and if you can’t find the right thing that you’re looking for, you can express your freedom by creating it.