A few months before Pesach last year, Noah Nathan (my housemate at the time) suggested that it might be a nice idea to run a Seder for students who might not know where to go for Seder night, were new to the area, had never attended a Seder night before, or who felt uncomfortable at previous Sedarim they had attended.
I loved the concept of the idea and thought that it was something I’d enjoy, as well as something I would be able to do fairly naturally, having had experience in youth work professionally for a few years.
Noah helped me find the majority of attendees and together, we spent a good month or so inviting people and giving them the details of the Seder. However the real effort came with buying and preparing food for everyone. Most people are aware that preparing a Pesach Seder is no easy task, and it was all the more daunting for two boys who had not only never done this before, but were doing it for 20 people!
The Shabbat Project, together with Heart to Heart, provided a more than decent sum of money towards the event, enabling us to have nice cutlery and crockery, as well as good quality food.
With the table laid, Haggadot ready, eggs boiled, soup heated, Seder plates set, and lots of props prepared, it was time for the Seder to begin. Noah was unable to attend the Seder, leaving me to run it singlehandedly for 20 people, none of whom I had previously met – a daunting task, but one which would prove both fun and an incredibly worthwhile experience.
To begin with, everyone introduced themselves, and it turned out that we had an Australian, two Israelis, four English people, and loads of Americans. We briefly discussed our thoughts and experiences about freedom, a particularly interesting topic at the Seder and one which it was clear most people had never thought about before.
Of the 20 people at the Seder, there were only three, other than myself, who knew what to expect from a Seder night, and only one who had it every year. This provided a greater challenge of not only engaging everyone, but also explaining to everyone what was going on, making them feel comfortable, and at the same time making the Seder seem relevant to everyone with their 21st century lives.
The Seder proved to be great fun for everyone involved, from hiding and finding the Afikoman, to performing Chad Gad Ya with masks and animal noises, having a Maror eating contest, to singing parodies of songs from musicals with Pesach themes.
Leading the Seder wasn’t always easy and there were times when things didn’t go as smoothly as planned, whether it was the realization that the corkscrew wasn’t kosher for Pesach (and therefore having to knock the cork into the wine with a knife) to realizing that no-one knew how to join in with benching (leading to a five minute solo). That being said, on the whole, everyone was very willing to participate and to learn about a ritual that they had never performed before. There was no doubt that some parts will have appeared strange to people, but everyone seemed to have a good time.
After everyone helped clear the table and sweep up the mess, people left with new knowledge, new friendships and a novel experience that will hopefully stay in their memories for a long time to come.
I found the experience a wholly worthwhile one, and one which I would love the opportunity to do again. Not only was I able to show people what a Seder was all about, I also learnt from people’s insightful ideas about freedom and Jewish ritual, and was able to create a Seder quite unlike anything I would have experienced with my family.
The Shabbat Project is looking for students to help organise and run Seder nights this year, just like Sam did last year. If you are interested in getting involved, please click here.
Does this Seder meal sound like something that you would enjoy attending? Please click here to sign up for attending one of our student-run, inclusive Passover Seder nights.