Don’t even think about being alone for Pesach, as Debra Barnes has a list of pop-up seders offering a warm welcome
Back in the day, Jews spent the first seder night at the nearest Temple.
Hosting a get-together in a billowing tent or a blustery cave just wasn’t an option back then, regardless of how nicely it was decorated.
A community gathering around the rabbinate of the day was how things were done and that “more the merrier” philosophy stuck as a Passover tradition, which is why you invite people to your home, including those who are not Jewish and even complete strangers.
So forget about holding a solo seder, as there are plenty of options available to those who don’t have a family of their own or are living away from home.
Tenants at jLiving’s Hemel Hempstead property, Maitland Joseph House, will be invited to join a second night seder in the communal lounge. “Not all of our tenants have families to go to and our seders are always very popular with the local community, too,” said scheme manager Val Wilson.
Pearl Gordon has been a member of Kingston Surbiton & District Synagogue for 49 years. “We do first night with family and second night at our shul, which has been running second night seders for the past few years and we have enjoyed them all. There are usually around 70 people. It is a very uniting and cohesive experience, with people of all ages, although there are not many children in our community so we provide plenty of masks and novelties to encourage them along. “We have to bring the food from north-west London as there isn’t much kosher food where we are and it’s a big upheaval in our one multi-purpose hall. They can’t run it this year because it falls over Shabbat and the logistics are too difficult. Hopefully we can return next year.”
Adam Soller from Edgware grew up on Moshav Regba in the north of Israel, where communal seders were a way of life. “All members of the moshav and their extended families would attend, so there were around 500 or 600 people,” he recalls. “The children would act out the different stories in the Haggadah, such as the 10 plagues – everyone would take part, the Israeli dancing group and the choir would sing and dance.
“As a child, I always looked forward to the seder – it was a very special night. One of my strongest memories is wearing brown and playing the part of a stick in Chad Gadya, and also getting drunk for the first time from the kiddush wine when I was about 10. It’s such a shame that most kibbutzim and moshavim don’t hold communal seders anymore; they were among the happiest days of my childhood.”
Janine Leppard’s family are all in Los Angeles so she attends the communal seder at Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue with her two young children. “Rabbi Aaron Goldstein is incredible; he really brings everyone together and the seder always has a really great atmosphere and community feel,” she says.
“The Liberal Synagogue has a new Haggadah, with two sides, one for children and the other for adults and we switch between the two. It’s very inclusive and everyone gets involved.” Many choose to go on holiday for Pesach, a welcome alternative to changing over the kitchen.
Israel is the obvious choice, but there are options all over Europe, such as Italy, Portugal and Greece.
The Hilton Vilamoura in Portugal is a popular destination, and runs a glatt kosher programme under the supervision of the Beth Din of Paris, including communal seders. Prices are from €1,650 per person (double occupancy) for nine nights (www.kosherhotels.co.uk).
There are hotel options in the UK, too, such as The Grand in Brighton (www.kosherservicesworldwide.com) and The Queens Hotel in Bournemouth (www.queenshotelbournemouth.com).
For those who don’t have the budget to go abroad and prefer to stay home, or for anyone visiting the UK during Pesach, here are some of the communal seders on offer this year:
• Oxford Jewish Centre will hold a young family seder on Shabbat afternoon, 4 April, and a second night communal seder that evening. It also tries to organise home hospitality for the first night of Pesach. Visitors and non-members are welcome.
For full details, and to book a place, contact Hila on email@example.com
• Chabad-Lubavitch of Islington hold seders on both nights. The first night will be more textual and traditional and the second will be more social and creative. Rabbi Mendy Korer said: “This will be our fourth year. The first couple of years, we ran the seder in our home and numbers kept growing. Last year, we rented a room in the Town Hall in Upper Street over both nights and had 150 people joining us, including the MP of Islington who came to wish everyone a happy Passover.”
Visit www.jewish islington.co.uk/passover for more information.
• Kol Chai, Hatch End Reform Jewish Community, will run a communal seder on 4 April led by Rabbi Michael Hilton.
More information from firstname.lastname@example.org
• West London Synagogue will run a communal seder on the first night, and a young adults and an interfaith seder on the second night. More information from email@example.com • Central London Synagogue will run a communal seder on the first night with a warm, traditional atmosphere.
More information from firstname.lastname@example.org
• Stanmore & Canons Park Synagogue runs a ‘share a seder’ scheme, whereby members offer to welcome a community member to their home.
More information at www.sacps.org.uk
• Edgware & District Reform Synagogue will run a communal seder on the second night for members and guests.
More information from www.edrs.org.uk