Bored with the ‘same old, same old’ style of your Pesach service? Then why not turn over a new leaf in your Haggadah? Deborah Cicurel finds some interesting alternatives…
We all have our Passover quirks: Some people whack each other with spring onions, others dance around the seder plate and there are a few who make animal noises and dress up as ancient Egyptians.
But why let it stop there? If you really want to discover why this night is different from all other nights, there are plenty of unusual or just plain wacky ideas to emulate.
Here are my favourites…
The feminist seder
Feminism in Judaism is always an interesting topic, and Passover is no different.
Feminist seders have become all the rage of late, with pro-women Pesach stances including putting an orange on the seder plate (after an elderly male rabbi reportedly said: “A woman belongs on the bimah like an orange belongs on the seder plate”) and incorporating a feminist Haggadah into the proceedings (poems by feminist writers ).
Or, if you don’t want to switch up your traditional seder plate or Haggadot, you could simply leave time for discussion at the table about inspirational female Jewish leaders, such as associate justice of the US Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg (pictured), and women’s roles in the Exodus, or have an inspirational woman lead your seder.
Who says seders have to be exclusively Jewish? A new Haggadah, Haggadah for Jews & Buddhists: A Passover Ritual, appeals to families of mixed religions, and links the traditional Pesach story and rituals with age-old Buddhist concepts.
Plenty of churches host interfaith seders, too, where Jews and non-Jews can learn about the Passover story and its common themes of liberty, freedom and justice.
As much as slavery might seem like an antiquated concept, it’s impossible to forget that the shackles of slavery still affect people in 2017. That’s why it’s worth spending time during your seder talking about it – and to help you focus, there are social justice Haggadot to educate you about the continued problems in the modern world. One of them, Invisible: The Story of Modern Day Slavery, asks on its front cover: “Can you, unshackled, set someone else free?”
The Passover story is always a fascinating one, and socialist seders delve deep into it: the 10 plagues, the bread of affliction, the ongoing issues of hunger and poverty, the exit from Egypt and the rule of Pharaoh. The festival about liberation is the perfect starting point for modern discussions about slavery and oppression both past and present.
Sure, we all have the songs we learned at mock seders in school – and attempted to recreate for years and years after, while never really hitting the right notes – but have you really ever tried to shake up the symphonies at the seder? There are original hip hop albums mixing up your favourite classic Passover songs, and if you really get stuck for remixed Pesach inspiration, there are always classic spoof songs such as The Adele/Bieber Passover Mashup or Uptown Passover on YouTube.
If the usual get-together in your dining room isn’t going to cut it this year, why not travel to an exotic holiday destination and enjoy a public group seder with other like-minded travellers?
With countries such as Uganda, Nepal and Thailand hosting group seders for hundreds of visiting students, businesspeople and backpackers, public Passover gatherings are a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture and meet vibrant Jewish communities in places you might not expect them to be.
White House seder
Since 2009, then-President Barack Obama held an annual seder in the White House, where the Haggadah was recited, and the themes of the Pesach story and their relation to modern events were recounted. Will this happen again this year with America’s new President, Donald Trump? We can only imagine so, given his daughter Ivanka’s conversion to Judaism. And when Trump shouts: “Next year in Jerusalem!”, will he be referring to the American embassy in Israel? Only time will tell.