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April 11, 2003     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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April 11, 2003

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H EERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, APRIL 11, 2003 enliven By Ron Wolfson NEWTON, Mass. (JTA)--In our family, the Passover Sealer is a dress-up affair: suits and ties, new clothes for the kids. So imagine our surprise when one year we arrived for the Seder at the door of our friends, David and Shira Milgrom- Elcott, in our dressy clothes, and they greeted us wearing the long, flowing robes of Bedouins! "Welcome to our Seder!" they exclaimed. "Please take off your shoes before you come in." We dutifully took off our shoes and entered their home. On the right we saw the formal dining room, the table set with fine china and crystal, seem- ingly ready for the Sederguests. David and Shira, however, led us right past the dining room, dOwr] the hall and into their large family room. We should have known what to expect from the desert garb worn by Our hosts, but we were hardly Prepared for the sight of that room. large white bedsheets draped from the beams of the vaulted ceiling, forming a tent-like structure encompass- lug the center of the room. All the furniture had been taken given as a play, a song and a takeoff on a game show. Not everyone in your family may be able to do this, but there is no betterway to encourage partici- pation than by asking people to prepare something in advance. 2. Buy Time. The Seders of my youth never lasted more than 20 minutes. That's how long it took to say kiddish, do karpas (the "greens" that rep- resent spring, usually parsley), break the matzah, and fight over who was the youngest grandchild who could say the Four Questions. For a few min- utes everyone took turns read- inga paragraph, then my Uncle Morton would ask the famous Fifth Question: "When do we eat?' End of ceremony. One way to buy time to dwell on the story is to offer your guests something to nibble on be- tween the vegetables of karpas and the meal. My wife, Susie, often prepares an edible cen- terpiece. She and the children slicejicama (akind of vegetable) very thin and, with Jewish cookie cutters, stamp out Stars of David, Torah scrolls and kiddish cups. She places the shapes on the end of bamboo shish kabob skewers and in- serts them into a head of red out, except for some beanbag cabbage, placed in a wicker chairs and overstuffed pillows basket. She adds carefully at- Scattered around the floor, ranged red and green peppers, In the center of the "tent," carrots, celery and other veg- a low coffee table, was the etables. The result is a spec- eder plate. . . tacular bouquet which we use "Welcome to our home m the desert," David and Shira lained.;'The Seder is asimu- on of what really happened n that night of the Exodus m Egypt, so we've decided te COnduct our Seder in this nt. Please make yourselves conlfortable. Take off your ties jackets, and recline with . ur kids on the floor." You can newhat followed! Inamas- ily led, fun-filled experi- th, e families in attendance Lg Yed a delightful, relaxed tell. as a centerpiece on the Seder table. After karpas, we invite our guests to eat this center- piece by dipping the vegetables into saucers of salad dressing placed around the table. 3. Tell the Story. The core of the Seder is the telling of the story of the Exodus from Egypt. The traditional text of the Haggadah contains four differ- ent tellings of the story, each one beginning with a question, a response, and praise for God. Think of ways to tell the story Passover story. Once thatsupplementtheHaggadah. the storytelling One year we were invited to a of the we Seder where the host family room for put on a skit. Start Reiner's meal. After opening "SederScenes"(Alternativesin we returned Religious Education) is a good tent to complete the resource for this activity. An- It was a Seder we will other family we know of used puppets and storybooks. The in a word, is what the most unusual telling, however, p us do: had to be the family who pre- the story of Exo-sented a magicalversion of the more importantly,Ten Plagues in costume. The in it. "All people, in father played Pharaoh, who, generation should see after complaining how thirsty as experi- he was, asked one of the chii- Egypt" dren to fetch him some cool, clear water from the Nile. The child left the dinner room and is much morereturned with a pitcher ofwa- lesson; it is our terandanemptyglass.As"Pha- re-enactment of the lib- raoh" poured the clear water and continuity of the into the glass, it turned redl people. Although the The father was an amateur single most ob- magician who incorporated a variety of magic tricks into the rican Jewish telling of the story. Itwas amaz- of us base our ing and unforgettable[ 4, Ask Questions. The as children: Each per Haggadah invites questions. ;apara- Encourage your guests to lib- erate themselves from the book that is consid- and discuss what it is that the experi- Haggadah is trying to tell us. A but it's not favorite point at which to do this is after the recitation of the Ten Plagues. "What are 10 When the things that plague us today?" is invites the a question anyone, no matter for the Seder, whattheirlevelofJudaicknowl- to prepare a pre-edge, can answer. When the Someaspectofthe Haggadah tells us that we The should feel as if we were re- deemed from Egypt, what does : Haggadah is trying that mean? What are we doing the years our about Jewish continuity - in have also been ourfamily, inourcommunity? II 5. Have Fun. Having family fun is serious business, espe- cially at the Seder table. The Seder was never meant to be dull. Quite the contrary, it is to be a relaxed, informal educa- tional experience. Some fami- lies add favorite songs that chil- dren learn in religious school - "Go Down, Moses," "One Day When Pharaoh Awoke in His Bed," and others. A favorite parody is "Only Nine Chairs" by Deborah Uchill Miller (Kar- Ben Copies), a hilarious ac- count of a family Seder. 6. Be Inclusive. Inside most Jewish adults is a child who was upset at not finding the afikomen, or ceremonial piece of matzah. We have created a way to include everyone in the afikomen search. We make a chart with the order of the Seder (kadesh, urchatz, etc.) and select one letter from each word. We put these 14 letters on 3- by-5 cards and then hide them around the house. We tell the children that each of them must find at least one of the cards for us to find the real afikomen. When the kids find all the cards, they bring them to the table. Then we ask the adults to figure out a jumbled two-word clue from the letters. In one case, for instance, the letters spelled "at refrigerator." Once the clue is deciphered, everyone runs to the location and finds the real afikomen. Everyone who participates in the search gets a prize. 7. Use Materials. One of the problems in keeping young children interested in the Sealer is that most Hagaddot are not designed for them. When our children were in nursery school, Susie createda"Pafthe Bunny"-type Haggadah using the coloring sheets sent home from class. She added tactile materials to the sheets where appropriate: cotton balls on pictures of sheep, sandpaper on pictures of bricks of the pyramids, grape scratch- and- sniffstickers on pictures of the kiddush cups. Susie also gave each child a "goody bag" filled with Passover symbols, frog stickers, a bookmark, even moist towelettes for the inevi- table spills of wine. 8. Innovations. Each year, experienced Seder leaders look for new ideas to incorporate into the ceremony. Here are a few of my favor- ites. Instead of filling Elijah's cup with wine at the beginning of the Seder, wait until just before, opening the door and pass Elijah's cup to each par- ticipant to pour some of his/ her wine into it. This is a dem- onstration of the need to act in order to bring in the Messianic Era. The Sephardim pick up the Seder plate and place it over every person's head dur- ing the recitation of "Ha Lachma Anya," the invitation to participate in the Seder. 9. Choose a good Haggadah. There are 3,000 editions of the Hagaddah catalogs in the li- brary of the Jewish Theologi- cal Seminary, and every year more versions appear. Jews have always felt comfortable in putting together Haggadot that reflect their particular slant on the experience of the Seder. So we have The Haggadah for the Liberated Lamb (a vegetarian Haggadah) and The San Diego Women's Haggadah (a feminist Haggadah).We have traditional unedited texts and greatly ab- breviated liberal texts. We have new"family" Haggadot and that I II II old standby, The Maxwell House Haggadah. Choose a Haggadah that fits your family's needs. 10. Prepare. The ultimate Haggadah may be one you put together yourself. With desk- top publishing software and in- expensive printingwidelyavail- able, it is not difficult to edit your own Haggadah text. You can easily combine traditional texts with modern interpreta- tions and readings, songs and information. This will take some time, but the reward will be a Seder experience that is meaningful and memorable. Ron Wolfson is a freelance writer. Reprinted from, a service of Jewish Family & Life/ I I PAGE Happy Passover Robert A. 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