Posted by Haggadot
Throughout history, the Jewish people have faced more than our share of challenges, obstacles, and oppression – and through it all, we have persevered, proving ourselves resilient, enduring, and adaptable. That is the crux of the story we tell each year on Passover, as we sit around our seder tables and read together from the Haggadah.
This year, though, we are all in the unprecedented position of being largely unable to observe Passover in person – at least not in the communal ways to which we’re so accustomed. There will be no hosting one another in our homes, no gathering together for congregational seders, and yet, there is still so much opportunity for us to come together and to celebrate in community.
Across the planet, the Jewish people are planning and preparing for a new kind of seder, one facilitated by modern technology. Yes, we are separated by physical distance, but in some ways, the unique circumstances of this moment may bring us closer together than ever, putting an emphasis on relational connections and ritual intention.
Indeed, this year’s Passover observance offers a particularly unique occasion to do what Passover has always been intended to do – tell a story. It is the story of the Jewish people and how we, as a community, have always come together in challenging times to find a way to freedom.
The Haggadah is one of many vehicles for telling that story. In creating our own Haggadot, then, we have an exciting opportunity to think about exactly what we want to say, how we want to say it, and how we want it to be heard.
Do we want to tell the story with humor? With deep, spiritual resonance? With both? Is our story told from a universalistic perspective or a more particularistic lens? Which parts of the story do we want to emphasize? How will we connect this ancient story to other themes and stories of our modern era?
All of these questions and more can guide us as we craft our telling of the story of moving from slavery into freedom. Our story is one of freedom and redemption, and in choosing our Haggadah text, we even have the opportunity to experience that freedom in the text itself.
In a time when all of us, globally, are experiencing such a frightening moment in time, the Passover seder – and, specifically the Haggadot we use – gives us the much-needed ability to share in something beautiful, sweet, and fulfilling… together. Just like any good story does.
Rabbi Leora Kaye is director of program for the Union for Reform Judaism.
Posted by Haggadot
Hello Haggadot.com Seder Planners! We’ve heard our users are getting creative with their seder plates this year with so many virtual Passovers.
One tip we recommend, when you are hosting your own virtual seder, is to devote extra electronic equipment to filming the seder plate. For instance, you could set up your child’s iPad to stationarily film the Seder plate throughout the service. This way your guests can always have a Seder plate at their table even if they are not able to make a full one of their own.
We also recommend hosts nominate guests to display parts of the seder plate at their respective locations. For instance, the host could have the maror, charoset, parsley, salt water, and matzah at their house in New York, while the older sibling could have the shank bone in their apartment in San Francisco, and the grandparents could have the egg in their assisted living home in Florida.
If you’re not able to get all the seder plate items or if preparing food is just too much for you this year - you can print images from Haggadot.com for those items.
With grocery shopping limited for many people, this is the year to creatively add or substitute seder plate items. Make do with what you have or find new ways to symbolize the holiday.
Maror is the bitter herb, which helps us to remember the bitterness of the slavery our ancestors suffered in Egypt. We usually use horseradish for the symbol, but one creative ingredient you could use might be ginger root. Not only is it bitter, but it is also a medicinal herb that reminds us of the suffering of people suffering from COVID-19 and the medicinal work of doctors around the globe.
Z’roa is the shank bone, which represents the lamb that was sacrificed by the Jews to protect them from the plague of the firstborn. It might be difficult to find lamb at the grocery store, and you might not want to do an extra errand to the butcher, so a bone from any piece of meat or fish would be more than OK. Another fun substitution is a piece of cured meat, which is a form of meat that keeps for a long time during this crisis and also has the added pun of being cured :) And vegetarians have used beets in place of the shank bone for years.
Charoset is a mixture of fruits, nuts, and wine to resemble the mortar and brick made by the Jews when they were slaves under Pharaoh. The Ashkenazi tradition calls for apples and walnuts, which have also been listed as food for healthy lungs. Some other fun substitutions that boost immune systems are almonds for the nuts and blueberries for the fruit and green tea for the wine. But, like us, many of you will want to cherish our freedoms as much as possible and keep the wine :)
Chazeret is the second bitter herb. If you wanted to have one traditional horseradish and one ginger bitter herb to symbolize the medical workers this would be the place to do it. We’ve also read that many people use wilted lettuce to symbolize the lack of fresh food at grocery stores in low-income neighborhoods and poor countries in the world.
Karpas is the symbol of the spring harvest and new beginnings, which is typically represented with parsley. We’ve noticed a lot of people on social media foraging in their backyards, neighborhoods, or nature areas for fresh greens during these times. This is a perfect moment, the spring, to forage for your own karpas before your seder or to use anything green you have in your home
Beitzah is an egg that symbolizes the circle of life, new beginnings and hope. Many of us have noticed that sometimes the most basic food ingredients are the most comforting during all this. If you are running low on eggs, perhaps consider another basic food ingredient like a cup of milk, which would similarly signify the nourishment of new life.
Oranges have a long and varied history at the seder table. They can represent women and feminism or female heroines like Miriam, Moses’ sister. And certain Jewish scholars, like Susannah Heschel, have pointed out that the orange can also honor lesbians and gay men. However, you want to denote this symbol, it takes added importance as another symbol of wellness with its high levels of vitamin C.
Artichokes are another recent symbol that have been added to acknowledge interfaith marriages and all forms of inclusion. It’s been said that the Jews, who have normally been thorny about interfaith marriages, should open up the softness of their hearts. Especially during these times, when we realize how interconnected we all are, an artichoke could be a powerful symbol to add to your Seder plate.
Olives have also become popular, even literal olive branches if you have them, as symbols that represent the hope for lasting peace in the Middle East and everywhere.
We also love these new additions:
Spices for the creativity and flavor we're bringing to life during our seders this year.
Root vegetables like potatoes, onions & carrots for staying grounded in difficult times.
Salt & sugar blended together for our human ability to reframe the narrative and being able to hold two different feelings in our hearts at the same time.
Canned food or dried beans to represent what’s sustaining us in these times and for how we have had to seal ourselves off from the outside.
And, for a bit levity, a small bottle of Hand Sanitizer to the seder table, if maybe not the seder plate itself. If you feel like your family could enjoy the ironic, gallows humor, embrace it!
We’d love to hear more suggestions from you all. Please feel free to add your ideas to our Facebook Seder Planner group page!
Posted by Haggadot
1. Join Us This Friday at 12pm EST for Virtual Office Hours
2. Join us Sunday, April 5 for a Prayer Writing Workshop with Trisha Arlin
3. Reminder: Check out Webinar: The Art of Virtual Seders
We've had a tremendous response to our free webinar with tips for hosting your very own virtual seder. You can view the recorded session & presentation on our blog. Want to schedule a private webinar or Q&A session for your community? Email us!
4. Site Maintenance: Tonight 3am EST / 1am PST
Heads up night owls: Haggadot.com will be offline for about 90 minutes starting at 3am EST tomorrow morning (4/1) while we upgrade our servers AGAIN. If you’re up all night working on your Seder, 1) remember to save and 2) maybe try to get a little sleep? ;)
5. We Have So Much New Content!
6. Join us April 12 for Haggadot.com's Virtual Seder
Finally, mark your calendars for 2 pm ET /11 am PT on 4/12 for our own virtual seder! Join our team and journalist, Esther Kustanowitz, plus special guests for an everyone-welcome, fifth night seder.
Posted by Haggadot
An open session in which we answer your questions about using the site, making a Haggadah, and hosting your virtual Passover seder. Join us for our next session on Friday, March 27 at 12pm EST. https://zoom.us/j/3030083027
Posted by Haggadot
Has this happened to you? You've spent hours mixing and matching clips to make the perfect haggadah, download it to your word processor and find all the Hebrew text looks...backwards?!
We found a great solution! Just enter the text using this tool and you can reverse the Hebrew text to go back to right to left. Then just copy and paste it back into your word processor.
Posted by Haggadot
Check out our Zoom conversation on hosting your own virtual seder. For more information, join our Seder Planners Group on Facebook. You can download the presentation from the call here: https://www.haggadot.com/haggadah/guide-the-art-of-virtual-seders
If you'd like to schedule a customized webinar for your community, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by Haggadot
As we adapt to new daily routines, it may not seem like the season of freedom is upon us. We know that our seders will look different this year, but one thing is certain: Passover is far from cancelled. We’re here to help you make this holiday one of the most meaningful to date.
So how’s this going to work? Do you host a cozy seder at home? (No guests means less stress!) Or do you host a virtual seder for loved ones from across the country? Join us as we discuss these questions and the art of gathering remotely this Friday, March 20 at 12pm EST. Expect tips for feeling connected and inspired at your seder, whatever form it takes.
Ready to be a guest instead of a host? Join Haggadot.com’s first-ever virtual seder on Sunday, April 12 at 2pm EDT / 11am PDT. Why Sunday? So Eileen can join us all the way from London, while our super-special co-host, Esther Kustanowitz can join us from Los Angeles. Plus, some you prefer to unplug on the first two nights, and we want to include you too. We’d love for you to invite friends and family of all faiths to join us. We welcome everyone. (If you’d like to help us plan our virtual seder, you can join our Seder Planners Facebook group.)
Finally, we can address your ongoing questions in our virtual “office hours” on Friday, March 27 and Friday, April 3 at noon EDT. We’ll help you work on your haggadah and imagine new rituals for celebrating in these uncertain times.
Remember to check out our 2020 Favorites Haggadah, an ongoing collection of the most up-to-date content for this Passover season that feels… well, oh so different from every other Passover season. Now is a great time to contribute your clips for us to feature in this compilation.
Questions? Email us. We’re here for you and we’re ready to celebrate everything that makes this community special and wonderful.
Posted by Rebecca Missel
We’ve all been to that seder. The one where you’re flipping ahead in an ancient haggadah, counting the pages until it’s time to eat. Bad seders happen to good people. But whether your seder is happening in-person or virtually, you can avoid hosting one by following a few key steps, borrowed from best-selling author Priya Parker.
Step One - Decide Why You’re Really Gathering
In The Art of Gathering, Priya Parker tells us to remember the Passover Principle: “why is this night different from all other nights?” Before you send invitations, select a menu or design your haggadah - decide why you’re coming together to celebrate in the first place.
Sure, the purpose of a seder might be “to celebrate Passover,” but if you go a bit deeper and find something specific, it can transform your seder from ordinary to memorable. Maybe it’s “to re-enact an essential Jewish story by connecting it to themes of struggle that remain relevant today.” Or, “to express our love for friends and family by preparing distinctive foods that contain powerful symbolism.” Or perhaps “to mark a shift in the seasons by recalling our agrarian past and linking to other faith’s springtime rites of passage.”
And decide what type of gathering makes the most sense for you and your well-being. To honor communal health and your own well-being, you may want to host a virtual seder where everyone follows your haggadah from their own home. Or you may want to have a smaller group from the same area meet in person. That way, no one has to travel by air. All the tips suggested here can work no matter how you’re gathering.
There’s no right or wrong answer - but whatever you choose will drive every other decision you make about the seder.
Step Two - Be a Host
Being a host is powerful. As you plan your seder and design your haggadah, think about who’s coming to your seder, what you want folks to talk about, when you’ll eat. All these decisions will make your guests feel well cared for. You also have the power to create special one-time rules for your seder. Some of these come straight from the haggadah, like reclining in our seats. Maybe you want to add your own. Such as singing one of our Passover song parodies for 20 seconds while washing your hands. Or no screens during the seder...unless you’re meeting virtually!
Once everyone is gathered around your seder table(s) and welcomed by the host, it’s time for this random assortment of people to become a group. There’s lots of ways to break the ice and get conversations started, and here are some of our favorites:
Samesies! Each person goes around the table or screen and shares a fact about themselves, such as, “my favorite Passover food is matzah.” Everyone else who feels the same way says, “samesies!”
One Word. Pick a phrase or quote that relates to your seder’s purpose and have everyone say a word or phrase that comes to their mind in relation to it. For example, “in every generation, we tell the Passover story as if we each came from Egypt.”
Take a Breath. Often, we arrive at the seder table having rushed to cook, clean, travel, etc. Sometimes just taking an intentional breath together with everyone around us invites us to pause and transition into the space.
Step Three - Don’t be Afraid to Go Deep or Get Controversial
Unless you’re intentionally doing a speedy seder, you can design the evening with moments that invite people to go beyond their usual stock answers and into what is vulnerable or challenging. Priya Parker created the 15 Toasts activity to inspire deeper connections.
Pick a theme related to your seder’s purpose, such as “springtime.” Throughout the evening, everyone tells a brief story centered on that theme, with the incentive that the last person to go has to sing their story! In The Art of Gathering, the storyteller makes a toast, but since we already drink four glasses of wine at a seder, it’s OK to end a story by tinkling a glass with your fork, drinking water or applauding.
Into every great meal, a little darkness may fall. After all, darkness was the penultimate plague. Rather than shy away from controversy or difficult topics, make space for them by giving them a bit of structure. For example, after eating the bitter herbs, set a five-minute timer for discussing whatever the elephant is around your seder table. When the timer goes off, mark the end of the discussion by eating charoset, for a little sweetness.
Step Four - Accept There is an End
Before you say, “Next year in Jerusalem,” think about how you want to end your seder with as much intention as you began. At some seders, everything is over when we eat the afikoman. Others stretch late into the night with enthusiastic singing sessions. Whatever you do, Priya Parker warns, don’t end the seder with logistics. Tell folks where to leave dirty dishes or to find their coats, but not as the last thing you say.
Express thanks and gratitude. You can do this through a traditional blessing after meals or by specifically thanking everyone for what they did to make the seder possible, including the invisible workers who harvest our food. Then, give folks an opportunity to reflect and make meaning of the seder. You can close as you began with everyone sharing a single word or highlight from the meal, then taking a collective breath.
However you choose to design your seder, Haggadot.com has you covered from start to finish.
Posted by Haggadot
Passover is a holiday full of songs! Chad Gadya. Dayenu. More Dayenu :) And the Jews are a people full of musicians. Paul Simon. Bob Dylan. Drake!
Has anyone ever written a parody song of a Jewish musician for Passover? We have Paul Simon’s “50 Ways To Leave Your Pharaoh,” Billy Joel’s “Pesach Man”, and Maroon 5’s Memories (The 2nd Cup Parody) on Haggadot.com all ready to be added to your Seder, plus a growing list at the bottom of this post.
Here are our top 3 parody songs we'd love to see written one day:
- Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Charoset,”
- KISS’s “I Want To Question All Night Long,”
- Ariana Grande’s “When life gives you bitter herbs (Sweetener)”
What parodies would you like to see? With a month until Passover, now’s the time to add YOUR content, musical or otherwise, to Haggadot.com in time for others to collect as clips into their Haggadahs. That’s “God’s Plan.”
What are your favorite parody songs?
Posted by Haggadot
Eileen Levinson, founder of Haggadot.com, joins Dan Libenson and Lex Rofeberg of Judaism Unbound for a conversation about crowd-sourced Haggadot and about re-imagining Passover more generally. Listen now!