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!
Posted by Haggadot
Passover is a holiday where we practice empathy and experiment with our powers of imagination. We try to picture what it’s like to have been a slave, to feel the bitter pain of suffering, and then to live the joy of freedom.
Empathy and imagination is also key to being a male ally at the Passover table and in your day-to-day life.
At Passover this year, try to imagine what it might feel like to come to the Seder every year and for the leader of the Jewish people to always be a woman? And for G-d to always be embodied as a female in visual representations and in the language we use?
Is there a chance you might feel slightly disempowered from identifying with the story and your religion?
Would it feel a little weird if the last plague was only on the first-born daughter? I know I would feel a bit less important and left out, even if it meant I wouldn’t have had a chance of dying ;)
This is why it’s so important to find space in the Haggadah for female heroines like Miriam and rituals like having oranges on the Seder plate, or for role evolutions in the Seder service like having a woman lead the Seder.
Lastly, in your day-to-day life, try to practice similar thought experiments not just about gender, but also about race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, and any other type of difference.
Where is there suffering due to a lack of space and representation? For instance, if a family member makes an insensitive joke, can you call them out on it, instead of letting it go?
Where can empathy be employed to free others to live more equally? For instance, if you own a business, can you provide employees of other faiths time off to observe their own holidays?
For more practical information, check out this guide to allyship.
The more we use our powers of imagination and practices of empathy, the more we realize the paradox that while we are all different, we are all also one.
Posted by Haggadot
How might your guests contribute more to the seder than a bottle of wine? Can they bring a special reading or song to share? Or an ice-breaker activity? Consider inviting them to collaborate on a group Haggadah. It's a great way to get everyone excited about spending the holiday together - and it makes your job easier! Read more about our collaboration feature here.
Need inspiration? Check out our past compilations:
Join Us on Zoom for For "Office Hours" on Fridays from 12-1pm EST We'll have a Q&A with our team for all your seder & site-related questions Sign Up Here Before March 6
Posted by Haggadot
Hi! My name is Rebecca Missel and I’m delighted to join the Haggadot.com team as the Interim Director of Partnerships and Operations. Back in the dark ages of the 90s, my family would make our own haggadah using the computer I bought with my bat mitzvah money. We’d literally cut and paste clips (like with scissors!) from printed haggadot we loved, mix those with retyped readings and put together something eclectic and wonderful.
Throughout college and into my young adulthood, Passover became a chance for me to show off my matzah ball skills (I like them dense on the inside and fluffy on the outside) and attend seder at friends’ homes. Then in 2018, I found myself hosting a seder for the first time in several years. With my brother and my now sister in-law living nearby, we found Haggadot.com and started blending traditional blessings with classic songs, emojis of the four children and feminist interpretations. Our seder felt personal, inclusive and joyful.
A close friend once described me as a “people collector,” and having spent my entire professional career in Jewish organizations, I have collected friends around my Passover table and colleagues from across our diverse community. My path has taken me from nationwide nonprofits to Israeli start-ups, from running my own organization to synagogues and to grassroots organizing. I feel lucky to weave and reweave these connections with the incredible contributors to Haggadot.com. Together, we’re partnering to imagine new rituals and to unlock the curiosity and creativity of our users.
I can’t wait to see what we make together! Please feel free to email me at [email protected] to brainstorm a boot camp or workshop, to discuss becoming a partner or to update your organization’s information.
Posted by Haggadot
Hi, my name is Dave Cowen and I am absolutely thrilled to be the new Content & Community Manager for Haggadot.com. I’ve loved Passover since I was a child. My family would host the first night at our house in a casual and reform way and then the second night we would go to an orthodox family for a more traditional celebration, which was still really fun.
Later in life, as I started to write humor professionally, I also started to write my own parody Haggadot for my family’s seders. These Haggadot turned into The Trump Passover Haggadah (don’t worry it also made fun of Bernie) and The Yada Yada Haggadah (about the greatest Jewish-American sitcom about nothing of all time for you Gen Zers). These haggadot were best sellers on Amazon the last two years, many Jews enjoyed them at their seders, and I made a bit of profit. However, I often found much of the Hebrew and background information for the Haggadahs on Haggadot.com, the free non-profit site started by Eileen Levinson, which I credit in the back of the books and donated to, but still wished I could do more for.
This last year has been a transformational one as I lost my father suddenly and so part of my mourning process this year has been reconnecting with spirituality. I went from a smart-alecky pretty agnostic guy to a very spiritual still somewhat smart-alecky man. I plan to talk more about this transition in a future blog post as it involves Judaism's Kabbalah and the year of mourning for a parent or Yud Bet Chodesh as well as other religions’ spiritual traditions. But suffice to say, for now, I’ve since made it a goal to try to reorient myself toward not just creativity but also toward selfless service or what many Jews would call Tikkun or world repair.
When Eileen put out a job posting for someone to help her non-profit that had helped me so much, I truly felt that God wanted us to work together. Sorry if that sounds dramatic, but I now see God everywhere. Do you, too? Either way, here we are. All of us are using this fantastic resource. I am so excited to contribute my creativity to this community and help others contribute their own creativity to it, too. I’m still interested in humorous or entertaining content, like Beyonceder and Monty Python Haggadah clips, but I’m now also interested in combining Judaism with other spiritual traditions. For instance, what does a New Age Haggadah look like? Please feel free to email me at [email protected], if you’d like to submit an idea for me to write for you. Also feel free to email me to help brainstorm, co-write, or edit your own clips with you.
Here are three clips I've just contributed to Haggadot.com and three of my favorite entertainment clips!
Let's all have fun creating our own Haggadot, however we choose to, whether we want to sell them on Amazon for $6.99 or not ;)
Posted by Haggadot
It’s Presidents’ Day in America! Fun fact: The proposed first seal of The United States showed Moses leading the Jews out of Egypt with the text: “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.”
Were our founding fathers really like Moses when they declared independence from British rule? Our experience as Haggadah-fanatics has shown us that making historical comparisons between Moses and other leaders can sometimes be either too simplistic or too complicated. But we’re going to keep trying anyway!
Thomas Jefferson wrote The Declaration of Independence announcing the American people’s freedom from British oppression. How can we compare him to Moses, when Jefferson, even though he was theoretically opposed to slavery, still owned hundreds of slaves? Well, in the Passover story we are told that the generation that escaped Egypt couldn’t be the generation that entered the Holy Land. So Moses and his generation had to wander in the desert for 40 years and die out before the Jewish people could enter Israel. Similarly, Jefferson’s generation wasn’t the one to free the slaves, it would have to take a later generation and another President, Abraham Lincoln, to take the next step in the evolution of the country.
Even today, we may look back at Lincoln’s generation’s treatment of female voters as failing to be heroic enough. But we may also remember that Moses impulsively broke the Ten Commandment tablets that God gave him. What does the Torah teach us that our ancestors weren’t perfect people? Are we asking too much of our leaders now with progressive purity tests? Or are we making heroes out of people who don’t deserve to be memorialized, when there are so many other stories of heroic leadership to celebrate? Who else should we have holidays to celebrate besides Presidents?
Haggadot.com has many clips that analogize the Jews’ struggle for freedom from Egypt to other peoples’. Now is the time to check out “A Haggadah for Justice”, our library of Social Justice themed clips, or create YOUR own! That’s what Jewish President Moses would want too ;)