By Josh Traulsen, Senior Manager, Alumni Engagement and Ziva Swire, MHWOW Program Coordinator
Passover, or Pesach, is one of the most beloved Jewish holidays in our tradition. The first seder will take place on the evening of April 8, 2020 and the holiday concludes on April 16, 2020. Passover commemorates the Exodus from Egypt and is often centered around families coming together for a seder. What happens when your family is too far to go home for Passover? Or what if your friends have become your family and you want to celebrate Passover with them too?
Throughout the years, we have seen hosts observing Passover through their programs in so many different and creative ways, all while making new traditions as adults. If you’re not going to visit family during Passover or if you want to shake things up, we’ve curated some past MHWOW programs in the hopes of inspiring you to put your own twist on Jewish traditions.
Hevreh Hipsters 5th Night Passover Seder, Great Barrington, MA
Jodie FriedmanThe first of its kind, this Seder appealed to the Jewish millennial with an angle of social awareness and a push toward justice. We used both the Maxwell House and JFREJ Seder companions to blend generational traditions and actionable progress as these are the motivations for our participants to do Jewish. Program participants were asked to choose a part of the holiday where they have a tradition/song/dish/idea and then we shared them.
Desert Wanderings of Adolescence, Oakland, CA
Nina Gordon Kirsch This program was a storytelling event about Passover, followed by folks coming up to share their own stories of wandering through the deserts of their personal history and making it to the promised land. In a cultural society that hardly recognizes the immense transition from adolescence to adulthood (let’s be real – bar and bat mitzvahs no longer initiate us into adulthood), this event gave people in their 20s and 30s a time to be witnessed in their storytelling of their wanderings in the desert of adolescence and how far they’ve come into the promised land of adulthood now.
Annual Matzah Pizza + Prince of Egypt, Boston, MA
Emily MogaveroWe set up a make-your-own matzah pizza bar with toppings like cheese, mushrooms, spinach, and more! Then, we watched my favorite Passover movie, the Prince of Egypt. It was fun to sing along together during the movie, discuss the historical accuracy, and to have friends to not eat Chametz with.
Culinary party “Without chametz”, Perm, Russia
Anna TonkonogayaWe had a culinary party called “Without chametz”. It was a cooking workshop for making traditional Pesach dishes like matzo ball soup and matzo brei. While enjoying our creations, we did a discussion about the meaning and history of this festival.
If none of these fit the bill for you and your community, we have a few more ideas below!
Host a Tikkun Olam program
Passover has a long tradition of being associated with taking care of those less fortunate. As far back as 1,600 years ago, Jewish communities started Ma’ot Chitim or “Wheat Funds” to collect funds from the community to make sure that everyone had flour to make the matza for the Seder. The instruction to give to others is spelled in the first paragraph of the Haggadah where it states: “All who are hungry, let them come and eat”.
In addition to the wide variety of unique, action-based, Tikkun Olam opportunities that are available in each of your own communities, we wanted to introduce you to a different kind of program…a pop up giving circle. This is an opportunity for you to gather friends who are interested in multiplying the impact of their donations by pooling them with others in your community. The program will give your group the chance to identify what you are passionate about and work as a group to identify where you want to donate your money. For detailed instructions, check out Amplifier’ Pop Up Giving Circle program.
Do a craft program
Try engaging with Passover through different mediums like paint, fabric, clay, paper, glass, and ink. Make a Seder Plate, glass etch some dollar store wine glasses, do a painting that illustrates redemption or overcoming obstacles, or decorate a matza cover. This is a great way to get people together before, during, or after Passover as a way to make sure your community can attend even if they already have plans for their Seders. Reach out to your MHWOW Staff Member if you want to talk through any ideas you may have or questions about how MHWOW funding can help cover craft projects.
Burn some Chametz
What is Chametz? It is all of the foods that are forbidden to consume or even own during Passover. Here is a quick definition of the foods that are considered Chametz: If one of the five grains – wheat, barley, rye, oats and spelt – sits in water for more than 18 minutes it becomes chametz, and one may not eat, derive benefit from or own it on Pesach. In addition, Ashkenazim don’t eat kitniyot – a group of foods which includes rice, corn, soy, and their derivatives – but are allowed to own kitniyot foods on Pesach.
How do you get rid of it? Before Passover, take the time to go through your entire home and remove any Chametz you find. On the night before Passover, search your home with a lit candle, looking for any crumbs or pieces of chametz that were left behind. In many traditions, adults will hide 10 pieces of hard bread around the home for children to find. Once all of the chametz is collected, it is placed in a paper bag and stored until the morning of Passover. The following morning, you can burn the Chametz in its paper bag. Check out this graphic for a more detailed explanation of the tradition.
Kosher-for-Passover Wine Tasting
Newsflash: Manishewitz isn’t the only Kosher-for-Passover wine out there! Save yourself from 4 cups of the sweet and sticky liquid this year by hosting a wine tasting before Passover begins to find the best one to bring to your Seder. Ask your friends to come to dinner with a bottle to share and sample and rate each one. Use your MHWOW funding for the meal and let your participants provide the wine. Check out this list of the 10 best wines on the market or this index of over 900 different wines to choose from. During your program, you can teach your participants what makes wine Kosher for Passover and discuss how it is different from regular Kosher wine. Then, let us know which one your friends thought reigned supreme!