11 Ideas for Making Non-Jewish Guests Comfortable at Your Seder
Chances are that you’ve had non-Jewish friends over for Passover before. But you may be having someone over that you feel particularly sensitive to – a new date, the parents of a fiancé, a step-child, an adopted child. Here are some tips for making things go smoothly for everyone.
1. Give your guest a basic overview of the Passover story. One easy, accessible way to learn it is to watch the Disney film, Prince of Egypt.
2. Tell your guest what to expect at your Seder. How long will it be, are guests expected to participate, how will kids be engaged? If your practice is for everyone to read parts of the service be sure that your guests are comfortable doing so.
3. Being responsible for a part of the evening makes people feel needed and more at home. Ask your guest to bring a part of the meal. If they cook you can suggest something as simple as hardboiled eggs or give them a recipe. If they don’t cook, they can bring wine or matzah.
4. Pick a haggadah that is accessible. Consider lending your friend a copy ahead of time so they can be familiar with it before the Seder.
5. Explain each step of the Seder and encourage questions from everyone at the table.
6. Make the story of freedom relevant to all by inviting guests to share a struggle that concerns them – whether political, physical or psychological.
7. Have fun and entertaining props at the table from coloring books for little guests to symbols of the ten plagues: plastic insects, cotton balls for hail, finger puppets, and masks. Encourage adults to enjoy them too.
8. Don’t let people get hungry. Provide snacks during the Seder. A tray of fresh vegetables and dip, fresh fruit chucks, hardboiled egg slices, cheese chunks or tree nuts can sustain guests.
9. Consider changing the statement when you open the door for Elijah from “Pour out your wrath” to a blessing written by a rescued child, “Pour out your love on the nations who have known you and on the kingdoms who call upon your name. For they show loving-kindness to the seed of Jacob and they defend your people Israel from those who would devour them alive. May they live to see the sukkah of peace spread over your chosen ones and to participate in the joy of your nations.”
10. Give rewards for participation. Hand out candies or nuts to children and adults who ask questions during the Seder. Let everyone know at the start that questions result in prizes.
11. Create a festive mood. Sing some humorous songs, incorporate Jewish traditions from other countries like, swatting each other with scallions to symbolize the whips of the Egyptians, or put a bowl of water on the floor and have each guest step over it to represent crossing the Red Sea.
Frequently Seders taper off after dessert and don’t make it all the way to the last steps. Consider having a definite close – singing a last song, saying a last blessing. That let’s guests know that they are free to go home. You can always sit and visit longer if no one is too tired.
ONE LAST TIP: Relax. If you’re nervous it will be communicated to those around you. Include friends that make you feel comfortable. Share the workload. Remember that this is a holiday. Don’t run yourself ragged with meal preparation. Invite guests to bring food for your sake as well as theirs.