Passover – How will you do it? Long or short? Traditional or modern?

Here comes Passover! The Christmas of Judaism! Unlike Christmas, Passover hasn’t been absorbed into other traditions and acquired reindeer, elves, plaid quilts, snowy sayings and more. But it has traveled to other parts of the globe and adapted to new foods and climates. Here’s a nice explanation of some of the details of a Sephardic observance of Passover.

Like so many important holidays and life cycle events there are things that we feel comfortable altering and other things that must remain the same in order for us to feel the celebration is authentic.

What is needed for an AUTHENTIC Passover Seder?
I bet that what is authentic for each of us actually changes over the years. When we are young or have young children we want the Seder to be child-friendly, fun, visual and full of things to handle.

There may be games you made up for enhancing the Seder that you simply need to play for a real Seder experience. One of my sisters-in-law grew up Orthodox that meant not using electricity during the holiday. However, she and her sisters had a particular Passover record that they simply had to play at their Seder. When one of the Orthodox husbands objected the other sister’s husband, also Orthodox, said, no, we must respect the tradition of our elder. He raised his daughters with the record, so we will continue to play it.

There are probably special foods, special recipes, that are required. In my family my sister makes a particular charoset and I make another one. Both are necessary to our Seder.

But what about the ceremonial part? The Haggadah? There are hundreds of versions for sale and you can even make your own. They vary in length from 3 minutes to an all night ordeal.  According to tradition there are 14 parts to a Seder. Read them all here.

Just ONE of the steps, step 5, is the Maggid, the telling of the story. Many of us think of the story telling as the whole Seder. Take a look at the 14 steps. Ask yourself is there something here that I want to enhance? Is there a step I’m missing out on? Is one of my Seder regulars going to particularly love one of these ideas/steps?

It is possible to invite people to take on one or more of the tasks. Someone you know may love some of the teachings behind the two Washings of Hands. Let that person say a few words. One year a Muslim friend of mine shared the Arabic words that corresponded with Hebrew concepts. A family practice that has hung on despite my kids growing up is my practice of having a plate of small kosher candies. Every time someone asked a question or adds an idea they receive a candy. Some eat their candy immediately others line them up like trophies in front of their plate.

There is so much to play with! Go for it. Please email me your fun and innovative practices to I can’t wait to hear from you.

A few articles to check out:
We Didn’t Raise Our Daughter in a Religion and Now She Wants a Bat Mitzvah! What should we do?
Should I Baptize My Baby to Put my In-Laws “at peace”? 
My Jewish Grandsons Went on an Easter Egg Hunt and I’m Freaking Out!

First Friday Shabbat in the Round (Oakland)
Bring in the Ten Commandments for Shabbat! (San Francisco)
A Special Kabbalat Shabbat (Berkeley)
Democracy and Resistance: The Jews of Uganda (San Francisco)
Passover-Themed Tot Shabbat Service (Los Altos Hills)
Shabbat Wine and Cheese Social (Pleasanton)
Blessing of the Animals (San Francisco)
Best. Seder. Ever. (San Francisco)
Passover for Young Children (Albany)
4th Annual Unity Seder (Oakland)
Jewish Birth Preparation Workshop (San Francisco)

First Friday Shabbat in the Round
Join Rabbi Mates-Muchin, Cantor Keys, song leader Isaac Zones, and the First Friday Players to welcome Shabbat with a new song-filled worship service celebrating the richness of Kabbalat Shabbat and the spirit of community.

Date:   Friday, April 5
Time:   6:30pm
Place:   Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland

Bring in the Ten Commandments for Shabbat!
Friday evening is the first night of the Hebrew month of Nisan. This Shabbat at Emanu-El, we will start our Passover “prep” with some “traditional” music to ring in the new month: The Overture from “The Ten Commandments,” by Elmer Bernstein, played on our nearly 100 year old E.M. Skinner brand Pipe Organ. It will be epic!

Date:   Friday, April 5
Time:   6:00 pm
Place:   Congregation Emanu-El, 2 Lake Street, San Francisco

A Special Kabbalat Shabbat
Have you ever found yourself wanting to support a friend who is ill, but at a loss for what to say? We are blessed to have the leader of our Heart2Heart Committee, Susan Halpern, share the wisdom of her work and book, The Etiquette of Illness, at our Kabbalat Shabbat service. Onegprovided by Susan Halpern and Rani Cochran. This is a wonderful opportunity to find ways to connect in our community through acts of g’milut chasadim – acts of lovingkindness.

Date:   Friday, April 5
Time:   7:30pm
Place:   Chochmat HaLev, 2215 Prince St., Berkeley

Democracy and Resistance: The Jews of Uganda
Join us for a special presentation with Rabbi Gershom Sizomu, the first native-born black rabbi in Sub-Saharan Africa, the chief Rabbi of Uganda and the leader of the Abayudaya, a 100-year-old community of Jews who live in Eastern Uganda. A focus on interfaith cooperation paved the way for Rabbi Sizomu’s election to the Ugandan parliament, which contributed to official recognition of the Abayudaya by the Jewish Agency in Israel in Spring 2017.

Date:   Friday, April 12
Times:  6 pm Kabbalat Shabbat Service
7:30 pm Community Dinner and Presentation
Place:   Sherith Israel, 2266 California St., San Francisco
Cost:    Dinner: $36, Adults; $24, Students; Children 5-12, $12; Kids under 5, Free; Presentation Only, Free
For more information and to sign up for the dinner go here


Passover-Themed Tot Shabbat Service
Fun for Families with Children Ages 0-5
Join Rabbi Heath Watenmaker for a Passover-themed Shabbat service for families with children ages 0-5 years. Following the service, enjoy grape juice, matzah and a festive Shabbat dinner, as well as arts and crafts. Come have fun with your child and meet other parents of young children! Friends are always welcome, too! Details here

Date:   Friday, April 12
Time:   5:15pm
Place:   Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Rd., Los Altos Hills
RSVP online by Wednesday, April 10 so we know how much food to order.

Shabbat Wine and Cheese Social
Want to get to know people at Congregation Beth Emek? Here’s a great way, go to their Shabbat Wine and Cheese Social before services!
Enjoy a nice glass of wine and an assortment of cheese and light snacks with friends before Shabbat services.

Date:   Friday, April 12
Time:   7:00 – 7:45pm
Place:   Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Ct., Pleasanton
For more information, please contact Barry Schaeffer at

Blessing of the Animals
And Walk to Mountain Lake Dog Park in the Presidio
Gather in our courtyard and bring along your furry or fluffy friends!  Even your cats! The blessing of the animals is popular in many religions, so make sure you don’t miss this opportunity to pal around with your furry buddies. Afterward, walk to the Mountain Lake Dog Park in the Presidio to share Shabbat with other animal loving folks.

Date:   Saturday, April 13
Time:   1:30 pm
Place:   Meet in the Emanu-El Courtyard, 2 Lake Street, San Francisco

Best. Seder. Ever.
Sherith Littles presents an interactive song and game session for everyone looking to make their Seder fun for little kids. We’ll sing, we’ll play, but most of all we’ll learn how to make the Passover dinner ritual fun and meaningful for small children. Participants will receive handouts and Seder Fun Baskets, to take home. These special baskets are filled with games, stickers, toys, activity materials, song sheets, recipes and more!  Each gift basket has a $75 value, but it’s yours for free for the first 20 families to register (one basket per family). This FREE event is OPEN to anyone and everyone seeking resources and inspiration.

Date:   Sunday, April 14
Time:   10:30 am
Place:   Sherith Israel, 2266 California St., San Francisco
RSVP here


Passover for Young Children
Join other families in an open and welcoming environment to celebrate this Jewish freedom holiday. This event is especially for children aged one to five and their loved ones. Older and younger siblings are also invited. It is a great place to connect with other families.

Enjoy Passover songs, movement, and a kid-friendly telling of the Passover story with musician Joel Siegel and Rabbi Bridget Wynne. We’ll also share a hands-on project, yummy Passover treats, and more.
Feel free to invite friends who might be interested!

Date:   Sunday, April 14
Time:   10:30am-12pm
Place:   Albany Community Center, 1249 Marin Avenue, Albany.
Cost:    Fee is $12/adult, $15/adult at the door, $8/child, and children under one year are free. Space is limited, so preregistration is recommended.|
For more information contact Jewish Gateways at or 510-545-9977.

4th Annual Unity Seder
Join other faith communities at a welcoming interfaith celebration of freedom and redemption with ritual foods, dinner, dessert, and a special Haggadah.
Help needed with desserts, ritual foods, Seder plates, set up and clean up.
RSVP by April 12 and find volunteer information here or email

Date:   Tuesday, April 16|
Time:   6:00pm
Place:   Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland

Jewish Birth Preparation Workshop
Our Jewish Birth Preparation Class will cover Jewish rituals and traditions around birth and babies. Over the course of the class, expecting parents will have an opportunity to learn and ask questions about rituals for labor and delivery, choosing a Jewish/Hebrew name, birthing and welcoming ceremonies, Jewish perspectives on parenting and more. Become informed and make friends! We welcome everyone, including unaffiliated, single parent, interfaith, and LGBTQ families.

Date:   Sunday, May. 5
Time:   3:00 pm – 5:45 pm
Site:     Newborn Connections, CPMC, 3698 California St, San Francisco
Run by the Jewish Baby Network SF, 415-484-2215
More details
For more information contact Alyssa,