Here it comes, the most celebrated Jewish holiday of all, Passover!
Where and with whom will you have Seder?
A few years ago a Jewish woman participating in a Passover cooking workshop said, “I have a question. We have lived in the bay area for a few years but no one invites us for Seder. It’s just me, my husband and the kids. It feels lonely.” Her eyes brightened with tears.
She is NOT the only one. Some people are new to the area. Some people no longer have family to go to or invite. There’s even this reason – very active synagogue members are assumed to be so popular that no one invites them.
Here are some answers to that very serious concern.
- Many rabbis & synagogues have Seder matching. If you are a member you can call the office and ask to either host a Seder (people will be sent to you) or be a guest at a Seder (you will be sent to someone else’s home).
- There are Community Seders that anyone can attend. Most are the second night of Passover, but a few are the first night.
- Speak up! At that same program two other women immediately said, “That’s the same for us!” and now the three families have decided to have Seder together.
When I shared the above story I received an email. I asked my sender for permission to share her response. Here it is.
That was the same advice you gave me years ago. I got proactive and now we have a Seder for 5 families at our house annually – it has become a long-standing tradition. This year it will be on first night and there will be 12 of us. Sometimes we have as many as 20, depending on which kids are home from college, visiting from afar etc… Each year I put out the list of things for people to bring and every year people pick their same ones. People have become “known” for their signature dishes. We alternate who will lead the Seder – it is usually two people who are the most observant and love to do it. We were the converts, of course but the rest are all Jew-by -birth (L.A. or East Coast transplants) that did not have a Seder of their own to go to here.
One person even made our group hand-made special seder dishes which we all bring to the Seder and use each year on that day only. This same group of friends goes out for Chinese dinner and a movie every Christmas eve and lunch after Rosh Hashanah services each year. Most years we also get together one night of Hanukkah. All of this is because you told me to stop kvetching and start calling around to find Seder guests.
One of my most memorable Seders, however, was the year before I formed our Seder group. I got a call from our rabbi asking us if we had room at our Seder table for one more. We did, of course, since it was just our little nuclear family of Jews by Choice at that time. The man had no where to go that year. He had been Orthodox by birth. I didn’t know him. I was bound and determined to have a very formal Seder (knowing his background) but he decreed Seders don’t resume after dinner – that kibbutzing did. So we talked politics the rest of the evening after the meal with him and had a wonderful time getting to know each other.
Fast forward less than a year later. Our same Seder guest was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The rabbi called again asking if I could give him rides to his radiation treatments an hour away several times a week. I happily agreed to help thinking I would be performing an important mitzvah. Well, it turned out it was our Seder guest, in the end, who performed the greater mitzvah by allowing me to be his driver. In the course of our trips to the treatment center he opened up about his life – what he regretted and for what he was grateful. He offered words of wisdom that only someone terminally ill can give. As we drove to the last treatment I would take him to we were silent. It was clear the treatments were not effective and would be stopped that day. He would then go back East to die in the care of relatives. As I dropped him off at his home that day neither of us could bring ourselves to say the words good-bye. Instead we hugged and he looked deeply into my eyes in a fatherly way and said “I love you.”
He did move away and I don’t actually know the day he died. I heard about it weeks later. I don’t say Kaddish for him each year. But every year on Passover I think of him. And always after the meal I insist we talk at least some politics at the table in memory of him.
You never know what new friend is just around the corner. Take a risk, speak up, the rewards are great.