Making a Memorable Seder

The seder need not--should not--stick to the script. Innovation is key for a memorable and fun educational experience.

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family at seder table

Source: Flickr - Jennie Faber

4) Ask questions. The Haggadah invites questions. Encourage your guests to liberate themselves from the book and discuss what it is the Haggadah is trying to tell us. A favorite point to do this is after the recitation of the Ten Plagues. "What are ten things that plague us today?" is a question anyone, no matter what their Judaic knowledge level, can answer. When the Haggadah tells us that we should feel as if we were redeemed from Egypt, what does that mean? What are we doing about Jewish continuity in our family, in our community? The discussion resulting from these questions can be the highlight of your seder.

5) Have fun. Having family fun is serious business, especially at the seder table. The seder was never meant to be dull. Quite the contrary, it is to be a relaxed, informal educational experience. Some families and favorite songs children learn in religious school: "Go Down Moses," "One Day When Pharoah Awoke in His Bed," and others. A favorite parody is "The Ballad of the Four Sons." We read "Only Nine Chairs" by Deborah Uchill Miller (Kar-Ben Copies), a hilarious account of a family seder.

6) Be inclusive. Scratch the surface of most Jewish adults and you'll find a child who was upset at not finding the afikoman. We created a way to include everyone in the afikoman search. We make a chart with the order of the seder (Kadesh, Urhatz, etc.) and select one letter from each word. We put these 14 letters on 3 x 5 cards and then hide them around the house. We tell the kids that each of them must find at least one of the cards for us to find the real afikoman. When the kids find all the cards, they bring them to the table. Then, we ask the adults to figure out a jumble-word-search two-word clue from the letters. The letters spell "at refrigerator." Once the clue is deciphered, everyone runs to the refrigerator and finds the real afikoman! Then, of course, everyone who participated in the search gets a prize.

7) Use materials. One of the problems in keeping young children interested in the seder is that most Haggadot are not designed for them. When our kids were in nursery school, Susie created a "Pat the Bunny"-type Haggadah using the coloring sheets sent home from class. She added tactile materials to the sheets where appropriate: cotton balls on pictures of sheep, sandpaper on pictures of the bricks of the pyramids, grape scratch-and-sniff stickers on pictures of the Kiddush cups. She put these in a loose-leave notebook and made copies for the kids at the seder. They were immediately engrossed in the book, following along and participating at their own level in their own very special way. Susie also gave each child a "goodie bag" filled with Passover symbols, frog stickers, a bookmark, even moist towellettes for the inevitable spills of wine!

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Dr. Ron Wolfson

Dr. Ron Wolfson is the Fingerhut Professor of Education at American Jewish University and the president of Synagogue 3000.