By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER Voice shore correspondent
How can you make your Passover Seder and holiday more fun–and meaningful—for everyone in your family?
By coming to the Passover “Shuk” at the JCC on Sunday, April 10, from 2:30-6:30 p.m. There, you’ll find a marketplace of fun ideas, inspiring educational sessions, and tasty and interesting products and recipes to spice up your Seder. The Passover Shuk– officially called “YbJ Shuk: A Marketplace of Jewish Ideas, Passover Plus edition”—is being offered by the Board of Jewish Education (BJE), said Susan Weis, BJE’s executive director.
The word “shuk” means marketplace, and that’s just what you’ll find on the second floor of the JCC, said Weis. Shoppers will be able to sample macaroons and kosher-for-Passover wines, take home lots of free recipes, peruse a selection of traditional and alternative Haggadot, and even try gluten0free matzoh. “It’s really good,” said Weis. “It kind of tastes like Pringles!” All of the items on display are either free, available for purchase, or can be ordered in time for Passover.
Shuk-goers of all ages can also take part in fun and educational programs. Young children can do Passover cooking and crafts and watch the Rugrats Passover movie. Adult programs on the civil rights movement and the Jewish white slave trade will bring new relevance to Passover’s message of freedom. And everyone can benefit from workshops offering practical ways to spice up the Passover Seder.
“I’m actually going to give people concrete ideas of what they can do to make their Seder more meaningful,” said Rabbi David Weis of Congregation Beth Israel, who will be leading one of the workshops. “Our [family] Seders are themed. People come in costume. It’s raucous; it’s loud. I’m going to bring examples of things we’ve done over the years.”
For instance, one year Weis asked everyone to come to Seder dressed as if they themselves would be crossing the Red Sea. “People had to explain what their costumes meant,” he noted. Weis himself dressed in scuba gear. Why? “I have faith in God, but I don’t count on God to save me. If the walls [of the Red Sea] didn’t hold, I wanted to be protected!”
If your family is used to a more traditional Seder and unlikely to go for the costume party approach, don’t despair. “Change can be intimidating to a [Seder] leader, but it’s worth it to try,” said Hazzan Jeffrey Myers of Congregation Beth Judah, who is also leading a Shuk workshop. “You might want to experiment by just adding two new things to your Seder.”
A good way to start: Have guests share experiences about making an exodus. “You might have older family members who can tell their own personal exodus stories about coming to the U.S., or people at the table might know someone with this kind of story,” said Myers. You can also personalize the exodus experience by asking people, “’if they had to leave their lives in a hurry, what would they pack, what would they take?’” he added.
For people who are tired of their traditional Seder but aren’t sure how to change it, Myers suggests using a new Haggadah. Another alternative is to find inspirational readings for Passover on the Internet to include in your Seder. The important thing, he stressed, is to find ways to get people talking—and not just about the food! The Seder should ultimately help people find fresh meaning in Passover rituals that they can bring to their day-to-day life.
Ideally, the Seder should inspire people to continue the spread of freedom, said Weis. “Our Seder actually invokes advocacy. It isn’t about looking backward but is the catalyst for our future actions. In Jewish life, we are not free until all are free. That is why there is a line in the Haggadah saying ‘today we are free, and tomorrow hopefully all will be free.’ We need to look at the plight of others today.”
A good place to stimulate this kind of discussion is in talking about matzoh, the “bread of affliction” eaten by slaves. “We eat this bread for a week to remember what it’s like to not have abundance,” said Weis. At his own Seder, Weis uses matzoh as a springboard for talking about what poor people have to subsist on and what it means to live with food insecurity. “Poverty and hunger and lack of access to education are forms of enslavement,” he noted.
Ideally, talking about this will inspire people to make a difference in today’s world. “There are endless possibilities to make a little dent in these problems,” noted Weis.
Although Passover isn’t just about the food, the food is central to the holiday. Accordingly, several presenters will focus on food. Nicole Weisman, Beth Judah’s caterer, will bring three different kinds of charoset for people to taste-test, along with recipes. Marci Lutsky, a food blogger who is a member of Beth Israel, will talk about kid-friendly recipes and getting kids excited about Passover by including them in food preparation, and how to make it fun.
Other Shuk presenters include Reverend John Howard of the New Hope Baptist Church, who will present “The Exodus and the African American Experience” along with Rabbi David Weis; Dr. Marcia Fiedler of Stockton University, who will present: “The Jewish White Salve Trade: 1870-1930”; Sharon Simon of Jewish Family Service, who will present “The Hillel Sandwich Generation,”; and Jan Higbee of the JCC in Margate, who will lead “PJ Library Passover” for children 6 months to 8 years old.
Attendance at the BJE Passover Shuk costs $18 (in advance) and $20 at the door for adults. Advance registration is requested. Families with young children who are members of PJ Library and register in advance receive a free admission pass for the entire program. For more information on the program or registration, please call (609) 822-1854, or email BJEinfo@yahoo.com.