Passover 2023 is right around the corner! Only you can be a true expert in how you want to celebrate Passover; no two seders are exactly the same. But, just in case you’re looking for a little extra guidance, we asked the GatherDC team for all their best tips and tricks for making sure your Passover is meaningful, stress-free, and welcoming — after all, there’s a seat at the table for everyone!
Read on for thoughts on how to make your seder accessible, how to make every night of Passover meaningful, how to use up all that leftover matzah, and much more…
Rabbi Ilana (Community Rabbi): On Passover, we are commanded to refrain from eating and even owning chamtez or leavened products. You can spend the days leading up to Passover having a “chametz fest” by eating up your carbs so that they’re all gone by the time the holiday starts. You can also put away anything that can be stored in a separate place so you don’t have to look at them during Passover. Some Jews “sell” this leftover chametz to a friend, neighbor or colleague who isn’t Jewish just for the length of the holiday so they technically don’t own it, even though it still stays in their home. It’s also a good opportunity to clean out and take inventory of your pantry!
Samuel (Communications Coordinator): Getting rid of leaven in your home might sound like an individual activity, but there are a lot of shared or community-focused ways to observe this. For example, in the DMV, Adas Israel livestreams their Biur Hametz (Burning of the Hametz), while other places coordinate donations to local nonprofits and food pantries like Capital Kosher Pantry.
GatherDC burning chametz after a pre-Passover kitchen deep clean!
Rabbi Ilana: I like to give my seder guests a challenge. Each person must ask one question at some point in the night and we have to take some time to discuss it. This invites people to think about what we’re doing and bring more meaning and conversation to the rituals. I also spread pre-printed questions around the table for inspiration. I find this helps.
Julie (Gather, Inc. Director of People and Culture): If you hold yourself to perfection and doing Every Single Thing Right, you’re going to have a bad time. This isn’t a video game where you’re going for 100% completion. Spoiler, there’s a lot of ritual and tradition attached to this holiday, and putting that pressure on yourself, especially if this is new to you, is going to set you up for disappointment and self-flagellation. The beauty of Passover (dare I say Judaism) is having such a rich tradition to draw from to build the meaningful Passover you’re looking to observe and to share with your personal community.
Alexandra (Managing Director): We each bring something unique to the table and experience of Passover. Don’t let the fear of “doing it wrong or right” get in the way of you leading a beautiful ritual. You’ve already got what you need (aka your passion and community).
Ava (Community Coordinator): Try to remember to explain all of the concepts and words used. It can feel really alienating when you are the only person at the table that doesn’t understand what is happening. When you explain everything to the group, it helps so that people who are less familiar don’t have to continuously ask or, worse, come away not really understanding the story.
Ava’s family dog, Maycy, dressed as the fourth child: The One Who Does Not Know How to Ask (but definitely knows how to beg)
Noa (Engagement Director): Introduce people to one another! I do this by making sure to greet each person at the door, lead them into the common space, and facilitate those introductions myself. Connecting one person to another via a shared interest helps, too. This all may seem like overkill, especially for someone who is in a hosting position, but I cannot stress enough how important it is in order to help folks feel more comfortable in a space.
Julie: As a classic overachieving eldest child, when confronted with the prospect of hosting my first seder in 2020, I decided to create my own haggadah! It was such a meaningful process in such a weird challenging time to really think about each component of the seder, what I loved about my family’s haggadah, and where I could bring in fresh sources. I wound up with a haggadah that spoke very deeply to me, to my family, and to our guests. Haggadot.com was invaluable in that journey, but I also got to pull in poetry, readings, and wisdom from so many of my favorite Jewish teachers, voices, and social media channels. I highly recommend it if you’re reading this and feel like it speaks to you!
Alexandra: There are SO many haggadah options out there, which I think is great (but also overwhelming). I think “the right haggadah” is the one that speaks to you the most — whether it’s a theme like social justice, feminism, or the Golden Girls, a traditional haggadah, or even a rhyming or musical theme! There’s a lot of opportunity to personalize Passover, so I say go for it! (Editor’s note: There are a ton of haggadah available for download or design here and in our Passover Guide!)
Ava: I will be the first to admit that successfully surviving a week of vegan Passover is not the easiest. However, it is possible — this will be my 5th! The first thing I recommend is to make a list of vegan / vegetarian proteins. Some of my go-tos are nuts, including cashews and walnuts, as well as seeds, like sunflower and chia (as well as quinoa, which is technically a seed). From there, I try to think of recipes that are similar to ones I already make or interest me using those ingredients. I love making cashew cheese for matzah pizza, already eat chia pudding for breakfast most days, and have an easy quinoa tabouli that I have made.
A Seder guest checks out some matzah.
Melanie (NoVA Community Coordinator): Come with an open mind and come ready to learn the traditions and rituals that come along with a Seder. Talk to the host about what to expect of their specific Seder in order to feel more comfortable about the night. Typically, as a guest, you will not have anything to prepare unless directly asked.
Rabbi Ilana: Keep the party going. Have Passover dinners with friends, family or colleagues throughout the week. You don’t have to have an elaborate seder, just get together with the people you love to be around over some matzah pizza on a weeknight. That’s what I’ll be doing the rest of the holiday!
Alexandra: If you really enjoy rituals, you can start counting the omer during Passover. It’s an ancient tradition that has to do with wheat, but I love all the modern interpretations out there, and it’s become a real spring self-care practice for me, rooted in Judaism.
Noa: My dad and I always sing “Vehi She’amda” — a short passage from the Haggadah that is traditionally read melodically — in a very slow and dirge-like way. We try to out-dirge each other every year, and it always ends with us banging our fists on the table as a rhythmic accompaniment. My entire family hates this. I look forward to it every year.
Melanie: Chocolate covered matzah!
Rabbi Ilana: Matzah pizza and matzah brei of course.
Noa: Matzah brittle. The stickier, the better.
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