On Passover, we ask “How is this night different than all other nights.” Now, food entrepreneur Michael Hebb, wants to ask the question again, with a twist. The founder of the wildly successful initiative, deathoverdinner.org is at it again, working with a team of others to create Seder2015 – a re-imagined, digitally driven take on the Passover seder.
Featuring recipes from some of the country’s best chefs, songs from amazing musicians, inspiring and hilarious texts, and a partnership with Repair the World (woot!), Seder2015 is breathing new life into tradition. We spoke with Hebb about Seder2015 and how you can get involved.
What was the inspiration behind Seder2015?
The seder is a thing of beauty – a dinner bell that has been drawing people to the table for over two millennia, and educating and uniting Jews and non-Jews while carrying the critical narrative of liberation. There is a team of us – faculty members at the University of Washington, website engineers, graphic designers, artists and historians -who got together 3 years ago to create deathoverdinner.org, a project designed to change the national conversation about how we face end of life. It has been widely successful, inspiring tens of thousands of citizens to break bread and do the most un-american of things: talk about death. Deathoverdinner.org is entirely inspired by the tradition of Passover, one part shared meal, one part essential conversation.
When we realized that Passover attendance was dwindling rapidly – 20-30% less attendance in 20 years – it was immediately clear that we needed to apply what we had learned from Deathoverdinner.org and apply the same process of inquiry and digital design to the Passover holiday. If today’s younger generations aren’t given an immediate reason to engage at the Seder table, these numbers will continue to dwindle, drastically. We don’t expect that digital devices are going away, so our goal has been to begin to bridge the 2000 year old tradition of Passover with the methods people use today to tell stories.
Seder2015 is a rapidly built prototype, meant to illustrate what a beautiful digital ecosystem of Passover resources and inspiration could look like. We have had the good fortune to partner with extraordinary organizations like Haggadot.com and Repair The World, who have already built stellar digital equity. For us this work has just begun, and it has been a steep climb, but the response to the project has been overwhelmingly positive. It is our hope to 10x the amount of content in the coming year, allowing us to reach a diverse audience and do a small part in carrying the narrative of freedom into the future.
Can you share a few highlights about the project?
For our first year we wanted to create an approachable field of inspiration. We have recipes from celebrity chefs Spike Mendelsohn, Vitaly Paley and dozens of others. We’re also excited about our Passover anecdotes, ranging from wry tales to profound insights from Jewish leaders like Susannah Heschel and Rabbi Bradley Smolsen, as well as stories from Indie musician Austin Bisnow and MTV star Ben Nemtim. Next week we launch our playlist selection, which will bring an audiophile perspective to the holiday. Our Human Trafficking Haggadah Companion is a work in progress, but it shows what is possible when a brilliant young Rabbi like Andy Shugerman teams up with the leaders from The Polaris Project.
How are you partnering with Repair the World?
Repair The World understands how important it is to create powerful digital campaigns. It made perfect sense for Seder2015.org to build the Turn The Tables initiative directly into our web and mobile site. We are deeply impressed with the campaign, and look forward to collaborating with WTW in the future.
How can people get involved?
We want people to explore and enjoy the site. Of course we would love feedback, and we are looking for 10,000 great ideas for Seder2016.org.