By Rabbi Jessy Dressin
This year is my youngest nephew’s first seder. The first grandchild for my parents. The first of the next generation of my family. I pictured the Matzah Ballin’ bib on top of the “I found the afikomen” onesie. And then, it became clear, seder would be different this year. I began to think about how I would still host my family for seder. What would I need to create in order for my family, spanning ages 6 months to 75 years and three thousands miles, to come together virtually?
And then, the texts started to come in. From friends. From neighbors. “What are we gonna do for seder?” and “Are you creating something?” I hadn’t thought about the google doc I was working on for my family seder becoming the document that hundreds of others could use, but I soon realized the document could be a tool for others to meaningful engage with family and friends this Passover, at a time when we need it the most. This season is already difficult enough and I hated the thought that people would give up on the idea of hosting a seder virtually because they were uncertain of how to do so.
I began to adjust the google doc from a resource for my family to a more general resource with guiding tips and helpful advice. I considered the platform and I realized a long seder may not keep people engaged. I realized there was an opportunity for sharing videos and other content in an attempt to create something sensory and engaging.
With humility, I added some loose instructions. (1) How to make sure everyone would have what they need to participate. (2) Designating someone to lead the seder, who I assume may be different than the person who typically leads the family seder – because technology – a true moment of passing the generational torch. (3) Things to think about in advance and the encouragement that trying to make seder happen this year is an act of resistance to the limitations and barriers the current circumstances place us in.
Circumstances may not be ideal. They may not result in a refined or polished celebration. We may find ourselves feeling limited and uncertain as to how we engage. Yet, the Passover story is about finding our own unique placement in a collective narrative. It is about seeing where we are at each year and how we relate to the timeless themes we are asked to consider at our tables. And, through my work with Repair the World, it is an invitation to think about the various ways that others may be experiencing these narrow and restrictive times. I am so glad to have special Passover resources from Repair to include at my seder table this year.
Passover is the quintessential ritual that leverages memory as a motivator to act. An invitation to consider the ways that oppressive systems still inhibit people today from living to their fullest potential; to see ourselves as having a role to play in a liberation story that has not fully yet been realized because not all people are free.
Rabbi Jessy Dressin is dedicated to building Jewish connections and helping others find their connection. She worked for the JCCs of Greater Baltimore as a rabbi and director of Jewish life from 2012 until 2019. She now serves as the executive director for the Baltimore chapter of Repair the World. In 2016, Rabbi Jessy was named as one of The Forward’s Most Inspiring Rabbis.