Here’s a bunch of great ideas for Passover seders (the last Greek symposium in the world!), collected from various listservs I’m a part of:

Seder Leader Guide (for use with ‘A Different Night’ Haggadah, compact edition)

New Midrash: Worlde, Google Image Search, Texts
Take the text from Deuteronomy 26:5-8 and put it into http://www.wordle.net to create a variety of visual art forms. Also, ask guests to take a word or phrase (”outstretched arm,” “hard labor”, etc.) and do a Google image search. Have them print out pictures or photos that speak to them, and bring them to the seder. You can create a “midrash art museum” where each person shares what they found meaningful or insightful in the image. You can also ask them to bring a text (you can use Google to find it) that is meaningful to them.

Bring an Object for the Seder Plate
Last year, we asked our guests to “bring a (small) object that is not normally found on the seder table but you think might belong there for some reason.  The object could have something to do with freedom, oppression, simplicity, the desert, Egypt, Israel, hope for a better world or anything else you think is important to bring into our pesach celebration.  Each individual could bring an object or if you want to bring something as a couple or a family, that’s fine too.  The only other guidelines are that it should be relatively small and not be chametz.”

We put the objects on a “second” seder plate and left it in the middle of the table until after the initial elements of magid (I think we did the 4 questions and avadim hayinu).  Then we passed the plate around the table and asked each guest (or family or couple depending) to take an object they hadn’t brought, then after a minute or two for couples or families to consult, we went around the table explaining why each item was there.  First whoever was holding the object offered an explanation, then whoever brought it.  Some explanations were strikingly similar, while others were very different.  Then we picked the haggada back up, skipping a lot of magid.  I think we may have told the story to the kids in a relatively simple form as well.  Everyone said what a great seder it was and really enjoyed it.

Seder Bingo or Taboo
I’ve done “seder bingo” where you hand out blank bingo boards, have everyone fill in the boards with words they think will be mentioned first, etc. I’ve also created “Passover Taboo” where you make your own versions of taboo cards but with Passover related lingo (ie “Charleton Heston,” words you can’t say: NRA, 10 Commandments, etc. Or “Bondage” words you can’t say “house of, James Bond, etc.” of course you can also do more legit words like nile, pharoah, plagues, etc.).

Other Games
A fun game that we play at our seder that the kids all LOVE is the kids go around the house and collect random objects in a bag (as many objects as there are people at the seder) — things as random as dolls, books, items of clothing, or whatever.  Then the bag gets passed around the seder table –  each person picks out one object and has to relate it somehow to the Exodus story (e.g. an animal could be one of the plagues, a hat could be what the Jews had to wear in the desert because it was so hot, etc.)  Even people who are reluctant to act things out or dress up can participate in this one. [Dina clarified for me that they do this game with the bag at a set point; her family inserts games whenever the kids seem to be drifting or when we finish a section with a lot of long reading and no singing.]

Tell Your Family’s Exodus Story
His parents told their family’s exodus stories (e.g. leaving Russia after the pogroms etc) as part of the seder.  (Danny Greene by way of Becky Voorwinde)

Pick a Theme and Send out Questions in Advance
My father-in-law puts together a wonderful seder each year. Aside from the texts that he culls together, he also comes up with a theme each year that he sends around to all participants a few years in advance.

Past themes have included things like: “What does freedom mean to you?”, “What types of renewal do you see for yourself this year?”; and the less pesach-dick, but very moving: “What does your name mean to you?”

Then, all guests from the smallest to the oldest participate with their answers throughout the seder. It has always been very moving…as well as sometimes funny.

Plagues Bags
Buy one online (www.plaguesbag.com) or make your own

Question, Comment and Story Cards
Print out slips of paper that say “Question” “Comment” and “Story”. Each guest gets one at the beginning of the seder (or just at their place). Explain that everyone has to use up their slips by the end of the seder. I have found this the most effective possible way of encouraging participation, without forcing it for any one person at any time.

Suggested Hagadot

· The Women’s Passover Companion: Women’s Reflections on the Festival of Freedom by Sharon Cohen Anisfeld, Tara Mohr, Catherine Spector, and Paula E. Hyman

· The Women’s Seder Sourcebook: Rituals and Readings for Use at the Passover Seder by by Sharon Cohen Anisfeld, Tara Mohr, and Catherine Spector

· A Night of Questions by Joy Levitt; Michael Strassfeld and Jeffrey Schrier From the Reconstructionist Movement (comes with a music CD)

· WHY IS THIS NIGHT DIFFERENT FROM ALL OTHER NIGHTS by Ilana Kurshan, a fun seder companion that translates the Ma Nishtana into 23 languages, all transliterated so that you can recite them at your Seder.

· A Night to Remember by Mishael Zion, Noam Zion, Michel Kichka

· The Lovell Haggadah by Rabbi Matthew L. Berkowitz

· A Different Night by Noam Zion, David Dishon

Online Tools:

  • http://www.jewishfreeware.org where Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner has provided material to download and create your own haggadah precisely tailored to your family, school, shul, etc. The biggest problem is that you’ll wish you had more than two weeks to go through all of it.
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