I am going to start this week’s column off with a pop quiz. Name the Jewish holiday that is celebrated by more Jews, based on percentage, than all of the other holidays. If you guessed Passover you are correct. While it may seem that Hanukkah would be the one Jewish holiday that more people celebrate, according to the Pew Research Center’s most recent survey, 62% of survey respondents reported that they either hosted or attended) a Passover Seder in 2019. That is a staggering percentage and yet I am not that surprised by it.
In my early years, our family’s first-night seder was always held at my grandparent’s house, while we went to my aunt and uncle’s house for the second night. I can still picture sitting around the table and where my grandfather usually hid the afikomen (usually under his plate). Later, after my grandfather died, the first-night seders shifted to our house and were led by my uncle Bob. These seders that brought family and friends together often had up to forty of us spread across multiple tables in our dining (and living) room.
Whether it was seeing who could eat the largest bite of maror (bitter herb, usually horseradish) without drinking anything (or crying) or singing Chad Gadya or Who Knows One, these memories have remained with me even until this day. And I realize that they helped solidify my connection with not only being Jewish but also our rich history.
Tradition provides us a foundation from which to build our lives and it connects us with our past. Even as the latest studies indicate that people are finding different ways to feel connected Jewishly, many still make a point to celebrate Passover because of that connection to our history and our people. And I think I know why.
Unlike any other holiday, Passover is one that we experience with our entire being. Plus it really has something for everyone. Think about it. We have storytime for the kids (and adults) as we retell the story of our ancestors and reflect as if we, too, were slaves in Egypt. For teens who often question why they need to do something, the Haggadah includes explanations as to why we do certain things during the holiday (including eating or refraining from eating certain foods). For adults, questions are raised that often lead to discussions to lead to deeper insights and a sharing of opinions and perspectives. There is even room to add new traditions and customs to make each year’s seder a little different. All of this takes place, surrounded by friends and family that includes a festive meal, often complete with foods we often only eat once a year. There is even singing. And when the seder concludes we are reminded of our connection to the past while also looking forward to the future.
I hope you and your family have a memorable Passover this year. And as you are preparing, I encourage you to check out our 2022 Passover Resource Guide. On behalf of myself, the Jewish Federation’s Board of Governors, and staff, we wish you and your family a very happy and enjoyable Passover.