Below is the latest entry in the “Preparing for Passover” Blog written by participants in JOI’s Mothers Circle Program:
When my husband and I were engaged and I was interested in learning more about practicing Judaism, I attended a Seder workshop which was sponsored by a synagogue. The workshop was intended for folks who were leading a Seder for the first time or who wanted to “spice up” their usual Seder.
Before I showed up, I was pretty concerned that everybody there would immediately know I wasn’t “one of them” and wonder why I was there. I anticipated that if they knew that I was there because I was trying to redeem myself as a schiksa it’d only be worse. Despite my anxieties, I mustered up my courage and think I managed not to wince when I introduced myself as Christine (In my honest opinion, among the worst names for somebody marrying a Jew).
The first workshop activity was to break into small groups and discuss our past Seders and what we did and didn’t like about them. Having *ahem* limited experience with Seders, I didn’t have much to say. Nevertheless, in hearing others’ stories, I learned a lot. One thing which I remember being really surprised by was a couple folks stories by how when they were kids they remembered the adults getting drunk. Drunk Jews?! Wait a minute! That’s what Catholics do! (At least in my family!) I heard stories of long evenings with kids at a separate table (like my family did occasionally on Thanksgiving). I think the main thing that I learned was that I wasn’t the only one in the room who wasn’t entirely clear on the meaning of Passover.
I left the workshop with some references for haggadot (haggadas?)–oh, gee…I need to look that up—and decided to host my own Seder with friends. My then fiancée agreed, but didn’t quite see the point. For him, Passover was an intimate family gathering where they’d have an elaborate meal and call it a night. I wanted to use the meal as a theatrical prop to tell a story, “It’ll be dinner and a show!” He humored me.
I invited several Jewish colleagues who were “orphaned” (their families were far away and they had no other plans for Passover) and focused on menu planning. I studied the New York Times Passover Cookbook. I made matzoh ball soup (with a recipe on the back of the meal box), gefilte fish (from a jar), roasted leg of lamb, asparagus, and sponge cake for dessert.
When my guests arrived, they all thanked me profusely for inviting them. In turn, each explained that they were looking forward to me teaching them how to “do” a Seder. Oh man!
“I invited you all because I was hoping that you’d teach me!”
I’m not sure that we learned a lot about how to “do” a Seder (but I did learn that seltzer really does make for lighter, fluffier matzoh balls). I think, however, that our earlier suspicions that there were a lot of ways to “Be Jewish” were very true.
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