Lengthy Passover Seders can be tiring and difficult for little ones, which is why a local rabbi offers parents ideas on making the meal exciting, and inclusive, for children.
For other congregations and groups in Tucson, this sacred time offers the chance to promote gay rights, prevent deaths in the desert or, perhaps, try some fruit dipped in chocolate at the Jewish Community Center’s annual chocolate Seder last Saturday.
These are just a sampling of non-traditional Passover Seders being held around Pima County, as Tucson’s Jewish citizens observe what is likely the most significant holiday of their religious year, one that marks the exodus of Hebrew slaves from Egypt. The Seder meal includes stories, songs and food to re-enact that passage.
To begin the eight-day observation, Rabbi Yehuda Ceitlin is offering a children’s Seder for local families at 7 p.m. tonight at Congregation Young Israel, 2443 E. 4th St. (To register and join, call 881-7956 or visit www.ChabadTucson.com/seder).
“Drinking four cups of wine, eating grated horseradish and bitter herbs and reading the lengthy text can make the Seder night seem more fit for adults than children,” said Ceitlin, outreach director for Chabad of Tucson, a Jewish outreach and education network.
“Yet the Seder can be a magical time for children if it’s done right.”
To prepare for the children’s Seder, some children last week helped their parents bake matzo and write their own Haggadah, the book which serves as the guide for the Seder meal.
During tonight’s meal, the children will have their own tasks, their own grape juice in place of wine, and their own ways to incorporate play with religious education.
Jennifer Bell was there last week to prepare food and text with her toddler and infant sons.
“We had a great time,” she said. “It’s been a really great experience.”
While Bell will participate in her family’s Seder at home, she enjoyed having her older son learn more about his faith in a child-friendly environment.
“It’s really a fun way to introduce religious education,” she said of Chabad’s program.
Next week, at 6:15 p.m. on Monday, April 21, Temple Emanu-El will host a Freedom Seder in a pairing with Humane Borders
Rabbi Samuel Cohon said while the Seder honors the ancient story, they will also acknowledge everyone who has struggled for freedom. Passover has become an inspirational story for people who are oppressed and disenfranchised, Cohon said.
The event at 225 N. Country Club, will be led by Emmy Award-winning actor and long-time activist Ed Asner. The evening will include various faith traditions and political leaders’ reflections on freedom and, Cohon said, “the moral imperative to save endangered lives.” (Reservations are needed to attend the Seder, which is now full. However, the event will be live-streamed online at www.templeemanueltucson.org).
On Friday night, to further their understanding about border deaths, the congregation’s community Seder will include a walk in the desert. “We try to experience it in every way,” Cohon said.
On Wednesday, Susan Silverman, coordinator of the LGBT Jewish Inclusion Project of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, is helping host a Queer Seder along with Rabbi Thomas Louchheim and Congregation Or Chadash, 3939 E. Alvernon Way.
A special Haggadah will be used, one that is written to be sensitive to people in the LGBT community, she said.
“It really fits all of the focus and mission of the Jewish Inclusion Project,” Silverman said of the Queer Seder, which she said started out as a grassroots potluck about five years ago.
Tickets for the Queer Seder are $25 per person, although those who can’t afford it can still come, and those who can afford more are asked to consider a larger donation. The Seder is at at 6 p.m.
Proceeds benefit the LGBT Jewish Inclusion project of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona. (Tickets can be purchased by calling Silverman at 577-9393 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org).