On the first night of Pesach, every year, my parents hosted a small family Seder. When I was young, the guests were always the same. Aside from our immediate family, my grandmother, her best friend, and that friend’s daughter were always there. We read through the Reconstructionist Haggadah by Mordecai Kaplan, in English. I always did the Four Questions and we always opened the door for Elijah.
On the second night, we piled into the car and drove from Long Island to Manhattan to attend the Bloch Family Seder at the Warwick Hotel in NYC. All the relatives were there. Every year, I ran through the halls with my cousins and no one stopped us. This family custom started before I was born, so I have no memory of my great uncles, all born in eastern Europe, leading the Seder, but I do remember my uncle Saul, the last of the uncles to pass away, reciting all the Hebrew. For a child, it was long: first the Hebrew, then the English, then more Hebrew. Oye!
After my Uncle Saul died, the family started adding their own contemporary readings. When the Civil Rights movement was making the headlines, we supported it by incorporating speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr. When the Women’s Movement took over the headlines, speeches by their leaders were included in our family liturgy.
The “tikkun olam” (healing the world) emphasis was a good fit for my family, yet with each new inclusion, each year, I always wondered, “What would the uncles think?” Would they be horrified how much we deviated from the script? Would they look upon us as traitors to our faith? How non-traditional!
Now not only has that entire generation of my great uncles passed away, but the generation of my parents is gone too. This year will be the most unique yet. Many of us will be attending virtual Seders being led online by our Rabbis and leaders. I can’t help but yet again wonder, “What would the uncles think?”
Yet we are still able to gather (even across computer screens) and celebrate freedom and God’s provision. For that, all I can do is say dayenu.
Chag Pesach kasher vesame’ach – have a kosher and joyous Passover!
This post was written by MJTI Business Manager Joyce Klayman.