All year round, differences between Jews creates endless trouble. But on Passover we somehow come to the table together and that diversity can actually be a bonus. In fact, an impressive 94 percent of Israelis will join a seder of one kind of another and most Jews around the world will join others to celebrate.
Building on this unusual moment of unity, I asked a wide variety of people from Israel and the Diaspora to tell me about the crazy, different or meaningful things they do over Passover. Here are 10 answers that highlight our differences in a positive way and inspire conversation. Enjoy reading, spread the word, and please add your own Passover traditions below!
- Miriam, New York: “When I was a kid, my grandfather would tell me that it’s the only night of the year when we can hit our parents. It’s a Persian custom my family keeps, and we hit each other with scallions as we sing Dayenu.”
- Shimon Solomon – Knesset Member, Ashdod: “Every Passover we reenact our old life in Ethiopia and my father tells the story of our long and dangerous journey to Israel. He doesn’t leave anything out, and we hear about the hunger, the thirst, and how we literally made matzah on the run. We then spend the entire week together living in his home, just as we did in the old country.”
- Shara, Charlotte NC: “We take turns holding our breath while singing “Who Knows One” and reciting the different numbers. We go around the table to see who can do it the best and I think that once, someone even did all 13…twice, without breathing!”
- Eliana, Ramat Gan: “My relatives go outside dressed as slaves led by Moses and knock on all of the neighbors’ doors yelling at them to hurry and come out, because it’s time to leave Egypt! It’s an amazing way to act out the exodus from Egypt.”
- Donna, Tel Aviv: “The Israelites were told to take silver and gold with them from Egypt. So, we go around and each person shares their ‘Gold and Silver’, we all share something in our lives that started out looking dreadful but has turned out to be the greatest gift. And because silver in Hebrew is Kesef – from the same root as the word Kissufim, yearnings, we also share our greatest yearnings for ourselves and our loved ones for the year to come.”
- Maytal, Efrat: “When a woman is pregnant she announces the news to our family at the seder by having the seder plate circled around her head twice.”
- Avital, Haifa: “We and several others in our community add a cup of water to the seder plate, called ‘Miriam’s Cup’. We do it to honor the role of Miriam in the exodus and to highlight the contributions of women to Jewish history and life.”
- Moshe, Beitar Ilit: “We make the story come to life for the kids with all sorts of fun activities. For example, for the plague of lice we spread black sprinkles all over the table, and buy red stickers that everyone sticks on their faces for the boils.”
- Avital, Brooklyn: “The older generation who left the Soviet Union will reminisce about the past. In the USSR, Passover was never mentioned; the children only knew of an occasional box of strange flat bread that would arrive from underground bakeries in Moscow that were discreetly distributed to Jews throughout the area. After exchanging several stories, an uncle will stand up, pour a shot of Pesiachovka – raisin-based vodka – and make a toast to our freedom, thanking the hosts for organizing a Seder that preserves the Judaism we almost lost.”
- Anthony, London: “We have an Iraqi tradition: everyone pours some of their wine into a bowl when telling over the Ten Plagues. But then the entire bowl is thrown away because it is seen as cursed and unlucky – so we first have to find our least favorite bowl to do this with!”
Happy Passover, and let’s celebrate our freedom together. Add some more meaningful and/or crazy Passover traditions in the comments section!