In a few days, moms, dads, grandparents and friends will sit down at the heads of tables, open the Passover Haggadah, take a deep breath, and launch into the telling of a strange, ancient, symbolism-packed tale. The interactive evening, complete with matzah, drops of wine, hidden afikomen packets, and songs, will take place before the shining eyes of freshly-washed children who will soak up the wonderment, the wisdom, and the tribal reverie that is Passover, joining in late into the night.
Or so we hope. Yet too often, kids are lost at the seder, bored. If in their teens perhaps they were dragged there against their will in satin kippahs and once-a-year-worn button-down shirts, just waiting for a night filled with weird foods and mathematical analysis of the possible number of plagues wrought on Egypt to finally be over so they can post something online somewhere.
It is unfortunate that in too many circumstances, the Passover experience feels trite, archaic, and irrelevant to the young people at the table. As much as we all love a good matzah ball, or enjoy the idea of putting shredded apples mixed with Manischewitz in a sandwich with horseradish, it is just not enough to hold the attention or garner the respect the epic, universally transcendent yet down-to-the-core Jewish-tribal-identified story of Passover really deserves.
It is time to meet Jewish kids in their own arena, because we should all see by now that forcing them, combed and washed, into ours just isn’t doing the job anymore. If we want Jewish kids to identify with Judaism, we have to relate Jewish life – past, present, and future – to their own lives.
At Jerusalem U, we create programs and educational products to help bridge the gap between the wise and wonderful world of Jewish knowledge and the savvy, sassy world Jewish kids live in everyday.
We created BatMoses, a spoof on the Passover story – a combo super Jewish hero, to not just help Jewish kids examine Passover from a different perspective, (but ourselves as well) but also from one they can relate to, one which is entertaining, fun, and even a little silly. Yet behind the chuckles is a deeper meaning – the real story of Passover.
We have to teach our kids to respect, honor, and cherish their Judaism – surely, the Passover seder, and so many Jewish rituals, are sacred and eternal, beautiful and meaningful. But if we can’t help our kids see past what they perceive as antiquated and stuffy, there is no hope of achieving the love and respect for our tradition and identity that we so deeply want for them.
Before the seder this year, open the Haggadah and see where you can insert new questions, new interactions, new activities, and new ideas. Engage your children in a legacy so rich, so deep, so true, that no matter what the trend or technology, it will remain a timeless treasure in your home throughout the ages.