More than any other Jewish holiday, Passover is celebrated in the home with family and friends. And at the core of this celebration is the telling of our story marking the beginning of the journey to peoplehood. The Haggadah is our story book and guide, the seder is the place where it is read, the seder plate holds many of the story’s props and with the help of delicious food and music and a little magic, the many messages of this holiday are transferred to the next generation. The rabbis knew, even years and years ago, that our future depends on the children. Somehow we have to get the message to them.
The power of storytelling was what inspired PJ Library’s founder Harold Grinspoon to create his book-centered project which has blossomed today a short 12 years after its inception. It was at a Passover seder that Harold witnessed what the impact a good story, told by an enthusiastic adult could have on a child. And, what a story it is.
There are so many ways to engage children in the seder and its preparations from searching the house for tell-tale signs of hametz to chopping the haroseth, from creating a cherished matzah cover or wine goblet for Elijah or Miriam, to making place cards for guests, from opening the door for Elijah or finding the afikoman, the possibilities are endless.
Taking an active role in this family-centered celebration creates lifelong memories and traditions which then become the connecting fiber knitting one generation to the next. The PJ Library website contains many great suggestions about how to involve your children in your seder and how to make it relevant and fun. We have all had those experiences where the leader’s sole purpose is to get through the entire Haggadah, not skipping a line and often in a language not recognizable by the majority of the guests. My beloved zayde (z’l) read the Haggadah in its entirety in Yiddish! I still have fond memories, though, of this enormous family gathering and playing with my cousins and eating chicken soup and trading in the afikoman for real silver dollars.
Passover has always been my favorite holiday. Maybe because it comes with the promise of spring and new life. I love the colors of the season and the smells and the longer days. Maybe I look forward to Passover each year because it brings our extended family and friends together at one table, talking and singing and arguing and laughing. Maybe because it’s a time to remember past seders with a touch of sadness as we call to mind those who no longer grace our table. Maybe it’s because I love the traditions and the food and even the preparations which take days of recuperation afterwards. And I love that we once again have the opportunity to say the shecheyanu, that we thank God for allowing us to reach this season once again. Hag Pesach Sameach.
Debby Singer, is the PJ Library Program Coordinator and a contributing writer to Kiddish magazine.