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Fourteen remarkable women & four eligible men brought their own Pesach traditions to a special seder

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“We came up with a frilly, tulle, Cindy Lauper-like ensemble that perfectly fit the intended mood: equal parts spiritual and fun.” (Photo: Supplied)

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“You don’t need to explain to me why you’re doing this. You’d rather spend seder night with a group of strangers than your own family,” an Israeli friend said to me in jest, after seeing my Facebook post offering an open seder for olim and lone soldiers.

Truth is— like many new olim, immigrants to Israel— I don’t have Israeli family and know well that there are many kinds of hunger, besides for food, from which young olim and lone soldiers suffer. The most notable one is often for company, especially around holidays and Shabbat.

Together, around the table, eighteen of us closed our eyes and imagined together, in our mind’s eye, what it felt like for our ancient ancestors to take that leap of faith into the Red Sea, after leaving behind their narrow lives of slavery in hopes of a more expanded freedom in a Promised Land. Most of us around the table had to learn Hebrew from scratch. Each of us in our own way had left behind the known for the unknown.

No one at the table felt like a stranger to me—each person was a member of my spiritual family, a part of my tribe who had committed to actively participate in the continual building-up of Israel.

I made aliyah through Nefesh B’Nefesh in 2014 and considered my seder as a kind of “gratitude offering” for the blessing of living in Israel. One of the more beautiful aspects of Israeli culture is how generously guests are hosted. So, a week before Passover, I wrote on Facebook: “No one in Israel should spend the seder night alone. If you are looking for a full, kosher, English and Hebrew seder, I have room for twenty.” I asked for a 50 shekel deposit to put towards catering.

When I hosted my last seder in Israel two years prior, I was stunned by how many guests said they would not have had a place to go had it not been for my open seder.

Just as before, a force of grace now gathered to my apartment a group of fascinating, lovely, extremely well-dressed and coiffed individuals of differing ages, backgrounds and ethnicities, whom I welcomed to my home as a distant family. In fact, when a cluster of young women arrived early, I asked them to help me put together an outfit for the seder. We came up with a frilly, tulle, Cindy Lauper-like ensemble that perfectly fit the intended mood: equal parts spiritual and fun.

The night flew by, due to everyone’s participation in the Seder, and before we knew it the clock struck one. We had sung the last song and no one was in a rush to leave. 

One woman from Moscow brought her own Haggadah in Russian and read commentary from it. A man of Iraqi descent sang the Haggadah in his family’s tune. Two Persians swatted us with long green onions. I shared my favorite passage from my stained Mayan (Women’s) Haggadah, “The daughter in search of a usable past.”

As promised, the food was ample, delicious, and there was more than enough shmurah matzah and wine. There were fourteen remarkable women and four eligible men at the table and time will tell whether a shidduch might come from the evening. 

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One guest, Isaac Rabin, from California, made the preparation particularly joyful and easier for me. He offered to come on Wednesday before the seder to help clean my kitchen as well as shlep and kasher my pots at the local Chabad down the street. He had good organizational skills and fond memories of helping his mother annually prepare their kitchen for Passover.

I had spent far too much time alone the prior year, so I asked him if he would mind coming back on Friday to help me set the table, pick up the catering and prepare the seder plate. Isaac was my right-hand-man from seder prep on through to the last song and clean-up.

This past year, 2020, I and many were touched not only by loneliness but by death and illness as well. None of us sitting at the table took for granted the freedom to gather in a group and celebrate the rituals of Passover in good health. We went around the table and each shared something for which we felt most grateful.

One man was grateful for being welcomed into someone’s home and meeting like-minded, new people. One yoga teacher shared her gratitude for her breath and practice; another woman shared her gratitude for love, and someone else appreciated the many questions posed and discussed insightfully at the seder. I felt most grateful for my own attitude correction in 2020.

As a writer living in Israel, I came to understand that my firm commitment to my spiritual and creative values afforded me greater security and joy than mere financial success could provide. I just had to look around my seder table in Tel Aviv to see the fruits of my commitment to living a creative, Torah life in Israel.

I doubt hosting one’s own family could be more fun and rewarding than, at the tail end of a modern plague, opening your seder table to eighteen hungry “strangers.” 

Alana Ruben Free, a native Canadian and Jewish Art Coach/Consultant, made Aliyah in 2014. Since 2002, Nefesh B’Nefesh, in cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, The Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel and JNF-USA, has facilitated the Aliyah of over 65,000 North Americans to Israel like Alana.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

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