Following in the tradition of my parents and grandparents, my husband and I have hosted our family Seder for the past twenty-seven years in our home. Some of our guests, numbering anywhere from twelve to twenty-four, do not come from a Jewish background. Our aim is make everyone feel welcome and to have a joyful, memorable experience. Over the years, we have developed some great ways to achieve this through interactive and thoughtful questions, storytelling, song, table setting, and food. Here are some helpful tips and good finds I’ve picked up over the years.
1) GOOD PLANNING MAKES FOR A GOOD HOLIDAY.
Shopping, cooking, setting the table, and preparing for the Seder service can be overwhelming and challenging. I keep recipes, grocery lists, and a timeline on file, and I start planning and prepping a few weeks in advance to spread out the workload. It’s never too early to make sure you have everything you need to set your table. The following ceremonial objects, available at Audrey’s Museum Store at the Skirball, make for an elegant presentation.
- Annieglass Platinum Seder Plate—Elegant and décor-neutral, this seder plate makes a wonderful heirloom to hand down for generations.
- Michael Aram Matzah Plate—With so many items to squeeze onto the Passover table setting, I really like the small footprint and clever design of this matzah plate.
- Mary Jurek Symphony Silver and Cobalt Blue Kiddush Cup—New this year! The cobalt enamel accent band adds the perfect splash of color.
- Tamara Baskin Twelve Tribes Matchbox—I think that this colorful glass matchbox makes an ideal hostess gift and can be used year round.
Read at the seder table, the Haggadah recounts the tale of the Exodus, when Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. Each year, we are challenged to retell the sacred story in a way that keeps it fresh while preserving age-old traditions.
As the buyer for Audrey’s Museum Store at the Skirball, I am excited to recommend a new Haggadah that we have reviewed, Sixty-Minute Seder. It’s an easy-to-follow yet sophisticated guide to preparing for Passover and executing the service.
3) PASSOVER IS A CELEBRATION OF FREEDOM. SPARK CONVERSATIONS THAT CENTER AROUND THAT THEME.
Questions and answers are central to the Seder ritual, which is all about connecting with one another.
Eight years ago, I was fortunate to receive a list of questions to pose at the Seder from the Skirball’s Founding President and CEO, Uri Herscher, who is also an ordained rabbi. I have found them to be effective at engaging my guests in meaningful discussion. One of the questions, for example, relates the ancient narrative to words spoken by Martin Luther King, Jr.—for example, “I have been to the mountaintop.” Linking the biblical tale of the Exodus to a well-known, widely admired freedom fighter of more recent history highlights the relevance of the Passover story to people of all ages and backgrounds.
For a complete list of Dr. Herscher’s suggested Seder questions, click here.
4) DELICIOUS RECIPES ABOUND!
Due to all of the foods that form part of the traditional meal, Passover is a contender as the holiday with the most dishes. After the Seder, the meal begins with a hardboiled egg served in salt water, followed by courses of gefilte fish, matzah ball soup, brisket, chicken, kugel, vegetables, potatoes, and a selection of desserts.
Want to cook a delicious brisket… or chicken soup and matzah balls? Find outstanding recipes in Judy Zeidler’s International Deli Cookbook. For an innovative kugel, Epicurious posted this Apple-Matzoh Kugel, which always earns praise from my guests. In my opinion, the best fresh horseradish can be found at McGee’s Kitchen at the Farmer’s Market, while you can’t go wrong picking up Melfer’s Macaroons (now part of Essential Chocolate Desserts in Culver City ), available online at http://essentialchocolate.com/originalmacaroons.asp or at Vicente Foods in Brentwood.
As for haroset, here’s our favorite family, classic recipe:
Combine the following ingredients and then refrigerate:
1 large apple, cored, peeled, and coarsely grated (red delicious)
¼-cup chopped walnuts
¼-tsp cinnamon (add more to taste)
1 tsp sugar (optional)
2 tbsp sweet red Passover wine (add more to taste)
Yield: 1 cup
Tip: For a large group, preparing individual seder plates minimizes time-consuming passing of serving dishes. For each participant, place the following on the plate: a sprig of parsley, a scoop of haroset, piece(s) of matzah, and a spoonful of horseradish.
5) EVERYONE LOVES A SING-ALONG.
Singing together is a wonderful communal experience. We love the classic “Go Down Moses” (to hear a terrific rendition by Soulful Symphony, click here), as well as “If I Had a Hammer” (see Peter, Paul and Mary performing it below). The lyrics of both songs resonate with the meaning of the holiday.
Want to sing along while watching it? You can find the lyrics by clicking through to youtube and reading along on the About tab:
Hope these tips were helpful! Happy Pesach!