Participating in a seder at a table set for a traditional Passover

By Rabbi Daniel Horwitz and Marisa Meyerson

Remember Thanksgiving? Well, a major national trend has taken off among young adults, who overwhelmingly are living away from home, to get together with their “urban families” for “Friendsgiving” — a meal leading up to the holiday they can celebrate with their friends before heading home. A key feature is the taking and posting of event pictures on social media using the shared hashtag “#Friendsgiving” to create virtual connections.

Inspired by this trend, The Well has created a Jewish counterpart — #friendseder, to empower young adults to host Passover seder gatherings with their friends during April.

Founded in 2015, The Well is a nationally recognized and Metro Detroit-based Jewish community-building, education and spirituality outreach initiative, catering to the needs of young adults and young families. Its initiatives have been replicated nationally, including the #Reflect4Rosh hashtag of introspection and gratitude leading up to the High Holidays, a Passover seder-themed Escape Room and the CSI: Coffee. Study. Interpret. model for contemporary text study launched in Detroit and being replicated in Baltimore, Cleveland and Memphis.

The Passover seder is a widely practiced Jewish ritual that often requires young adults to travel home and rely on older generations to curate their experiences. Most Jewish millennials live in just 12 cities and have cultivated “urban families.” #friendseder empowers these young adults to make the holiday in ways that are most meaningful to them. They will be able to share their own family rituals with friends, try out new ones and, hopefully, enhance their own family seders with what they’ve learned.

So, what is a #friendseder? Think Friendsgiving, but with bitter herbs, an escaping bondage theme and religious justification for consuming too much wine. Or perhaps, a way to do Passover that puts young adults in charge of how they engage with Jewish ritual.

Like Friendsgiving, in which gatherings occur in the weeks leading up to the actual holiday, a #friendseder can be held anytime in April. People can host before Passover to get into the holiday spirit or after to keep the celebrations rolling. Shabbat dinner #friendseder? Amazing. Wednesday evening #friendseder and board game competition? Fantastic.

The Well has built friendseder.com, which is full of fun resources — think awesome recipes, innovative decor ideas, out-of-the-box Seder activities and more — some from us and some from our partners at OneTable, Hazon, InterfaithFamily, Reboot, Moishe House, Haggadot.com and Keshet. We’ve also created our own originally designed (and available for download at no cost) #friendseder Haggadah and are putting out live (and recorded) “how-to-host” webinars. And while each #friendseder will be amazing, we’re excited to create global connections through the hashtag, where hosts around the world capture images of their gathering and share them on social media.

Some have asked, “Isn’t it weird to do a seder not on the seder nights themselves?” Well — it’s no weirder than the myriad seders that happen before the holiday throughout the Jewish world — whether those are chocolate seders, interfaith seders, women’s seders, diplomatic seders, etc. The Jewish wisdom tradition regularly makes space for getting ready/in the mood for upcoming holidays. Our tradition recognizes that just “jumping in” to a holiday and/or observance often is not as powerful as bringing intention to the lead-up and getting in the mood.

Others have asked, “Is this just for young adults?” Frankly, no. While our efforts are designed to meet the needs of young adults, anyone can host a #friendseder!

So, as we start to prepare for Passover, it’s only appropriate that we close by asking these Four Questions:

  • Is your annual Passover seder starting to get stale?
  • Who are the people in your life you really wish could be around your seder table — the ones you most want to sing, discuss, drink and be free with — but because of pre-existing family customs/obligations, aren’t able to be with on the holiday itself?
  • What’s stopping you from getting those people together in April, whether before or after the holiday?
  • Why not have the seder of your dreams, snap a pic and post it on social media using the hashtag #friendseder?

Sign up at friendseder.com and join the festivities.

Rabbi Daniel Horwitz and Marisa Meyerson are professionals with The Well, an outreach initiative of the Lori Talsky Zekelman Fund at Temple Israel of Metropolitan Detroit. For more information, visit meetyouatthewell.org and friendseder.com. First published in jewishphilanthropy.com

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