Seders for 300

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Doreen Hermelin plans two last mega-seders as she prepares to move.

By Shari S. Cohen, Contributing Writer

Photography by Roger Leemis

A number of local families host large seders for family and friends, but the Hermelin family seder is legendary for bringing together up to 100 guests — mostly family — at Doreen Hermelin’s home in Bingham Farms. Typically, she hosts seders on the first and second nights in her 17,500-square-foot home, well-known as the site of many communal, political and philanthropic gatherings.

This year is special because it will be Hermelin’s last year in the house as she prepares to move to nearby Franklin. After 44 years in Bingham Farms, she says, “This is the longest I’ve lived anywhere. I’m ready. It’s a hard move. It’s going to be interesting.”

Doreen Hermelin lights the candles for a seder in 2014.

A family member has purchased the home that Doreen and her late husband, David, expanded with five additions. David was an entrepreneur, real estate developer, philanthropist and former U.S. ambassador to Norway.

Because it’s the last year in Bingham Farms, she is hosting two nights of seders with about 300 people. To accommodate them in one space, a floor is placed atop the indoor swimming pool.

The menu is traditional — gefilte fish, chicken soup with matzah balls, brisket and turkey.

“With that many people, it’s nothing fancy,” Hermelin says. As of last week, the brisket, soup and matzah balls were already in the freezer. Her mother-in-law taught her how to “can” gefilte fish — making it to be placed in jars for longer storage in the refrigerator.

“Normally, I make chocolate tortes, a few sponge cakes and lemon rolls, and we get a cookie cake from Quality Kosher Catering, but I’m not baking this year,” Hermelin says. Because of the large number of guests, some food will be catered and there will be kitchen staff to help.

Brian Hermelin, Doreen’s son, will lead the seder as he has done every year since David’s death in 2000. David Hermelin created a special family Haggadah with all the traditional prayers and readings, as well as song lyrics he wrote to accompany existing music. Over the years, additional content was added, and the cover has a bright, contemporary design. With such large seders this year, Doreen says some guests may need to share what are very special edition Haggadahs.

Gefilte Film Captures Hermelin Tradition

Making gefilte fish for the large Hermelin seders is a challenge. This year, a short documentary that tracks the process will be shown at 4 p.m. Sunday, May 5, during the Lenore Marwil Detroit Jewish Film Festival at the Jewish Community Center in West Bloomfield. Filmmaker Rachel Fleit and Hermelin family members will speak with the audience after the film (detroitjewishfilmfestival.com).

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