Six Conservative rabbis — including one former Detroiter — have created a user-friendly, interactive seder guide for use at home and through video conferencing.
In response to this year’s limited or non-existent Rosh Hashanah holiday meal and synagogue gatherings, six Conservative rabbis — including one former Detroiter — have created a user-friendly, interactive seder guide for use at home and through video conferencing.
Titled Hithadshut, the Hebrew-English, 43-page, full-color, free download — meant to be utilized with small in-person or online get-togethers — is similar in outline to the Passover seder, but with texts, themes and tunes that are a part of the traditional Rosh Hashanah liturgy, all of which, of course, bookend a festive, holiday meal. In the booklet, the group writes that their hope “is to provide an at-home experience to bridge the gap between what we usually do at shul and what we usually do at home.”
The project was spearheaded by Rabbi Sarit Horwitz of Beth Shalom Synagogue in Memphis, Tenn. “She brought us together to think about how to create an at-home ritual for people to use this year when we would not be able to gather in the large crowds we are used to,” said Rabbi Miriam Liebman, who worked on the guide along with Rabbi Horwitz and Rabbis Alex Braver, Sarah Krinsky, Daniel Novick and Alex Salzberg. “We wanted to use the framework of the Passover seder, as it is perhaps the most recognized at-home ritual for American Jews, but make it specific to Rosh Hashanah.”
The rabbinic group, who live in various cities, met over Zoom to discuss the general outline and goals in the creation of the guide. “We then each took on portions of the seder to work on individually before coming back together over Zoom to share back and create a cohesive document,” said Liebman, a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary Rabbinical School, Hillel Day School, North Farmington High School and the University of Michigan. Growing up in Farmington Hills, she attended Adat Shalom Synagogue, where her family continues to be part of the congregation.
The Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative rabbis, of which the six creators of the download are members, was instrumental in the copy-editing, graphic design and layout of the guide that was edited by Rabbi Mark Greenspan and Noam Kornsgold.
The booklet’s introduction describes it as “a seder for renewal of ourselves and the world” in a time when “we saw loved ones die (and) communities cease to meet in person” and for so many, a year of pain.
Although this is a first-time Conservative movement production, Liebman says, “The Rosh Hashanah seder is a long-standing tradition in many Sephardi and Mizrahi communities.”
Hithadshut’s inclusive contents begin with set-up, candle-lighting and Kiddush, and continue through readings for symbolic Rosh Hashanah foods, blessings, songs and Torah readings, concluding with a prayer for being written in the Book of Life. The hope is that participants will infuse their seder — which can be held during the day or evening — with personal ideas and reflections, questions and discussion.
“The goal of this seder is to bring the Rosh Hashanah experience into the home in a meaningful, accessible, hands-on way,” Liebman said. “Judaism and Jewish holidays are not meant to be solitary experiences. This seder will hopefully bring people together with friends and family, whether in person or over Zoom to be able to celebrate this year, even if they are away from their larger communities.”
Click here to download the Hithadshut Rosh Hashanah seder guide.