Monday, March 28, 2011

How to Find a Seder for Passover

If you don't already have plans for your Pesach/Passover seder, you should get on that! As an introverted person (I promise, but no one believes me) with social anxiety, I know how difficult it can be to ask people to invite you to their seder. Of course, things are much easier if you have family or in-laws hosting a seder. But what about people who are essentially alone in the Jewish world? And even worse, those early in the conversion journey and nervous about going to an orthodox home! The ideal arrangement is when people invite you without being asked to. But sometimes, that just isn't possible.

Pesach is a notoriously family-oriented holiday, and this makes asking people to invite you to their seder even more intimidating and awkward. However, know that an overwhelming majority of the people I've ever spoken with absolutely love having guests! They're also sensitive to the fact that people, particularly students, a) may not have family, b) may not have family observing Pesach, or c) can't go home to their families. This makes them want to invite you even more! Generally, you won't have to reveal your circumstances unless you want to. Of course, nosy people will probably ask questions in that direction, but you can simply say, "I'd rather not talk about it," and that should be the end of that. It's better if you can skillfully redirect the conversation, but most people aren't that good when faced with Jewish Geography or Nosy Bubbe.

So if you don't already have your two seders planned (assuming you're in the Diaspora), check out the following resources:

  • Call your Jewish friends and see what their plans are. Hopefully, you can either join their seder or piggyback onto their seder invitation. This is the ideal solution.
  • Your local synagogue. Yes, just call up the shul office and say you are looking for a seder. There is almost certainly either a hospitality committee or organizer. This is the next-to-ideal solution.
  • The local Jewish Federation or Jewish Community Center.
  • If you're a student, the local Hillel, Jewish Student Union, or other Jewish student group will probably host a seder. And if not, they definitely should have access to hospitality in people's homes. People LOVE inviting students!
  • The National Jewish Outreach Program's Passover Across America

Good seder hunting! Any awkwardness is totally worth a good seder. Trust me.


  1. I'm dying to be invited to a sedar but someone told me you weren't allowed to invite non-jews. (but apparently if they just show up at your door you can let them in... I don't know really.) Also I can't just shyly sneak into a seder with all 5 of us, so I've been reluctant to ask anyone. It's a lot to ask someone to host all 5 of you uninvited!

  2. Nope, absolutely allowed to invite non-Jews. The non-Jew issue comes with cooking on yom tov, but people cook so much for Pesach seders that it generally isn't an issue or they cook before yom tov starts. My personal observation is that Pesach is the most non-Jewish-guest-friendly holiday on the Jewish calendar. After all, it's a really fun holiday to invite your friends!

    For you, I suggest calling the shul and going the official "seeking hospitality" route or paying for a community seder at a shul or Jewish organization. Also, you can seek an invite without actually asking the person. I suggest saying something like, "Me and my family are looking to join a seder, but it's difficult with 5 people. Do you know anyone who might be willing to host that many guests?" Then the person has the opportunity to act as a matchmaker of sorts!

  3. lots of options we here dont have... well for me i'll stay alone this year and honestly, i am for now quite happy about that fact.

  4. Actully, Chavi, there's a little more to it than you described. In strictly technical terms, inviting a non-Jew to the seder is no different from other holydays, as you stated. That cannot, in my opinion, simply be brushed aside. It is a matter of halacha that must be considered with due regard. Having said that, there are ways to finesse this at times.

    But on Passover there is an additional, non-halachic issue. The seder is how we behaved and will behave again with a korban Pesah (Passover offering) at the table. The entire seder is carrying out the package-deal commandments of Passover offering, with matzah and maror, and telling of the wonders and miracles of the exodus from Egypt by God's hand.

    There are halachot/rules for the Passover offering; like any commandment. The Passover offering may not be shared with a non-Jew. In fact, even a small number of Jews may be excluded from participating. Since that is the case when the korban Pesah is really in front of us, some homes are cognizant of this and especially sensitive to this issue. It reflects their desire to relate as realistically as possible to the laws governing the Passover offering.

    Bottom line, though? It isn't forbidden, seeing as how our seder (may it change soon!) is not done in the environs of Jerusalem and the Temple, with the meat of korban Pesah in front of us. The other issues about a holyday meal apply, and so have to be addressed appropriately by the hosts.

    By the way, if someone is in the process of converting, they most certainly should (in my opinion) ask their rabbi to help arrange a seder invitation for them. Seems this is a pretty critical part of education and acculturation in our time. Regarding my comment above, that would not have been so simple in the time of the Temple when all the laws pertaining to the offering apply.

    I hope you are well, and that your move is going well!

  5. Mordechai, that was very helpful! Thanks for the explanation.