How to Lead a Kick-Ass Passover Seder

Seven Tips to help you and your guests escape bondage without falling asleep

Miami Beach Community Celebrates First Night Of Passover With Seder

A boring-looking table at a community Passover Seder in Miami Beach, Florida. C’mon, Jewish people! Rise up! (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Passover is fast approaching, and Jews the world over are planning their annual Seders. But the sad truth is, so many Seders are as dull as a piece of plain matzo. Yours doesn’t have to be! Follow these simple steps to host a Seder that will kick some serious ass.

  1. The Seder Police. There are none. Yes, there are certain traditions to a Seder. In fact, the word Seder actually means “order,” and there is a specific order that you are supposed to follow. But if you’re the Seder Leader (SL), you are the master of the table. So if you want to have a rip-roaring Seder, do whatever feels right. Personally, I think most Haggadahs are deadly dull. So many people take control and make their own Feel free to take mine at www.marketingjewru.com, or make your own at www.haggadot.com. (But for God’s sake, don’t wait until the day before Passover).
  1. Watch out for Too Much Hebrew (aka Don’t Play “Who’s the better Jew?”): You know that uncomfortable feeling you get when you’re at a Seder with like 15 people, and there are only four of them who know the words to some Hebrew song, and the rest of you sit there awkwardly while they stumble through it? Me too. And it makes me feel like a bad Jew, wondering “Why didn’t my Jewish education prepare me for this?” This is NOT the feeling you want to elicit at your Seder. So if you’re going to include Hebrew, make sure your guests understand it, or keep it to a minimum.
  1. Haters Gonna Hate: Last year, I was helping my friend Jenna lead a Seder, and just as everyone was sitting down at the table, Jenna’s mother-in-law proclaimed, “Let’s make this quick; I’m hungry!” Are you f-ing kidding me? A comment like that can take the wind right out of your sails. Just know that problematic people will make negative comments. Realize this is a common phenomenon, especially with Jewish rituals because we have all been trained to
    Jewish Couples Hosts A Multi-Faith Passover Celebration

    A seder plate lies on a table prior to an interfaith Passover celebration April 5, 2004 in West Bloomfield, Michigan. (Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

    hate them, and power through it. (At the end of the night, Nasty Mother-In-Law actually said it was the best Seder she had ever been to. Oh, Snap!)

  1. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare: If SLs spent as much time preparing their Seder service as cooks spend preparing the Seder meal, celebrating Passover would be a lot more meaningful. But what happens all too often is that the SL thinks he/she can just wing it – and they can’t. You have to spend real time preparing your Seder. Seders do not have to be boring, but SLs do need to step it up.
  1. Know Your Audience: Who’s going to be at your Seder? If you’re having Jews and non-Jews, then be prepared to explain a lot of stuff. Hell, even if it’s only Jews coming, you should still offer explanations. I have been going to Seders my entire life, and it was not until I put together my own Haggadah that I really learned the details. If you are hosting a cerebral group of guests and want to go around the room and ask what freedom means to each of them, go right ahead; but don’t try that with a crowd like mine. If you’re having a bunch of kids over, make sure you either serve appetizers or have snacks on the table. And I am not opposed to setting up A Rugrats Passover in the den for the kids who hit the wall.
  1. Wine is Your friend: For starters, it’s more fun singing Dayenu with a buzz. In Judaism, wine symbolizes freedom so the four cups at a meal that’s a celebration of freedom make a lot of sense. There are differing explanations for why four cups are required—Pharaoh made four evil decrees, there were four different periods of exile, and kabbalah talks about four forces of impurity—but all agree that four cups of wine are enough to get the party rolling.
  1. The Jews Are Counting on You. Leading a kick-ass Seder is important! What if it’s the only Jewish experience your cousin Rachel has the entire year? It’s your job to inspire her with fun and spiritualty. Yes, that’s a lot of pressure, but you’re up to it. Now go have a fabulous Pesach!

Archie Gottesman, Chief Branding Officer of Manhattan Mini Storage, rebranded self-storage with ads like: Why Leave a City that has Six Professional Sports Teams, and also the Mets? and NYC: Tolerant of Your Beliefs, Judgmental of Your Shoes. She is now focusing on rebranding Judaism. She has written for The New York Times, as well as a number of blogs and Jewish publications. Follow her on Twitter: @archiegottesman

How to Lead a Kick-Ass Passover Seder