Pushing The Passover Envelope


Had there been scallion “whips,” but no Ladino rendition of “Who Knows One,” dayenu.

Had there been Ladino music, but no date charoset, dayenu.

Last week, the elementary school-wide seder at Schechter of Long Island was a veritable festival of Jewish diversity, with a variety of non-Western customs — many shared by parents — incorporated into the event.

After last year’s seder, when some parents complained that the event had reflected the traditions of only the Ashkenazi Jewish communities, Cantor Marcey Wagner, principal at the Jericho school decided this year would be different.

She sent out an e-mail asking families to share their Passover customs. The Sephardic parents were particularly responsive, and Cantor Wagner also did some research about other non-Western Jewish traditions.

“I thought that the inclusion of non-Western customs into our school seder would be a great way to infuse it with new meaning, “freshen” it up, and make families feel more included and invested,” she told The Jewish Week in an e-mail interview.

“Our community in Schechter, and I believe all over Long Island, is becoming increasingly Jewishly diverse,” she said. “We have many families who trace their origins to Persia, Iraq, Turkey, Morocco, Egypt, Yemen, and other countries. We are a culturally rich community, and our school’s goal is to celebrate and honor these traditions so our children will live them and pass them on to the next generation.”

Among the customs included this year:

♦ Escorting the seder plate into the room, wrapped in a scarf.

♦ Holding a vase of flowers over the heads of guests and pronouncing, “In a great hurry, He took us out of Egypt. Here is the bread of affliction of the children freed.”

♦ Beating each other with scallion “whips” while singing Dayenu. (“The students LOVED this,” noted Cantor Wagner.)

♦ A game in which participants hit a hard-boiled egg against another person’s, with the goal of being the last person whose eggshell remains intact.