By Daniel S. Horwitz and Marisa Meyerson
Remember Thanksgiving? Well, a major national trend has taken off among young adults, who overwhelmingly are living away from home, to get together with their “urban families” in their new cities for “Friendsgiving” – a meal in the week or two leading up to the holiday – so they can celebrate with their friends before heading home to wherever their families are to celebrate with them. (Check out this feature in The Atlantic or more information on Friendsgiving). A key feature of this is that people take pictures of their meals and post them on social media using the shared hashtag “#Friendsgiving” to connect everyone participating in this trend virtually.
Inspired by this connection, and always looking for fun and innovative ways to utilize existing models that millennials are familiar with in order to help empower them Jewishly, we at The Well felt it was obvious that we should create an appropriate Jewish counterpart – and thus, as the product of a brainstorming session at our most recent young adult leadership retreat this past November, we’ve created #friendseder in order to empower young adults to host Passover Seder gatherings with their friends during the month of April!
Founded in 2015, The Well is a nationally recognized (Slingshot ’17, ’18) inclusive Jewish community-building, education and spirituality outreach initiative, catering to the needs of young adults and young families. Based in Metro Detroit, America’s rustbelt R&D playground, our innovative programming, grassroots models and intentionality regarding accessibility and inclusion have resulted in our efforts rippling far beyond our local community. We created the #Reflect4Rosh hashtag of introspection and gratitude leading up to the High Holidays that engaged over 91,000 individuals around the world in 2016, designed and piloted a Passover Seder-themed Escape Room now being used across the country, launched the CSI: Coffee. Study. Interpret. model for contemporary text study piloted in numerous cities thanks to The Covenant Foundation, and we’re excited to be the driving force behind the scenes helping to take the concept of #friendseder viral!
The Passover Seder is one of, if not the, most widely practiced Jewish ritual in the world, but often requires young adults to travel home to their families and rely on older generations to curate their experiences. The overwhelming majority of Jewish millennials live in just 12 cities and many have cultivated “urban families.” #friendseder aims to empower young adults to make the holiday for themselves with their friends, in a way that is most meaningful to them! We’re so excited for young adults to be able to share their own family rituals with friends, to try out new ones, and to hopefully enhance their own family Seders with what they’ve learned! And simultaneously, we’re excited to watch #friendseder connect young adults globally, while empowering the future Family Passover Seder hosts of the Jewish people to gain hosting experience!
So, what exactly is a #friendseder? Think Friendsgiving, but with bitter herbs, an escaping bondage theme, and religious justification for consuming too much wine. Or perhaps, rather, a way to do Passover that puts young adults in charge of how they engage with Jewish ritual, without being bombarded by their families questioning their career choices and/or the status of finding a significant other. No matter how you frame it, #friendseder is here to empower and inspire young Jewish adults to host their own Passover Seder experience!
Like Friendsgiving, in which gatherings are often held in the weeks leading up to the actual holiday, a #friendseder can be held anytime in the month of April! People can host before Passover to get into the holiday spirit, or after to keep the celebrations rolling. Shabbat dinner #friendseder? Amazing! Wednesday evening #friendseder and board game competition? Fantastic! #friendseder is about bringing the Passover Seder to young adults in a way that is relevant and exciting, while minimizing feelings of intimidation or inadequacy often found when dealing with hosting and facilitating what could be a large-scale ritual.
With support from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation’s Grassroots Events initiative, we’ve built friendseder.com, which is full of fun resources – think awesome recipes, innovative decor ideas, out-of-the-box Seder activities and more – some from us, and some from our amazing partners at OneTable, Hazon, InterfaithFamily, Reboot, Moishe House, Haggadot.com and Keshet! We’ve also created our own originally designed (and available for download at no cost) #friendseder Haggadah, are putting out live (and recorded) “how-to-host” webinars, and our full team is at the ready for one-on-one coaching sessions! And while each individual #friendseder will be amazing, we’re especially excited to create global connections through the hashtag! As hundreds of hosts around the world capture images of their gathering and share them on social media using the hashtag, we’re able to make the small, but vast global Jewish community feel connected in shared ritual.
Some have asked, “Isn’t it weird to do a Seder not on the Seder nights themselves?” Well – it’s no weirder than the myriad Seders that happen before the holiday throughout the Jewish world – whether those are chocolate Seders, interfaith Seders, women’s Seders, diplomatic Seders, etc. The Jewish wisdom tradition regularly makes space for getting ready / in the mood for upcoming holidays! Whether it’s blasting the shofar each day during the entire month of Elul leading up to the High Holidays, not eating meat for the nine days leading up to Tisha B’Av (along with other associated rituals), etc., our tradition recognizes that just “jumping in” to a holiday and/or observance often is not as powerful as bringing intention to the lead-up and getting in the mood!
Others have asked, “Is this just for young adults?” Frankly, no! While our efforts are designed to meet the needs of young adults, anyone can host a #frienseder!
So with Purim just behind us, it’s time to start getting ready for Passover!
Thus, it’s only appropriate that we close by asking 4 questions:
- Is your annual Passover Seder starting to get a bit stale?
- Who are the people in your life you really wish could be around your Seder table – the ones you most want to sing, discuss, drink and be free with – but because of pre-existing family customs / obligations, aren’t able to be with on the holiday itself?
- What’s stopping you from getting those people together in the month of April, whether before or after the holiday?
- Why not gather, have the Seder of your dreams, snap a pic and post it to your social media vehicle of choice using the hashtag #friendseder?
Check it all out, sign up at friendseder.com, and join the festivities – it’ll ensure your Passover is just a bit less bitter!
Rabbi Daniel S. Horwitz and Marisa Meyerson are 1/2 of the professional team of The Well, a Slingshot-recognized inclusive Jewish community building, education and spirituality outreach initiative of the Lori Talsky Zekelman Fund at Temple Israel of Metropolitan Detroit, geared to the needs of young adults. For more information, visit meetyouatthewell.org and friendseder.com