Sharing the joy of a Passover seder

By Sofia Puerto

By Sofia Puerto

Imagine sitting around a large dinner table with your family, singing and celebrating the great history and traditions of your culture. The flowing music fills your ears, the decadent scents fill your nose and the comfort of family fills your heart. This is what I felt and shared in when I experienced a virtual Passover seder.

I am part of a group called Cultural Leadership, a nonprofit organization of St. Louis high schoolers that promotes social justice through the Jewish and African American experience. This program has given me so many new experiences and memories, including opening my eyes to intricate parts of other cultures that I would have otherwise never experienced. 

While my family follows traditionally Christian holidays, I got a taste, quite literally, of something entirely new this year through Cultural Leadership’s Holiday Swap experience. My Cultural Leadership family invited me to join them in an online shared Passover seder. Because we couldn’t physically sit together this year due to the coronavirus, Cultural Leadership created “Passover kits” with matzah, charoset and Haggadahs among other items that were dropped off at students’ homes so we could participate in the seder together.  

I found that a traditional Passover seder, or at least the one I joined, has similarities and differences from Christian holidays like Easter. One of my favorite things I learned that the holidays have in common is the amount of singing and music in the celebrations. The lyrics are so meaningful and powerful, and music just fills you with joy. In each faith, it’s all about tradition and beauty in life, freedom and values. 

Another aspect of the Passover seder I found very powerful was how the holiday centers around family and food. Passover is all about remembering the past and what the Israelites in Egypt fought through, and how Adonai (G-d) gave them the strength and the ability to overcome persecution and reach a better life. There is something about remembering the gifts given to you and cherishing the opportunities that they brought that warms my heart. 

One of the differences I found interesting was the seder’s  order of events. A traditional Easter celebration isn’t necessarily tightly structured, but I quite enjoyed how the 

Seder is conducted with organization and purpose. It was interesting to learn why each part of the seder is done the way it’s done, and how each family puts their own spin on it. 

For example, our host this year incorporated a lot of YouTube videos to help lead us in song and prayer, which I really appreciated. It was fun to see how the structure of the Passover seder meshed with the traditions of the family I was joining.

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Being a part of a seder was an amazing experience. I never would have thought a religious dinner could be so cool and have so many parts to enjoy. I would definitely encourage others to try this with a friend and put themselves in another family’s shoes for a day. 

Opportunities to learn about other religions and their holidays have been some of my favorite experiences in Cultural Leadership, and I appreciate how we’re always trying to learn more.  

One of the best ways to learn about another culture or religion is to experience it yourself, and I am lucky enough to have that memory with me now. 

Sofia Puerto is a sophomore at Clayton High School and a member of Cultural Leadership’s current cohort, Class 15.