What is YOUR Fifth Question?

What a difference a year (and a career change) make!

#TBT MJGDS Kitah Gimmel Model Seder 2012
#TBT MJGDS Kitah Gimmel Model Seder 2012

I was leading or attending model seders long before my children were born, but this marks the first year in about fifteen or so that the only model seders I “had” to attend were my own children’s.  It was very bittersweet to see all of the wonderful Passover experiences being offered at Jewish day schools throughout the world.  As much as it was a luxury to only have my children to attend to, it was also a reminder of how different it is working one concentric circle more macro than a school.  To all those teachers and administrators who had the responsibility for multiple Passover seders in addition to preparing for their own, I salute you.  And I wish you all the joy and relaxation possible during your holiday.

This is my 200th blog post!

The beauty/excitement/frustration/wonder of blogging is that you don’t always know who (if anyone!) is reading.  Very occasionally, especially in this field for reasons to be explored at another time, I will write something that will attract some measure of verifiable interest. A few brave folk will comment directly on the blog or I can see the number of tweets, reposts or “likes”.  It gives me some sense that someone is actually out there!  Going back over my posts, it is often the case that the ones I thought would resonate didn’t and a post that I thought was no big deal captures the most attention.  That’s part of the fun.

Many (many!) times, I have attempted to use this blog not to share my opinions, disseminate information, showcase excellence, share a personal observation or professionally reflect, but to invite conversation.

The value added of the blogosphere is the opportunity to have your thinking challenged and expanded by the interaction of your ideas with others.  The power of collaborative reflection can only be realized with others.  Believe me, I would and will continue to blog because of the value it provides me of personal reflection and the utility it offers me to share important information with professional stakeholders.  But, it is only in the company of others does my learning expand.

So at the risk of tilting at windmills, I will again see if a conversation can be generated.

question-mark-1000269-mIt has become a tradition for organizations to use the pedagogy of Passover to advocate for causes.  We can change customs (“The Four Children”), add customs (“Miriam’s Cup), or adjust customs.  One common adjustment is the addition of a “fifth question”.  In addition to the traditional “Four Questions” we add one to address important issues of the day.  You can go online and find a myriad of examples of “fifth questions” that deal with everything from hunger, drought, Israel, peace, etc., etc.  You can find a “fifth question” for every cause.

Sometimes the questions are more important than the answers…

As we collectively prepare to celebrate our freedom tomorrow evening, I would like to share with you some of my “fifth questions”.

Jon’s “Fifth Questions” for Passover

Executive Director of Schechter: Why will this conversation about the field be different than all other ones?

Jewish Day School Practitioner: Fill in the blanks.  “During all other admissions seasons we’ve used Value Proposition A, but during this season we are using Value Proposition B and it has made all the difference.”

Israel Advocate: If I will not literally aim towards “Next year in Jerusalem…” how can I use those words to inspire my deeper engagement with the Land, People and State of Israel in the year to come?

Parent: How can the imagery of the “Four Children” remind me that my children are unique – from each other as well as everyone else – and that the responsibility for “differentiated instruction” is as much (if not more) a parent’s as it is a teacher’s?


What are some of your “Fifth Questions”?  I will highlight any good ones that come back to me as well as share any interesting answers to mine or other questions that I hear during the holiday.  I know my seders will be enhanced through your wisdom.

Wishing you a chag kasher v’sameach…

Martin J. Gottlieb Day School Middle School Retreat 2013 Part I – The Storify

Martin J. Gottlieb Day School Middle School Retreat 2013 Part I – The Storify

Each year, we take our Middle School for a fall retreat at Camp Ramah Darom. We spend four days playing, praying, learning, adventuring and building community. This year our theme was "derekh eretz" and how to strengthen our Community of Kindness.

  1. It all begins with with a bus ride from Jacksonville, Florida to Clayton, Georgia!
  2. (The days and times for the Flckr images are not accurately labeled.  They are slotted appropriately.)
  3. We leave so early that we always stop on the side of the road for some “roadside davening”!
  4. A meal in a kosher restaurant is always a treat!
  5. We take advantage of driving through Atlanta each year to take educational field trip.  This year?  CNN!
  6. The final stop before Camp…Walmart!  Here are a few girls enjoying a creative “ice cream campfire”!
  7. Our theme was “derekh eretz” and we had three educational activities to explore it.  The first one divided our students into “Hokies” and “Pokies” – two cultures with many differences that had to learn to get along.
  8. Hokies and Pokies had to work together to cross the raging river!
  9. Later that day we hiked to Telulah Falls…there it is!
  10. Martin J Gottlieb DaySchool is on our way to zip-line…we are doing our best to balance visual updates with edited video and pictures…be assured that all is well! #MiddleSchoolRetreat
  11. Our second educational activity required Planet Kreplach, Planet Gefilte Fish and Planet Matzoball to identify which Jewish values they needed to barter from each other to resolve serious issues facing the Council of (Jewish) Planets!
  12. Our second major outing was tubing!  The best part was watching how many pairs of students who never really interacted prior to the retreat, sharing rides and enjoying the beautiful day.
  13. Our third educational activity was trust walks and conversation about how one builds trust and loyalty into our community of kindness.
  14. After a night of #Schnupencup dreams and a morning friendship circle, the Martin J Gottlieb DaySchool #MiddleSchoolRetreat is on the bus and headed home to Jacksonville!
  15. A final campfire, a night of final finding, and a final friendship circle took us onto the bus and back to school…and now the real test will begin.  Will the magic stay at camp?  Or will it come with us to school and help deepen our community of kindness – not just within the Middle School, but throughout the entire school?  We hope so!  But only time well tell.

    Watch this space!

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A Pre-Passover Prezi Premiere – Jews in Film!

In my role as head of Galinsky Academy, I had an opportunity to teach an evening of our MAKOM Hebrew High a few weeks back.  I was given free range on topic and format and so I decided to use my 90 minutes to learn a new skill to teach about a personal passion.

The new skill was to learn how to use Prezi.  As it says on their home page,

Prezi is a presentation tool that helps you organize and share your ideas.

It is somewhat like PowerPoint, but has added features and components.  I’ve watched other teachers use it, but never learned how.  So subbing for MAKOM gave me a great opportunity to try to figure it out.  I have a lot more to learn, but I LOVED it!

My personal passion?  Movies.  I love movies.  And although I haven’t had as much occasion to watch them like I did before having children, I do love them so.  I have an eclectic taste and a particular sense of humor…which you will see below.

So, I took my passion for film and my experiment with Prezi and created a Prezi entitled “Jews in Film” – a totally biased survey of great Jewish films from 1927 to 2007.  It is completely arbitrary based on my own tastes.  Almost all the clips are PG and below…and the ones that are not have been edited.  It should be safe watching for high school and up.

Most of the embedded videos are from YouTube and, therefore, don’t always play as intended.  I watched it last this afternoon, so hopefully all the links are still intact.


Every now and again I think it is healthy to be a little more revealing and a little less pedantic.  I have plenty of opportunity to share deep thoughts about important issues of the day…sometimes I just want to play!  Especially on the Friday before Passover Break!

See you at the movies!

A Trip Around the MJGDS Blogosphere

You know what?  Enough about me!  1206712_digital_world

How about this week, we take a trip through the MJGDS Blogosphere and kvell about some of the excellent projects our students and teachers are engaged in. Perhaps it is too much to expect folk to check all the blogs all the time – especially if they are not parents in a particular class. So allow me to serve as your tour guide this week and visit some highlights…

From the Grade Three Classroom Blog (click here):

Champions of Kindness – Documentary

Posted on February 27, 2013

Our community of kindness documentary is all about kindness here at MJGDS. We made it because we decided that we should show everyone examples of kindness. We want to share it so everyone could learn a little more about how we can be kind. We made it by videoing members of our class interviewing, showing kindness, and seeing what natural kindness looks like.

We – the MJGDS 3rd Graders – made this video documentary. It’s called The Champions of Kindness.



From the Kindergarten Classroom Blog (click here):

Posted on February 25, 2013

Our unit about “Let’s Explore: Where will our adventures take us?”  takes us to “a little girl’s adventures” this week.  This week’s book is Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Valeri Gorbachev.

goldilocksWe will be discussing the characters and settings of this book and many others and comparing and contrasting a variety of  versions of Goldilocks and the Three Bears throughout the week.  We will even be skyping with another school in Brazil and listening to their version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  We will also continue to learn about the concepts of  two letters that blend to make an initial and final sound, the short vowel ‘u’, and the blending of sounds to make words, among other phonics skills.

Later on that week from Brazil:photo-3

From the MJGDS Website (click here):

From the Fourth Grade Classroom Blog (click here):

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From the Art Blog (click here):

Posted on February 27, 2013

artThird graders are art critics! They looked and discussed, with their classmates, paintings by Romero Britto and…..

These are a few of their comments:

These paintings are about:

“These paintings are about flowers and vases at home.” -Julia

“Pattern and cubism, colors, flowers and vases.”- Sage

“Pop art.” – Gabe

“Cubism, Pop Art and Flowers.”- Jack

“Flowers and vases.”- Benjamin

What do these painting have in common?

“They both have a lot of colors and patterns.”- Allie

“These paintings have patterns and colors and shapes that are the same!”- Nahila

My favorite part of the painting is:

“The detail and color.”- Abigail

These paintings make me feel:

“Happy”- Lial

“Silly”- Samantha

“Happy and joyful”- Isa

“Modern”- Jake

From a Middle School Math Blog (click here):

From a Middle School Student (Brianna G.) Blogfolio (click here):

On Friday the 15th we were invited to the Bolles Auditorium to see the play “Bully.” The invitation was extended by the author, who also was the actor in his one person play. What made this particular invitation unique was that he actually went to our school when he was younger. The play is not based from his experience while attending our school; as they did not have a Middle School then. As a current Middle School student, I could truly relate to the play, as it centered on the author’s personal experiences, feelings, and emotions from his Middle School years.

When he was in Middle School he was made to feel like an outsider, not a part of the ‘in crowd.’ He got bullied a lot. There were 4 kinds of bullies that he referred to: the ring master, the snake, the worm and the boot. Once someone spit in his face and another time a person kicked him. When he got the courage to tell the gym teacher, he didn’t believe him, and he felt worse. He questioned himself and as his insecurity increased he began to believe the words that others said about him.  The ‘ticks’ he started having from being nervous and anxious just added another reason people picked on. He stressed to us that words stick with you and he gave some advice on ways to beat a bully. Like ignoring the bully by not showing on the outside how the bully is making you feel. There are still times now when he feels insecure and wonders if what the bully said is true.

What I liked about the play was it was based off the writer’s personal experience. He was bullied way more than I ever knew was possible. I know what it’s like to be bullied, and what it’s like to be the bully. Neither makes you feel good. After seeing the play, I made a goal with myself to not be the bully. Even though I am making a great effort to be nice, people are not so accepting that I am trying to change. I think it was the best play I ever have seen, because it was very emotional. He did impressions, and they were good. The point is, he was inspiring and I really enjoyed his play.


Wow, right!

And if that isn’t enough awesomeness…check out these links:






We have a lot to be proud of at the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School…and I couldn’t be prouder to work here and have my children learn here.  With enrollment steadily coming in, our plans for the future are to go from strength to strength!


Wordle Up – The Sequel

Please click here for my blog post about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Jewish community.

I’m off on Sunday for the North American Jewish Day School Conference in Atlanta!  (Click here for my reflections on last year’s conference.)  I am one of many official live-blogger’s for the conference, so please look for posts next week.  You can also follow the action on Twitter.  You can follow me @Jon_Mitzmacher or the conference @najdsconf.  I will share an overall reflective blog post on the experience afterwards.

My first Wordle appeared as a means to summarize my blog post and appeared about a year ago:

I thought it would be a fun way to see what the “State of the School” is by comparing the above Wordle to the one below, which is based on this year’s collections of blogs:

Interesting hmmmm?  What do you think it reveals (if anything) about our priorities this school year?  Please comment!


The Dreaded Bullet Point Blog Post

Yes, it is time again for another dreaded blog post in which I weave together a variety of bullet points, links, and thoughts representing the torn-in-20-directions this head of school is experiencing in the early dawn of 2012.

What can I do?  I have not blogged since we went into Winter Break and the clock is ticking on a Friday school afternoon!  Having been convinced that a less-than-perfect blog post is better than no post at all, I offer you a sample of what’s on my mind.

Yet another video from Talie Zaifert, our amazing Admissions & Marketing Director, debuted over the break celebrating another wonderful Chanukah Celebration.

Thanks to our friends at AVI CHAI and PEJE for helping us promote!

I may need to reread my own blog post about the value of unplugging in a technologically obsessed era.  We spent one week in Cancun and I overspent my international data plan within the first two days.  How can I possibly deny the world my valuable tweets and status updates?  [Seriously, how could you have not wanted to see this as it was happening?]

Next vacation…no iPhone and no iPad and I mean it!  (Anybody want a peanut?  Click here if you need to know how that is funny.)  Other than my difficulty disconnecting and the fact that my daughter now expects to be serenaded by a Mariachi band at all meals, it was a great opportunity to relax and refresh for this new (secular) year.

I did manage during the break to guest blog on the PEJE Blog on the topic of “Entrepreneurial Educational Leadership: Seeking Excellence Beyond Our Resources”.  Thanks much to Ken Gordon (as always) from PEJE for the editorial work and the opportunity.  You are welcome to read it, comment on it, share it, etc., here.

Next week, Andrea Hernandez, our school’s 21st Century Learning Coordinator, and I will be off to Atlanta to participate and present at this year’s North American Jewish Day School Conference.  It will be a great opportunity to network, represent, learn and connect with colleagues from all over.  As soon as we finish our presentation (!), we will be happy to link to it for anyone interested.  And I will hope to follow up my last blog post from a conference (here) with another multimedia presentation describing my attendance experience through a 21st century learning lens.

Closer to home…between now and July 1:

  • Florida Council of Independent Schools (FCIS) Re-Accreditation Visit: March 12th-13th
  • edJEWcon 5772.0: April 29th-May 1st
  • Martin J. Gottlieb Day School 50th Anniversary Weekend: May 4th-6th
  • The launch of the “Academy” model at the Jacksonville Jewish Center: July 1  (Click here for a reminder.  Official press release coming next month!)

Four extraordinarily significant events in the life of our school will take place between now and July 1!  This is in addition to all the ongoing events that make school administration so rewarding.  What an amazing six months this is going to be!

We are right on track with each major item.  I am so grateful to my administrative team, support staff team, synagogue partners, lay leaders and volunteers for all their ongoing contributions to ensuring the success of these endeavors.  Each of them alone could take up a school’s yearly agenda – all four within six months?  (Plus two new ventures not yet ready to announce!  But amazing ones!)  It shall surely be transformational.

Next week?  I’ll be back with singular focus and a single topic: presenting an overdue “State of the School”.


You Can Go Home Again

Forgive the brevity (for me)…

We got back late last night from a week-long vacation in Las Vegas and we are moving rental homes first thing Monday morning.  Between catching up at school and prepping for the move…

It was our first trip back to Las Vegas, our most recent home, after almost an entire full year here in Jacksonville, our new home.  As the plane was descending into Las Vegas, I was reminded of one those “only in Vegas” phenomena that I was finally on the right side of.  Living in Las Vegas and traveling for work was a singularly annoying activity because only in Las Vegas does everyone applaud when the plane lands.  You are simply returning home to your workaday life, but you are surrounded by people filled with desperate longing for the vacation of a lifetime.  Cities like Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Miami are fascinating to work in because people move there to be on permanent vacation – there is a different mindset and a different energy.  Anyhoo, last week, at least, we were happily clapping along with the rest of the vacationers.

I have written a lot (for 11 months of weekly blog posts) about my personal Jewish journey, but very little about my professional Jewish journey.  That hasn’t been for any reason other than I don’t expect there is much interest in my prior stops for my present, primary audience – stakeholders for the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School.  As I have eased my way into the blogosphere, I have felt more comfortable occasionally blurring the lines between the personal and the professional, although always cognizant that this is a professional blog.  I try to write in my own voice and with my own particular sense of humor.  I try to share the things that I am thinking about and, thus, make my private process public.  And sometimes I share something personal when I am so moved because that’s how I understand the meaning of authenticity.  Consider me so moved (and so jet-lagged).

This was, as I have said, my first trip back to Las Vegas since we moved to Jacksonville last summer.  In addition to having an opportunity to visit my parents, it was our first opportunity to return to the school I had the honor of helping create as its founding head. Almost six years ago, with a two-week old daughter in tow, we landed in Las Vegas to begin what turned out to be an extraordinary five-year adventure in almost every sense of the world.  There is little doubt that when, years later, I revisit the twists and turns of my professional career, my five years as founding head of the Solomon Schechter Day School of Las Vegas will stand out as uniquely fork-turning.


This is not a picture from my Bar Mitzvah – it is from my second year in Las Vegas during Simchat Torah.  Ah…how young we all were once!

It was wonderful to have an opportunity to visit my former school and even though school was already out, we got to see teachers, parents, and many friends on our trip. Maytal, our three year-old, didn’t really recognize her teachers from last year, but Eliana, our almost-six year-old, got to visit with almost all the teachers she had had from eighteen months on.  It was very intense walking through the doors of a place you had spent so much time and energy, but no longer belong to.  Part of me felt like I had never left; part of me felt like I had never been.  A colleague put it in perspective by reminding me that although the past year changed everything for me, for those still there…

By my third year, I used to tell the story of how during my first year, when we gathered as a school we took up less than one row of the Main Sanctuary.  14 First & Second Graders. By my fourth year…

…our first graduating class – almost as many students as we had to begin with.

The full story of that school’s creation is one that I am more than just personally interested in; it is the subject of my doctoral dissertation.  I am heading round the final turn entering my ninth (!) and final year as a doctoral student in the Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary.  Trying to write a doctoral dissertation while founding a new school, raising two young daughters, and then relocating cross-country for an amazing job opportunity is probably not the textbook move, but life rarely goes according to plan.  I mention all of this because the story of my time in Las Vegas and the (professional) lessons to be learned from it is nearly written and will be available in one form or another for those interested sooner than later.  I’ll have more to say as publication looms closer.

In the meanwhile, it was good to know that Las Vegas will continue to be a home of sorts for our family.  It was good to see my parents.  It was wonderful to see our old friends.  It was fun to be back in Las Vegas.  It was dangerous to eat so much kosher meat.  It was satisfying to see the school I helped found doing so well under the tried and true stewardship of others.  We will surely be back for future visits.  But as our plane descended last night into Jacksonville, I must say that, in my mind, I quietly applauded.

It is good to be home.


Passover Potpourri!

“Spring Break” definitely meant something different years, children, and lifestyles ago than it does now!  What once were vacations and adventures for the unattached and unfettered have now become repapering the counters three or four times between the bookends of Passover Holidays.  So here’s to Spring Break 2011 – being home with my children while my wife works!  Let the good times roll!

But they do…now that our school’s six model seders, my daughter’s preschool model seder, and two actual seders are behind us, we are enjoying the first day of our true “Spring Break” in style – a little Nick Jr., some matzo brei, an annual visit to mommy’s classroom so our children remember that not everyone’s Jewish, and catching up on odds and ends…

Last week, I pulled the first of what I believe are the two greatest blog copouts – “The Top 10 List” and was rewarded by echoing silence from the world.  No comments, no retweets…and so, since I’m on vacation and celebrating a near-big birthday, I will double down with the other great blog copout – “Bullet Point”.

Yes…all those ideas that you haven’t had a chance to bring to full flower or may not be worthy of exposition…the “Bullet Point” post awaits…so here’s what’s on my mind…

  • After a lot of research, thought and planning we are going to go ahead next year and launch Singapore Math in Grades K-5.  You can read a blurb about it here. Kudos to Talie Zaifert our Marketing & Admissions Director for the cool ad:

  • Now we have a lot of work ahead of us – teacher training, linking to state standards or explaining why not, parent education, etc.  But this is one of those happy confluences where faculty opinion, parent opinion, and research all pointed in the same direction.  We think we have addressed perhaps our most significant academic and perceptual concern in one fail swoop.  I think way back in one of my original blog posts I discussed the powerful idea we learned from Heidi Hayes Jacobs back in our Preplanning Week about how wonderful it would be if we could approach the teaching of each subject like we did teaching ESL (English as a Second Language).  It is a powerful idea on its own, doubly so in a school already committed to teaching Hebrew as a second language.  Now, we plan to learn how to teach Math as a second language and cannot wait to see how this new math fluency impacts our students’ educations.  You can revisit Heidi Hayes Jacob’s message to our faculty this past August here:
  • Theoretically, the links to our school’s Annual Parent Survey are closed, but they really are still open (someone turned one in two hours ago).  So far we have over 50% accounted for – not bad for a survey!  I have taken a cursory glance at the results and there are no tremendous surprises.  I am pleased to see how seriously those who have filled them out have taken the enterprise and how well, overall, the school is grading out.  I will be sending out a report (not via blog) to parents after the break with the details.  Thanks to all who filled out the surveys!
  • Sometimes it is really awesome when nobody is at home to turn up the music really loud.  This is one of those times.
  • In addition to the Annual Parent Survey, I am also being evaluated by my teachers.  It only seems fair – I get to evaluate them; they ought to have a chance to evaluate me as well.  Thereto, I have taken a cursory glance and found both things to take pride in and work to do as well.  I will likely expound on this in a future blog post.  Stay tuned.
  • You may recall I went through a Wordle phase summarized in this blog post?  Well thanks to our amazing Art Teacher, Shana Gutterman, I now have a new toy, which I’ll end with.  She just sent me a link to Tagxedo, which is kind of like Wordle, but it uses a slightly different algorithm and lets you choose images to house the words.  Pretty awesome!  So, I ran this blog through Tagxedo and came up with this:

Yes, I know the colors don’t match the flag and the Star of David is hard to make out in the middle, but gymnastics class is almost over and my blogging time is just about up.  I do think it makes a nice summary of the ideas and topics we have discussed here weekly since we began last summer.

Off to enjoy the rest of my “Spring Break”, my almost-big birthday, and the rest of Passover.  We are back to school next week and I will be out of quick-fix, blog copouts.  A full blog post is forthcoming…

P.S.  If you are on Facebook, be a dear, look to your right, and follow the blog on NetworkedBlogs on Facebook.

A “Top 10 List” Too Good to Passover!

I can’t help it!  It is 5:10 PM on Friday before headed into Passover Break and it has been such a wonderful and exhausting week that I lack all original thought…so, when in doubt…a Top 10 List (borrowed and adapted from sources too numerous to mention):

Top 10 Ways

To Improve Your Seder

The Passover Seder is the most widely observed Jewish ritual throughout the world.  Yet, many sedarim are spent with families sitting around the table with books in front of their faces, until Uncle Henry asks, “When do we eat?”

The Seder is a wonderful opportunity for families to spend time doing something they might not otherwise do—talk with one another!  The Seder was designed to be an interactive, thought provoking, and enjoyable experience, so now it is up to us to ensure that really happens.  Here are my top ten suggestions on how to make your Seder a more positive and meaningful experience:

1.  Tell the story of the Exodus

The core mitzvah of Passover is telling the story.  Until the 9th century, there was no clear way of telling the story.  In fact, there was tremendous fluidity in how the story was told.  The printing press temporarily put an end to all creativity of how to the story was told.  We need not limit ourselves to the words printed in the Haggadah.  Feel free to be creative in the way in which you tell the story.  This could be done by means of a skit, game, or informally going around the table and sharing each person’s version of the story.  If there are older members at the table, this might be a good time hear their “story,” and perhaps their “exodus” from whichever land they may have come.

2.  Sing Songs

If your family enjoys singing, the Seder is a fantastic time to break out those vocal cords! In addition to the traditional array of Haggadah melodies, new English songs are written each year, often to the tunes of familiar melodies.  Or just spend some time on YouTube! Alternatively, for the creative and adventurous souls, consider writing your own!

3.  Multiple Haggadot

For most families, I would recommend choosing one haggadah to use at the table.  This is helpful in maintaining consistency and ensuring that everyone is “on the same page.”  Nevertheless, it is also nice to have extra haggadot available for different commentaries and fresh interpretations.  Encourage your guests to bring to the seder any unusual haggadot they may have collected over the years.  Consider starting your own haggadah collection, it is never too late!

4.  Karpas of Substance

One solution to the “when are we going to eat” dilemma, is to have a “karpas of substance.”  The karpas (green vegetable) is served towards the beginning of the seder, and in most homes is found in the form of celery or parsley.  In truth, karpas can be eaten over any vegetable over which we say the blessing, “borei pri ha’adamah,” which praises God for “creating the fruit from the ground.”  Therefore, it is often helpful to serve something more substantial to hold your guests over until the meal begins.  Some suggestions for this are: potatoes, salad, and artichokes.

5.  Assign Parts in Advance

In order to encourage participation in your seder, you may want to consider giving your guests a little homework!  Ask them to bring something creative to discuss, sing, or read at the table.  You may suggest that your guests come in costume—dressed as their favorite plague!  All you have to do is ask, and you may be pleasantly surprised with the response.

6.  Know your audience

This may seem obvious, but the success of your seder will largely depend on your careful attention to the needs of the seder guests.  If you expect many young children at the seder, you ought to tailor the seder accordingly.  If you have people who have never been to a seder before, be prepared for lots of basic questions and explanations.  Do not underestimate your guests; if you take the seder seriously, they will likely respond positively.

7.  Fun Activities

Everyone wants to have a good time at the seder.  Each year, try something a little different to add some spice to the evening.  Consider creating a Passover game such Pesach Family Feud, Jewpardy, or Who Wants to be an Egyptian Millionaire?!  Go around the table and ask people fun questions with serious or silly answers.

8.  Questions for Discussion

An adult seder ought to raise questions that are pertinent to the themes found in the haggadah.  For example, when we read “ha lachma anya—this is the bread of affliction,” why do we say that “now we are slaves?”  To what aspects of our current lives are we enslaved?  How can we become free?  What does it mean/what are the implications of being enslaved in today’s society?

We read in the haggadah, “in each generation, one is required to see to him/herself as if s/he was personally redeemed from Egypt.”  Why should this be the case? How do we go about doing that?  If we really had such an experience, how would that affect our relationship with God?

As you read through the Haggadah, push yourself to ask these type of questions, and open them up for discussion.

9.  Share Family Traditions

Part of the beauty of Passover, is the number of fascinating traditions from around the world.  Encourage your guests to share the traditions they remember about Passover as a child.  Some families begin their own new traditions as well.  One family I know likes to go around the table and ask everyone to participate in filling the cup of Elijah.  As each person pours from his/her cup into Elijah’s, s/he offers a wish/prayer for the upcoming year.

10.  Preparation!!!!

The more thought and preparation given to the seder, the more successful the seder will be.  Don’t expect to just “wing it,” and hope that everything will fall into place.  A thoughtful, creative, and enjoyable seder takes time to prepare.  We often get caught up preparing for the meal, that it is easy to forget about the content of the seder.  Spend the time, and you won’t regret it!  Don’t forget to have fun.


And for one final quote to get you in the spirit to take action this holiday season…I leave you with:

Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik wrote, “History, Judaism says, cannot move or progress without the individual. God waits for man if there is something to be done.  God does nothing until man initiates action. God waits for man, for a single person, to accept responsibility and initiate the process of redemption.”

The story of Passover is a dramatic example of this.  While there is no question as to the divine authorship of the Israelites’ deliverance, freedom had to wait for Moses – for just one person – to see a burning bush, hear a call to service and answer…

“Hineini – here I am.”