Symposium on Second Seder
By The iWorship Listserv Community
As the agent provocateur on the iWorship listserv, Larry Kaufman posed a question to his colleagues on Passover Sunday: “How many of you, in this one-day-yom tov Reform movement, participated in a second seder?” He did not ask his usual follow-up question (“If you did, what was your reason, as a Reform Jew, for doing so?), but many of the list-mates supplied reasons anyway, along with a variety of interesting perspectives on seder observance. Though we can’t draw any reliable statistical inferences from the information collected, we’re interpreting the data to suggest three main reasons for the prevalence of second sedorim, and, yes, they are prevalent:
- People attend a family seder one night and a congregational or community seder the other night. (More about this later.)
- People celebrate one night with family and one night with friends, or some other segmentation of social circles. (Perhaps surprisingly, no one reported on one night with wife’s family, one night with husband’s family.)
- People grew up with two sedorim and don’t want to let go of their personal tradition.
Clearly no one in our online community is concerned with the Reform one-night ideology. However, Marge Auerbach reported that the founding rabbi of her 15-year-old congregation refused to participate when the empty nester laity organized a second seder, because “I’m a Reform Jew, and we do one seder.” (The current rabbi happily attends.) Marge’s cantorial training stands her in good stead as the seder leader, and she loves “making it different from the first night and fun for our members, their children and grandchildren.”
Making it different is a key motif in second seder – not just why is this night different from all other nights, but how is it different from last night. A pre-Passover blog post talked about menu differences between first seder and second seder. Larry Porter and Fred Isaac used a different Haggadah each night, in Larry’s case accommodating his own preference at one seder, and that of family members at the other, in Fred’s case using the family heirloom Haggadah they’ve been using since the 50s on the first night, and a children’s Haggadah on the second night. Others vary the music from night to night, or, like Miles Barel, the discussion questions.
Another discovery was that we as a community are not hung up on which night of Passover it is when we celebrate. Dave Henig’s family typically has only one seder, but this year, because of logistics, held it on the second night. Both Mike Waxman and Frank Castronova attend second seder if someone invites them but make their own seder only the first night. One usual second-seder hostess had to work this year on Saturday, so made her second seder on the third night. Jenn Bernat always celebrates the first two nights in her home community, and travels the following weekend to have seder with her husband’s family. Kathy Storfer’s congregation, like Jenn’s, reserves the first night for families, and the second night has a community gathering, but this year is adding a dessert study session as a third seder.
Ari Levine grew up as an RK (rabbi’s kid), where the congregational seder was the first night and the family seder the second. When Ari was in college, he led a revolt against attending the congregational seder, which each of his siblings followed as soon as s/he turned 18. The result was that first night became “Sibling Seder,” often including Jewish and non-Jewish friends, with second night still the large, family seder. When proximity permits, Sibling Seder still goes on, and Ari still treasures the different themes and audiences of both.
It seems that the pattern of congregational sedorim on the first night used to be much more common than it is today. But Steve Silbert’s congregation decided that switching the congregational seder this year from its traditional second-night spot to first night made sense as a way to deal with the overlap of first night with Shabbat.
Sue MacDonald reports on a friend who hosts sedorim both first and second nights and declines to attend elsewhere because she must have the seder done her way. Sue feels sad that her friend has closed herself from the opportunity to experience, enjoy, and learn from other approaches and traditions.
The minority report on second seder comes from Elaine Lavine, who says she’s just too exhausted for a second seder, even one she doesn’t have to prepare. Moreover, the first one leaves her with enough meaning (and enough leftovers) to carry her through the second night. Kathy Storfer concurs, pointing out that doing two nights in a row would certainly not engender feelings of gratitude for liberty and freedom!
Thanks to the other participants in the online discussion in addition to those quoted in the above post – Rich Furman, Patricia Hans, Fred Ross-Perry, and Marilynn Yentis.
The iWorship Listserv is made up of Ritual/Worship Committee members, rabbis, cantors, and other Reform Jews interested in the prayer life of congregations. The iWorship Listserv is available to all members of Union for Reform Judaism and World Union for Progressive Judaism congregations.