Pesach Reflections — Every kind of seder, all around the world

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By Karen Kallman

I have wonderful memories of my childhood sederim.

They were marked by enormous inter-generational family meals. The troupe of young cousins sat at the end of the table and chatted and giggled and all claimed prizes for finding the Afikomen (usually ‘Ladybird’ books) given generously by my maternal grandmother Gaga Judith. My grandfather, Zaida Max would welcome us back from shul by cracking open our favourite nuts and when we were old enough we would compete to see who could crack open the hardest ones.

When I moved to Cape Town my mother-in-law Gwynne Robins’ welcoming and inclusive seders were an extraordinarily positive experience allowing me to invite all my work colleagues and in fact almost everyone I knew to engaging, mind-stretching and fun sedarim.

Being incessant travelers, my husband and I and later one or two of our five children had some exciting Pesach travel adventures. One of our most memorable experiences was spending the last two days of the chag on Djerba Island in Tunisia. We waited outside a shul with our oldest daughter Yael who was seven months old at the time and were ‘picked up’ by a concerned Tunisian who told us that there was no way we could sit outside the shul (one of ten on the island) and promptly invited us to his traditional home built around a courtyard. He was one of ten siblings and we were invited to every meal with his family. Especially significant was the one meal we had where the guests included a Lubavitch woman from Florida, (who did not eat gebrochts), Evan and I, Ashkenazim from South Africa (who did not eat kitniot) and the Sephardim hosts (who eat both) all eating at the same table, the food we were permitted to eat according to our customs.

During another Pesach, a few years earlier, we unintentionally found ourselves in St Peter’s square at the Vatican. While we waited for Pope John Paul II to speak we munched on our matzah and kiri cheese and reveled in the fact that we sitting amongst 1000s of Catholics quietly observing Pesach.

One of the most challenging Pesach seder’s we ever undertook was at Afrikaburn in 2016. Spending a ‘radically self-reliant’ week in the desert with five children is a challenge in itself. Throw Pesach into the equation and you really have some complicated logistics to deal with. In the true spirit of the gifting community of Afrikaburn we were gifted a freezer so were able to cook for the seders in the comfort of our homes which was essential considering we arrived Friday midday and the first seder was that night. There was a flash flood that first night and we completed our seder in our one-ton trailer but the second night was perfect weather and we had about 90 burners reading the Haggadah and participating in the traditional ritual. During the week we cooked and served kneidel soup to the community and hosted daily kiddush brochas.

This year we are in Cape Town. We will host two child-focused seders which will be great fun and then together with the girls in my family and any other women who may be interested we will host our annual feminist seder because women’s freedom is also important to me.

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