Tips from 2009

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[edit] Ice Breakers

  • As we waited for people to come, we invited people to look through the haggadahs in front of them, and did so with them
  • Were planning on doing "line up in order of birthday" but with no talking allowed. We'd later use it to peg the "ma nishtana" on people. Didn't feel it was right at the time.
  • The seder is basically a story of a journey from slavery to freedom, so we want to begin with relating a short personal journey of a similar nature, whether it be spiritual, psychological, physical, emotional, whatever. (e.g. going abroad to Costa Rica, immersing myself in nature)
  • Names and favorite Pesach memories
  • If you could inflict the egyptians with something, what would you do?
  • We gave them all different people and asked how they are enslaved and how they are free (e.g. clown, CEO, engineer, etc.)

[edit] Most Successful Part

  • Getting up and doing "which photo on the wall most represents the wise/simple/etc son?" and having people stand next to something and go around and ask why each person chose their photo. Photos were:
    • Legos
    • Tabasco sauce
    • 2Pac
    • Che Guevera
    • iPhone
    • Wikipedia
    • Meningitis bacteria
  • Picking a few things and focusing on them rather than doing a lot was a good idea.
  • "I will survive" parody song was amazing!
  • getting people to share personal experiences over the course of the night
  • when someone introduced to us a Sephardi custom from his family where the leader goes around the table and waves the seder plate over each participants head saying "Bivhilu yatzanu mimitzrayim, Ha Lachma Anya..."
  • (Not necessarily the most successful, but something that worked surprisingly well:) For mitchila ovdei avodah zara, I did this thing about the word חמץ and מצה. I showed people the words and the letters and explained that they are the same except for the tiny line that change the ה to a ח. Something so small changes something from being allowed and good, like matzah, to something bad and prohibited, like chametz. This shows how careful we need to be in order to do the right thing. We can understand how our ancestors, despite being so great, started off as idol worshippers, because it can be so easy to make a mistake. We need to lead careful and thoughtful lives. I was worried that it would be too textual, but I think there are enough people who know the alef bet that they could get it. People were showing each other the difference. And I also think people really like feeling like they are smart enough to interact with the text a little, it makes them feel like they are not outsiders to the experience

[edit] Least Successful Part

  • Some of the anticipated conversations did not happen the way we thought they might. We had hoped that at certain junctions people would be interested in discussing ideas but people were not yet comfortable enough with each other to really speak out.
  • [none]
  • getting people to ask their own questions
  • Hallel
  • Reading through the drashot - there was little to comment on and they started bringing the food in, so people were hungry and distracted.
  • Follow-up. A couple people were really into it. But everyone else just came and left and has nothing to do with us now. Not that it should be a requirement, but we could've done a better job to make connections with people.

[edit] During which parts did you struggle to retain the attention of the attendees?

  • Random parts of Maggid
  • During matzah, marror, korech -- although it might have been because we had to wait for Hillel to get us more charoset.
  • At both the beginning of maggid, when people were still settling down into chilling for a little while before dinner, as well as towards the end, with darshaning the pesukim and stuff. Also, people weren't so into the songs, at least the way we did them, assigning roles and whatever.

[edit] During which parts of the seder did people seem particularly attentive?

  • the four sons seemed to work out pretty well, as well as the question game we played during "ma nishtanah"
  • What other kinds of slavery are we in? Jobs, military industrial complex, poverty, violence cycles, GPA, etc.
  • The beginning; dayenu
  • The fun parts: Green onion fights, dropping wine, all the active stuff, they were loving it

[edit] Something everyone else should copy from you

  • The comfort level
  • Activities where you get up and walk around and explain your interpretation.
  • set up in a square; use 20 questions as afikoman hunt
  • fun environment, very relaxed, telling jokes

[edit] What would you add for next year?

  • more ice breakers toward the beginning, so that the comfort is obtained earlier on. as well as more organization as far as cues when each leader should speak so that it isn't all on one person
  • More interactive activities about fewer points.
  • activities that get people out of their seats
  • I think discussion can be very nice, but I don't know how to lead them naturally. I'm glad that I didn't do it, since it would have been forced, but on the other hand, it would have been nice to have more participation from other people, which is probably best accomplished through an engaging conversation.
  • More active things to keep people engaged. Also, a better distribution of seating to make sure to distribute the leadership of the seder around the table. I think it also might be worthwhile to spend more time with the text of the haggada. That requires a lot of planning to find good ways to do that, but I think people actually like it, like the hebrew. Also, I think we should include a lot more funny stuff, funny pictures, stories, jokes. People like funny stuff. We tried for that a little, but it could be better and it help make people comfortable.

[edit] What would you remove for next year?

  • the awkward set up, we had few enough people that we could have made one square table as opposed to a c shaped one.
  • Me talking so much
  • All the discussion. I'm not sure if people really like the format. It might be too free-form, and people actually desire a stricter set-up.

[edit] Anything else

  • Advertise more beforehand
  • I think the biggest thing I would want to achieve better in the future would be more participation and meaningful participation. I'd like to really think about how we could better involve people in many different ways.
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