Tips from 2010

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[edit] Icebreakers

[edit] Classics

  • Name, hometown
  • Year, major, where you are in life
  • Favorite Pesach food, Favorite thing on the seder table.
  • If you could be anything on the seder table, what would you be and why?"
  • Favorite pesach memory
  • Favorite afikomn hiding spot
  • Why you are looking forward to this year
  • What is your favorite youtube video.
  • We had the first person answer a question and then come up with a new question for the next person to answer.
  • We had a "meta" ice-breaker where people said their name and favorite ice-breaker and the next person had to answer that question.

[edit] A Little Deeper

  • What we are slave to.
  • Where you would be if you weren't here now - aka why is this night actually different for each person. It was a nice introduction that made the seder seem really important since people would have been in a variety of different places (including class) if they weren't at the seder.
  • Something that you have discovered about freedom since last Passover. Although this activity took a really long time since people spoke when they were ready to and we didn't go in order, it was very meaningful and made people feel comfortable at the seder.
  • We discussed how each person at the table felt as if they were free tonight. The success of this part of our seder is because I started with a powerful personal one which made people more comfortable to talk.
  • A journey you have made in your life that resembles, thematically, the journey of the Jews from slavery to freedom."
  • Something about freedom that you've been thinking about lately/over the past year / your own personal journey from slavery to freedom

[edit] Related tips

  • First, informal conversations as everyone came in.
  • A lot of people knew each other, so we just spent the time socializing
  • We started doing things after people had been sitting for a while, which was a mistake..
  • When I arrived with an extra guest, we did another ice breaker

[edit] Most successful part

[edit] Props

  • Maggid was good, I think because we had a lot of props.
  • Before the meal, the props were a big hit: sunglasses for the plague of darkness, sheets of paper w/people's facebook photos cropped into an Egyptian scene to allow them to "see themselves leaving Egypt," etc etc.

[edit] Activities

  • Broke people up into smaller groups so that they could better get acquainted. (e.g. searching for the afikoman, breaking into smaller groups to discuss the concept of slavery, or assigning roles for Chad Gadya.
  • We adopted my family's custom of asking "where are you coming from, where are you going, what are you eating" to each person while holding the matza above their shoulders.
  • Activities in which people walked around.
  • Someone passed out green onions and we all whipped each other as we sang Dayenu. People were really into that and had a lot of fun with it. It also helped people become more comfortable with the people sitting next to them. And lots of people participated, commenting on why they thought this custom existed and what it meant.
  • I really enjoyed Elad's hand motions for the Kadesh-Urchatz
  • We hung up pictures representing various types of freedoms and slavery, and people enjoyed walking around and discussing which represented freedom and slavery and why. That got people talking about how they can relate to the commandment to feel as if we ourselves were in Egypt.
  • The afikomen was great because Danny hid it in a book that is meaningful to him and then gave a clue to help people find it. The person who found it read a passage from the book, and Danny explained why he found it meaningful. This turned the afikomen into more than just hide-and-seek.
  • people getting into it - in small discussion, acting things out
  • when we did skits and went around to look at pictures on the walls - interactive parts were great

[edit] Educational Content

  • The icebreaker catered to people's comfort level and forced them to think about something that has made them more free in the past year, relating something personal to Passover. What also made this successful was that instead of saying something "expected", it caused people to relate to each other and remember each other's names and what they shared with the group.
  • When we posed questions for people to think about and bring personal opinion/ stories
  • I think the conversation was the best part--like, during dinner, and the ice breaker, and during tangents as the seder was progressing, people seemed to be laughing and enjoying themselves
  • The icebreaker did a wonderful job setting the tone for the rest of the night and got everyone to feel comfortable with each other, creating an atmosphere in which people were willing to share
  • The discussions at the beginning were really good.
  • Comparing the four sons to the four schools of Hogwarts/Penn.
  • I found the most success using the following format: Give a short 3 to 6 min dvar torah taking a piece of the haggada's text and applying it to everyday life. Then give an array of answer choices or quotes (often given in the haggada we used) asking people to speak with the couple kids next to them as to which calls out to them and why in light of what you just said.
  • Conversations and discussions. relating the seder to real life.

[edit] Singing

  • After the meal, people really liked the singing and dancing, they were all clapping to the songs.
  • Everything involving singing -- from dayenu to the Krakow niggun -- was pretty successful
  • People really enjoyed Dayenu and the songs at the end.
  • saying prayers in english in unison; "who knows one?" rap

[edit] Other

  • Figuring out what other people were interested in and integrating those ideas/foci into the seder discussions also worked well.
  • For some, the most successful part of the seder was that they could go home and say they went to a seder. Even if they didn't enjoy or understand every part of it they knew they made the effort to be involved.
  • Especially the end, when half the people left, then everyone who was there really wanted to be there and we had a really great time together
  • People really got into sharing their personal dilemmas and how they were in the process of solving them
  • Keeping people relatively interested for most of maggid

[edit] Least succesful part

[edit] Logistics

  • There were too few seats, so we had to get tables, chairs, silverware, etc. and set it up ourselves. Next year, we should make sure that the rooms are properly arranged in advance.
  • Coordinating with the other seders in terms of space, population control, and food was difficult since we couldn't set up earlier, and this resulted in eating later and our seder lasting longer than the others.
  • Large groups made for difficult a maggid.
  • Too many people, and they were in groups (10 sdt girls, 8 frat guys). it was hard for some of them to get into the moment in the same way
  • Because the table/group was so large (which facilitated great participation during most of the seder), during dinner, some people were kind of stuck just eating by themselves and not really having anyone to talk to during dinner. People kind of adjusted seats during or some people were just in a bad place at the table, so during dinner some people ended up just eating and having no one to talk to or they just looked kind of bored/lonely. I tried to notice when that was happening and talk to those people, but I didn't want to leave the people I was sitting with too much.

[edit] Timing

  • getting to the meal took too long
  • It went a little bit long during maggid. I noticed people checking their watches and stuff. I'm not sure if they weren't very interested in what was going on at the seder, or if it was just getting late--either way, that part felt a bit uncomfortable as we tried to rush things along.
  • Any reading that pushed off the meal.
  • Waiting 5 mins for everyone to pass around marror and charoset...killed the momentum
  • Not finishing maggid until 12:30. Next time, we all should wear watches.
  • We started too late, and therefore had to rush the maggid a bit to make time, because the room was not set up the right way.
  • it went on for way too long, so by the end people were dying of hunger. the 2nd night was much better in that we finished at a much more reasonable time, though the discussions were not as good

[edit] Content

  • When it got too much to be a frontal lecture that didnt apply to daily life
  • Arbah banim through cos sheini. People were hungrier, wanted to eat, and didn't want to talk as much.
  • We skipped a lot of magid, which we read in the 2nd night and turned out to be pretty successful. But, it was really successful.
  • Getting people involved. Most people didn't really want to talk or read, whether it was Hebrew/Aramaic/English. Although we did try to phrase things in a way that wouldn't force anyone to do anything, people still seemed to feel as if it were a more traditional one-person-leads/everyone-else-reads seder. People did talk during activities, but in general, they seemed shy to ask questions or react to what we read or did.
  • Going through too much
  • explaining the significance and flow of maggid--I don't think we focused on that enough. I think it could have been really helpful if we had tried harder to explain the connection between the different parts of maggid and the connection between what happened then and its significance now.
  • for some reason they didn't really get into random insights we just said - that didn't spur conversations - only like going around and asking people to respond to an activity got people talking: I guess it was hardest to create the environment in which people feel it is desired to hear from them: everyone feels like what they know is not that important to say and we should just go on... but really its about sharing so I dunno how we could have created that environment
  • everything after the meal- most people from the seder left immediately after the meal so when we were finishing the seder there were few people
  • also we spent a while on Maggid and had to rush through some parts to get food on time since the seders around us were getting to the meal

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

  • We skipped a lot of maggid in order to ensure that people stayed interested.

[edit] Hallel

  • So close to food, and yet, so far. Also, possibly the most boring part of the seder.
  • People didn't seem to know many of the tunes we thought they would have.
  • Even Elad's seder song couldn't save us there.

[edit] Maggid

  • The passages about the different Rabbis
  • We didnt do much of maggid, so whatever we did, people paid attention to.
  • During Maggid right before the Ten Plagues. Most people at the seder had never really read the more textual, biblical and rabbinical portions, and although we had planned to really talk and ask about them, most people weren't that interested.
  • The part right before Maggid because we spent a long time on it, with the result of zipping through Maggid. The people at the second seder were more accustomed to a traditional seder, so we didn't have to focus so much on engaging people to unfamiliar biblical and rabbinic texts in a different language because they are used to it. At the same time, dwelling on Kiddush and Karpas and Yachatz is interesting because those are so often overlooked, but we had already gotten a late start so it was hard to keep people interested.
  • End of maggid - people wanted to eat, sdt girls were getting distracted. Also the beginning, took too long to get started
  • Towards the end of maggid when we wanted to read a few more things people were getting distracted.
  • Tzei Ulmad, (we skipped darshaning the pesukim entirely because we were already starting to lose peoples attention)

[edit] Other

  • It related to the time - the later it got, the harder it was to keep everyone's attention.
  • Towards the end. Its hard to get them there at 730 and not give food until 1015 or 1030
  • Maror-Korech: people just wanted dinner.
  • Ice-breakers: It was a little hard to keep people's attention during the icebreakers because they began talking in their own cliques.
  • If any one person spoke for too long... We need to keep the seder flowing and stay away from speeches from any one person (including the leaders).
  • Anytime we did something more interactive there took some time to regain people's attention.

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

[edit] Discussions

  • The small group discussions
  • One of our guests spoke about the issue of modern day slavery we didn't really connect it so much with the Passover story but the point was implicit. During that part I think a lot of people perked up (plus there was a little bit of shock value)
  • Anything that spoke to daily life and relgion as something tangible.
  • A lot of the discussions were very engaging - talking about asking questions, the four sons, modern slavery, national/individual identity
  • The beginning ice breaker. Early discussions.
  • When we posed questions to the group such as: why do you think it is important to have the seder and tell the story of the exodus? or, what story does your family tell of redemption etc.

[edit] The Songs

  • the songs! chad gadya, dayenu. Let my people go
  • Singing - Dayenu, 4 questions, other songs that they are familiar with
  • People really liked Hallel. We sang the English to the tune of "Hallelujah" from Shrek. Reading the English made it more meaningful to people than reading the Hebrew, and trying to fit it into an unusual tune was really creative and got everyone singing.

[edit] Other

  • The beginning (ma nishtana, etc.), and the end (who knows one?)
  • Any interactive portion such as going around and reading or playing a game. People were really happy to contribute and share their own thoughts.
  • On the first night, people seemed really interested in the Four Questions and Four Sons. We had some really great interpretations of both; for example, someone pointed out that the youngest child wouldn't even know to ask why we dip twice when we hadn't even dipped twice yet, and someone else related the Four Sons to four stages of assimilation.
  • Arba Banim, Mah Nishtanah, Makot
  • the beginning and when we went around and looked at pictures of things on the walls and asked if they were symbols of freedom or slavery

[edit] Something everyone else should copy from you

[edit] Serious

  • The activity of hanging up pictures and having people walk around and talk about them. That was a nice break from sitting and reading and discussing, and some of the pictures I would never have connected to slavery or freedom if it weren't for the great discussions.
  • The icebreaker - that was such a great way to introduce people and break the unfamiliarity without it becoming cliche.
  • Posing questions and having people discuss with those around them then reconvene and every group would say something. I think that worked very well. Even though it makes a somewhat formal environment it actually got people to talk.
  • Having small group discussions
  • The powerful icebreaker
  • Starting out with a personal/meaningful icebreaker, as opposed to a funny one, created a really good atmosphere where people felt comfortable sharing
  • For Arba Banim we had people personify each son with a more modern example
  • Discussions. I think having discussions that are relevant to our lives today as college students (and not the lives of Egyptians thousands of years ago) help put the Seder into perspective for many people who would be uninterested otherwise.
  • Taking a philosophical approach where the actual story of Egypt was touched on very little but we focused on each aspect and how it related to our daily lives.

[edit] Environment

  • Diversity of people, no judging
  • Spreading leaders around the tables.
  • Audience participation.

[edit] Fun

  • Doing lots of little skits, having costumes and props.
  • Singing and dancing!!!
  • Assigning roles for Chad Gadya is lots of fun.
  • Kadesh-Urchatz Elad style
  • 4 sons compared to 4 schools,
  • Mirrors
  • Costumes
  • Dressing as Moshe and going around to the seders
  • Singing "am yisrael chai" and dancing after learning of all the people who tried to kill us
  • The Scallions - great tradition and really gets people involved.
  • acting things out!!! like the songs at the end (chad gadya, who knows 1).
  • The whipping people with onions.

[edit] What would you add for next year?

[edit] Content/Approach

  • We could've done a lot more discussion during maggid, but this might have only been possible with a smaller group.
  • More insights (short and sweet) into the maggid section
  • More explanations of the various rituals (kiddush, washing of the hands, etc.)
  • I would add more opportunities for people to participate, whether it is by reading what is in the Haggadah or by allowing people more chances to ask questions and raise their own opinions, without it seeming like there is A Leader and Everyone Else.
  • Depending on the group, I would add a little more content to Maggid rather than the contemporary discussions.
  • Trying to be more attentive to the people attending the seder and focusing on what they want to do -- not sticking too strictly to the original game plan.
  • Trying to sell the seder more as a textual study than as a ritual. I want people to engage in discussion about it all not just sit back and listen!!! I think introducing it as a text study puts it in a light that non religious people understand. Religious people are used to learning by taking texts and practices and questioning them to elucidate new meaning but non religious people tend to be told XYZ and the discussions (I think) stem more from questions based on personal thought more than understanding of the text. we need to show a new way of learning.

[edit] Logistics

  • Less people, more spread out.
  • More organized setup - that led to the leading being less than ideally organized
  • More people; it was too small. You need a larger group so that one person will speak up and get the ball rolling.
  • Watches for all the leaders so that they can keep a keen eye on the time
  • More people coming in pairs or alone. Large crowds tend to be clique-y and not conducive to fun.
  • More preparation (farther in advance)

[edit] Fun things

  • I would love to make chad gadya fun - act it out or something, which we didn't get to do
  • more pshat explanation, more active parts (i.e. skits, etc)
  • go to Jerusalem :)
  • Make water turn to blood in dam
  • More props
  • Acting things out

[edit] What would you remove for next year?

[edit] Decentralize

  • De-centralize the conversation, somewhat. While the seder definitely needs a distinct leader, the leader does not necessarily need to introduce and lead every conversation. He/she does, however, need to keep the conversation flowing and needs to know when to move on in the seder and when to dig deeper into a topic.
  • I would remove the attitude of "Us" and "Them" by removing the idea that we have to go around the table and read/talk. When you go around and you force people to participate or say things, their answers are often predictable and forced, rather than genuine because they actually have something to say.
  • I would try to have the seder be led by more people--it ended up that one person was the major leader and the other "leaders" didn't really do too much. That just requires more planning in advance which we didn't do to divide up what needs to be said and who's going to say each part.

[edit] Size

  • Wish we could have done a few more sedarim of 10 or less with only 1 or 2 leader. Would have been more personable and manageable.
  • We had a table shaped as an L - didn't promote a group dynamic. The other one was a circle but people were sort of far apart.
  • Big clique-y groups

[edit] Other

  • Some of the content, in order to focus more on the really important parts and in order to get people fed
  • Some reading for the sake of reading. In the interest of time.
  • Some of the discussions
  • Tunes that people don't know, songs that go on for too long, etc.
  • Going through everything. Maybe if we had decided from the beginning to not do everything and just focus on fewer parts we would have been able to explain and convey a clearer message
  • Slowly explaining everything - we should have gone faster with more succinct explanation of basic things we were actually doing
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