For a special crowd of 115, this year’s Pesach Seder was one they will long remember. In Nazareth Illit, OU Israel’s Jack E. Gindi Oraita Youth Club organized a seder in a local yeshivah high school for the teens and their families. Some of the participants came with siblings, some came with their families, and some came alone.
In addition to the teens, there were several neighborhood families in need. As the Haggadah says: “Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat; whoever is in need, let him come and celebrate the Pesach festival.”
“There were so many beautiful things about this Seder,” said Eitan, 15. “There was great food and a wonderful, friendly atmosphere,” he said. “All in all in was a really joyous occasion.”
Eitan’s family has had a Pesach Seder in the past, but this year his parents didn’t plan to have one, so he came to the Seder by himself.
“It was really great to have everyone together,” says Mariano, also 15. “We talked, we sang, we ate,” he says. “I wanted a different experience this year and this was great. We finished the Seder about 2:00 a.m.”
“Everyone helped prepare for this Seder,” says Chaim Pelzner (left), Director of Programming for OU Israel. “This is a really serious group so everyone pitched in for an entire week.
Ariel Spier, Director of Oraita in Nazareth Illit, coordinated the effort. Other than the meal, which was catered, the teens bought all the drinks, wine, matzot – even the plates, cups and eating utensils. “The day of the Seder, the teens and some of the parents did all the last minute work, from setting up to cleaning up at the end,” Pelzner says. The group also had lunch together Shabbat afternoon.
All the participants received a copy of a 400 year old Haggadah from Oraita and OU Israel. The idea was not just that they should remember this very special seder, but that they should understand what is meant by ‘from generation to generation,’” Pelzner says.
Pelzner and the Oraita staff in Nazareth Illit organized the Seder, but the original idea came from the town’s Mayor Alexander Gedalkin (right) who attended with his entire family. “It’s important for us to observe and strengthen Jewish tradition,” Gedalkin says.
Pelzner also came with his wife and four of his five children. His oldest daughter is doing national service at the Yemin Orde Youth Village on Mt. Carmel, near Haifa. Two of the local Oraita madrichim, Achiya Arad and Moshe Neumeyer (second and third from the right in the group photo above), also attended with their wives and young children. “They are very dedicated to the kids at Oraita,” Pelzner says.
“We got to know the madrichim and their families because we were together for the Seder and then for lunch on Shabbat,” says Shai, 15, who attended without his parents. “We got to connect with them more than we would on a regular weekday” when they meet at the Oraita Youth Center in Nazareth Illit. “Last night we talked well into the night,” he says, echoing the long discussions described in the Haggadah.
“There was definitely a strong connection that will encourage the teens to come to Oraita more frequently because they feel more connected both to each other and to the madrichim,” Pelzner says.
“The way we read the Haggadah and talked about the Exodus from Egypt was impressive,” says David, 15, who came to the seder with his brother. David is a regular at Oraita in Nazareth Illit. “I really identified with the seder this year,” he says.
“Oraita in Nazareth Illit is a very serious group. We hope they’ll all come again next year and bring more of their family and friends,” Pelzner says. “Without Oraita, many of these kids wouldn’t attend a Seder.”
“We’re incredibly proud of the effort Oraita made to welcome these teens to the seder in Nazareth Illit,” says Rabbi Avi Berman, Executive Director of OU Israel. “Chaim Pelzner and his staff deserve a yeshar coach [congratulations] for their efforts.”
“Many of these teens come from homes that aren’t particularly interested in Jewish tradition. We love the fact that they can connect to Judaism through activities run by OU Israel. We hope to host Seders in Nazareth Illit and at other Oraita youth centers around the country next year,” he says.