Memories of Seders past – experiencing Seders present

As in years past, the Humanistic Jewish Havurah of Southwest Florida celebrates its Passover Seder at Bonita Bay Club, 26660 Club Drive, Bonita Springs. On Saturday, March 31, the event will start promptly at 5:30 p.m. and is open to the public. A traditional Passover menu will include gefilte fish, matzo ball soup, choice of chicken or brisket, dessert, beverage and more. Vegetarian plates are available. The cost is $85 per person including gratuity. The charge for a child under 13 is $35.

Reservations may be made by mailing a check payable to “HJH” to Joan Weinstein, Naples Walk, 15191 Cedarwood Lane, Apt. 2505, Naples, FL 34110. Be sure to indicate your choice of entree with your payment. Reservations must be received by March 25. Further information is available at www.hjhswfl.org or by calling Dena Sklaroff at 239.591.0101.

I asked several friends the question, “Why do you want to attend a Seder when you don’t generally observe Shabbat, seldom attend services on the High Holidays, and only give Chanukah and other Jewish holidays cursory, if any, attention?” Maybe this question also applies to you as a reader of this article.

The consistent answer I received from everyone was related to memories of Seders they experienced as children and continued as they raised their own families. But, we may also retain childhood memories of Shabbat, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Chanukah and Purim while no longer being so strongly motivated to continue observing these holidays. So, I probed further, asking, “What makes the Seder so special?”

The response from nearly everyone was being together as a family, having fun with cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents – singing songs, searching for the afikoman, good food, the story in the Haggadah, but mostly being together with family.

Many with whom I spoke remember that the Seder was lengthy and tedious. Some remember the prayers were too long and too many. Some remember having to sit at the “kids’ table.” One person reported drinking wine and getting sick!

The inference, although not openly expressed, is their experience was also about being Jewish. Not one person spoke of Thanksgiving, Christmas or other family holidays having the same import. The Seder is a very positive Jewish experience shared by everyone.

Their Haggadahs may have varied from the Maxwell House Coffee version to one that was more traditional to the family, or even a creative version to hold the interest of the children. The important element I observed is that no matter the memories, the Seder remains a positive way to maintain our Jewish identity.

Now we find ourselves living in Southwest Florida, miles apart from family, still wanting to have that wonderful Seder experience. Our friends are our family. Doing something Jewish is important. And so, the Humanistic Jewish Havurah Seder has become a very popular event. We gather to continue celebrating Passover with all the trimmings, but without the distasteful long readings, the prayers that do not have significance for secular Jews, and without rituals that carry no import.

Our Humanist Haggadah is current, includes songs, and speaks not only to the legendary tale of the exodus, but also includes the story of the modern Jewish exodus. Chef Richard Brumm is noted for his exquisite preparation and presentation of the beautiful Seder meal that is then served by the able Bonita Bay Club staff.

Humanistic Judaism is a non-theistic movement in which cultural Jews and their families, whether born Jewish or not, can affirm, celebrate and enrich their Jewish identity and values consistent with their philosophy of life.

We welcome you to join us this Passover for a truly meaningful celebration.