Local Chabad houses organize community seders

Rabbi Yanky Baron
Rabbi Yanky Baron (Courtesy of Chabad of Ellicott City)

To anyone without a place at a seder table this coming Passover, or anyone who doesn’t have the time or energy to put together their own, some Baltimore-area Chabad houses are hosting community seders.

Chabad of Ellicott City will hold its first-ever community Passover seder on the first night of the holiday, April 15, with a second seder the following evening.

“As we do throughout the year, throughout the holidays, we try to provide programming and the Jewish experience for people which are unaffiliated, who are without membership,” said Rabbi Yanky Baron of Chabad of Ellicott City. “And we try to provide a welcoming experience where they can come, at no cost … for everyone to come and enjoy, and be here and to celebrate and just be part of the Chabad family.”

As a newer Chabad satellite, Baron said that Chabad of Ellicott City has been working to increase the number of their activities over the years, with the community seder being part of that broader push.

Speaking March 31, Baron expected 15 attendees at the first seder, and perhaps eight at the second seder.

Attendance is capped at 25, said Lois Gamerman, a resident of Glenelg and a supporter of Chabad of Ellicott City, who emphasized that attendees do not need to bring anything other than themselves.

Gamerman noted that the Passover experience that Chabad of Ellicott City is offering will be in a low-pressure environment that welcomes all comers.

“There tends to be a misconception, I think, amongst the greater … Jewish population that when they hear ‘Chabad,’ or they see people with black hats and payos, that it’s an overwhelmingly parochial experience,” Gamerman said. “And it’s not.

“Chabad’s mission is to open their doors to all who want to come in who are Jewish to perhaps reconnect with their roots,” Gamerman continued, “and understand that whatever you’re bringing to the party, no pun intended, is getting you one step closer to the ultimate goal of connecting to your Jewish spirit, your Jewish soul.”

Rabbi Levi Druk (left) and Chani Druk
Rabbi Levi Druk (left) and Chani Druk (Courtesy of Chabad of Downtown)

For the first night of Passover, Chabad of Downtown is also holding a community seder, a YJP & Community Passover Seder for young Jewish professionals. Chabad of Downtown began holding public seders in 2018, said Rabbi Levi Druk in an email, with the initial inspiration coming from the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who would speak of the four sons discussed in the Haggadah.

“The Rebbe implored that we don’t forget the fifth son,” Druk said. “The son who hasn’t made it to a Seder, whether because of unawareness, apathy or inability. We must make sure every Jew is invited and excited to attend a Seder.”

Past seders at Chabad of Downtown have welcomed over 50 attendees, Druk said. He noted that many are young adults and graduate students living away from home. Others can be empty nesters, families or individuals who, for one reason or another, were unable to host a seder this year.

The evening’s refreshment will include gourmet and traditional dishes, shmura matzah from both the United States and Ukraine, and a selection of international wines, Druk said.

“Smaller family seders are in some ways more malleable to the leader’s interests,” Druk said on what distinguishes community seders from private family seders. “In a community seder, on the other hand, you need to focus on what works for everyone.

“We don’t stretch it out and we keep it engaging,” Druk continued. “But on the other hand the opportunities and pool of talents makes for a great mix. A few years ago we sang ma nishtana in close to a dozen different languages.”

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