Seder in a Box Can Help Start your Passover

Tags: Interfaith, Young Adults, Family, Education, Federation, PR

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Rabbi Melinda Mersack, director of jHUB, displays some of the items that are included in jHUB's More Seder in a Box for Passover this year.

Article reprinted with permission from Cleveland Jewish News.

By Ed Wittenberg

Ariella Payne of Lakewood found jHUB’s Seder in a Box so helpful last year, she requested More Seder in a Box for Passover this year.

“I’m always looking for more ways to incorporate Judaism into our home, to enhance our Jewish experience,” she said. “Last year, it gave us a format to follow for a seder in a way that everybody could understand.”

Seder in a Box is a free starter kit for interfaith families who are interested in celebrating Passover at home, said Rabbi Melinda Mersack, director of jHUB, a joint initiative of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland and the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland and an InterfaithFamily affiliate.

“It contains everything you need if you’ve never even attended a seder before,” Mersack said. “There’s a seder plate, a cup for Elijah, a printed haggadah and some recipes and games, as well as background information about the seder and how to download more information for free.”

jHUB offered Seder in a Box for the first time last year. It was so successful – with nearly 300 boxes sent to families throughout Greater Cleveland – that jHUB decided to offer More Seder in a Box for individuals and families who received the original Seder in a Box a year ago.

“We’re offering more information (in More Seder in a Box),” Mersack said. “This year we kind of focused it around the 10 plagues, with information from a traditional, historical and modern understanding of the plagues. It also gives suggestions about how you can re-enact the plagues as part of an interactive seder experience.

“New recipes were also included, along with a couple other little surprises to help with that re-enactment during the seder.”

In addition to more than 200 original Seder in a Box requests this year, jHUB received 90 additional requests for More Seder in a Box, Mersack said. The deadline for requesting them was March 30, and the boxes have been delivered to the homes.

“The goal is that people have it in hand a week before the holiday begins so that they have time to familiarize themselves with the contents and prepare,” she said.

Payne, who grew up in Beachwood, is Jewish, but her husband, Shawn, is not. Their two daughters – Evelyn, 4, and Clara, 2 – are being raised Jewish.

Clara, 2, and Evelyn Payne, 4, daughters of Ariella and Shawn Payne of Lakewood, hold the kiddush cup and seder plate that were part of jHUB's Seder in a Box last year.

“I grew up on the East Side, where there is so much for Jewish families,” said Payne, a member of Beth Israel – The West Temple in Cleveland. “On the West Side, there are not as many opportunities, so I try to take advantage of all the Jewish opportunities that come for our family.”

That’s why Payne, whose maiden name is Epstein, thinks Seder in a Box is a wonderful idea, and she appreciates that jHUB is offering More Seder in a Box for this Passover.

“There’s more hands-on stuff this year for younger children like mine, more things for kids to touch and manipulate, such as the frogs (one of the 10 plagues) and the red stickers (symbolizing blood),” she said. “At my kids’ ages, that is how they learn, and it opens up the door for me to have conversations with them and teach them.”

Mersack said jHUB tries to offer interfaith families a way to comfortably explore Judaism in “an accessible, nonthreatening and nonjudgmental way.”

“So I think the Seder in a Box and the Chanukah in a Box, which we offered this past fall, are precisely the way to do that,” she said. “They provide information and make it easy for people to explore Jewish holidays in the comfort of their own home.

“Passover, specifically, can be a little overwhelming sometimes for people, just in terms of all the preparation and details, and if you’re not comfortable or don’t feel you have the knowledge to do it, you might not know where to begin. So (Seder in a Box) kind of takes some of that away.”

The boxes also offer an opportunity to meet more interfaith families, Mersack said.

“We’ve been very pleased to see that people have shared the invitation to register for our boxes, so they’re not only getting the invitation directly from us, but they may also be getting it from friends or family members,” she said. “So we’re meeting new people that way, which is really exciting, and it’s helping to create awareness about jHUB as well.”

Payne said she loves jHUB, which was launched in February 2015 as a central resource for interfaith families to connect to one another and to the Greater Cleveland Jewish community.

“It’s doing such a fantastic job of community outreach and engagement,” Payne said.

For more information about jHUB or the boxes, contact Mersack at 216-371-0446, ext. 232, or mmersack@jecc.org.

A joint initiative of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland and the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland, and an InterfaithFamily affiliate, jHUB provides a new way for interfaith couples and families to comfortably explore, discover, and personalize the meaning of Jewish culture and values in the modern world. We connect interfaith families to each other and to Jewish Cleveland through social gatherings, holiday experiences, and Jewish learning in an open and non-judgmental environment.

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Learn More: Interfaith, Young Adults, Family, Education, Federation, PR