Pesach Seder 5771: Highest Headcount Ever

Congregational Seders are nothing unusual in most Reform/Progressive congregations. Sim Shalom has one every year. But the one this year set some records. First-off, the attendance of 144 people was the largest ever. As usual, we held it in a public place that has the necessary space and the ability to serve a nice meal, since our synagogue can only seat around 70 and that is for services. For the third year in a row we held it in a very nice dining room belonging to a military officer’s club.

What was special this year was that we used our newly revised and expanded Haggadah. The previous one was put together in a rather messy cut and paste job back in the early 1990’s. It was okay for a first try, but for some time it had seemed inadequate, and we wanted something better. In a collaboration between the Rabbi and our cantor, who is increasingly interested in liturgy, the new version was finally produced in a first draft, just in time for this year’s Seder. I hope it gets polished up and published with good artwork sooner than it took to get the old one revised.

Our Cantor, Miki Budai surprised us with many new tunes for the prayers, since we chant many of them rather than just reading them aloud. He held a teaching session the week before to teach them to the interested singers in the congregation. But the hit of the evening was a new version of Had Gad’ya. One of the features of the new Haggadah was an amusing Hungarian translation of this traditional song. Playing around on his guitar after the practice session, Miki noticed that the rhythm of the verses fit very well to a medieval French Chanson that he had recently learned, (he’s very talented!). So we ended the evening with Had Gad’ya in Hungarian sung to an ancient French melody. It was a very nice experience, and especially enjoyable since everyone could understand the words.


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