“‘Ima, I left Egypt today!’ That’s what my nine-year-old son told me when he came home from the Yachad Program‘s pre-Passover activity,” says Bat Yam resident Sigalit Golan. “It was both moving and strange for me to see how the Passover story brought a spark to his eyes because for me, as a child, Passover was always the most boring night of the year. I dreaded going to my grandparents’ home and wanted it to be over before it even began,” Golan shares. “But with Yachad it’s experiential. The story of the exodus came alive for my son, making it a fun and real part of his life.”

Golan is referring to the “Communal Exodus” event, just one of the interactive, family- oriented Passover programs that Yachad facilitators ran in communities dotting the Israeli landscape. “We set up stations throughout the park; matzah-baking was followed by Seder plate crafts and Passover trivia games. We even had the kids make their own ancient Israelite costumes that they wore for a dramatized reenactment of the exodus from Egypt,” reports Bat Yam’s facilitator Roi Peretz. “Activities such as these encourage our youth to take ownership of their heritage and connect to it with all of their senses.”

 Engaged and Involved

“Hands-on Passover activities keeps people of all ages and populations engaged and involved,” agrees Arad’s facilitator Sharon Fengaleh, who brought together 45 teens who identify as secular for a matzah-baking session. “Most of these teens don’t have a formal Passover Seder in their homes, so learning about the way matzah is made and the reason we eat it allows them to experience the themes and symbols of the holiday in a meaningful way,” he says.

“It also means that they bring the matzah home, which naturally initiates meaningful dialogue with their parents and siblings,” adds Petach Tikvah’s facilitator Aryeh Engelman, who coordinated five “Mega-Matza” baking events throughout the city. “Whether the participants are 3, 13, or 30 years old, they are happy to learn about Judaism and connect to their traditions in pleasant environments characterized by warmth, acceptance and fun,” he maintains.

All Part of Am Yisrael

In the Golan Heights city of Katzrin, Yachad facilitator Tsfiya Mezuman brought the exodus from Egypt to an entirely new level for 50 young leaders from the local religious and secular youth groups. “Each and every one of us has our own personal ‘Egypt,’ our own bondage that we hope to get away from,” explains Mezuman. “That was the concept behind our “Leaving Egypt” workshop: taking the idea behind the holiday and making it a relevant part of our everyday lives,” she explains.

“It was also an opportunity to talk about the challenges that many of us share regardless of our religious backgrounds,” says eleventh-grader Gal Lev. “Seeing that I have so much in common with the religious youth leaders despite the fact that I live a completely secular life was eye-opening,” she says. “From there it was only natural that we would also discuss our shared roots and common values,” adds fellow participant Eli Vaknin, “because at the end of the day, we are all part of Am Yisrael.”

Meaningful Experiences

“As a child growing up in a secular home, our Passover Seder had both pita and matzah and I knew the song about the Jews leaving Egypt from a jingle on television,” says Ashkelon resident Noa Levy. “But I first felt that something was lacking in my own background when I didn’t know what to answer my seven-year-old daughter when she asked me why we even have a Seder. How was I to make it a meaningful experience when I myself wasn’t sure of its meaning?” shares Levy.

Levy was one of thousands of adults that participated in Yachad’s nationwide ‘Seder Workshop’. A twist on the classic model Seder, all 32 Yachad facilitators taught adults of different backgrounds how to run an interactive and significant Seder. “After having attended Yachad’s Seder Workshop, I not only learned about the Seder, I was able to pass along its messages to my family. It completely transformed this year’s Seder experience for our family,” Levy says.

 A Magical Night

“This year’s Seder was my first ever, and it was magical,” says Haifa resident Vladimir Grushko, who attended one of the 250 Yachad community Seders that took place nationwide this past Passover. “It was an opportunity to explore my Jewish identity and my own role in our national narrative in a warm and embracing environment,” shares Grushko.

Festive 4-course meals, with a selection of wines, hand-made matzah, and a communal joint reading of the Haggadah, were spiced with songs and inspiring insights that were translated into Russian, French, English, Spanish, and Amharic. Many facilitators conducted specialized Seders geared towards groups such as lone IDF soldiers, young professionals, new immigrants, conversion students, and Holocaust survivors.

“Our goal, as always, is to empower people of all backgrounds to discover and reclaim Judaism on their own terms,” says Yachad Program director Betzalel Safra. “Humoristic dramatizations of the Passover story were complimented by 10-plagues kits, discussion prompting cards, and interactive Seder plates, which adorned tables across the country,” he reports. “Yachad’s programming helped ensure that this Passover, the discussion at the Seder table was not just about how many calories there are in a piece of matzah, but about the warmth and beauty of Judaism, about our age-old Jewish heritage, and how to build unifying bridges based on mutual dialogue and common identity.”