Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Hundreds of Birthrighters expected to create and host seders



Birthrights in Washington, D.C., fill the table at NEXT Passover seder.

NEW YORK-Hundreds of young Jewish adults from across the country are expected to re-imagine, create, and host Passover seders with friends with help from NEXT: A Division of Birthright Israel. To host, Birthright Israel alumni register with NEXT up until April 14 to receive resources and a small stipend designed to empower them to host personally meaningful and unique seders. Since 2011, more than 1,000 NEXT Passover seders have been hosted for thousands of young Jewish adults.

Ben W. from Washington, D.C., hosted his 2013 NEXT Seder for his coworkers at the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). "My colleagues really enjoyed learning about the ties between the story of Jewish slavery and African-American slavery in the United States," he said. "We used a progressive haggadah that also discussed modern slavery and quoted Anne Frank and Nelson Mandela."

NEXT Passover Seders empower Birthrighters to build a Jewish experience from the ground up. As part of these efforts, NEXT will provide a special guide this year to help young adults create and reinvent Passover rituals. The guide highlights rituals that Birthrighters have created at past NEXT Seders, as well as resources for customizing them.

"We know that young Jewish adults crave opportunities to create unique and personally meaningful Jewish experiences," says Morlie Levin CEO of NEXT. "By making opportunities and resources like this more readily available, we can help Birthrighters continue the journey they started on their Birthright Israel trips. NEXT Passover Seders tap into the creativity and passion of the Birthright Israel Generation-and the desire to engage in Jewish experiences with their peers."

Many of those who have hosted NEXT Passover Seders in the past say they enjoy the traditions of the holiday and have fond memories of celebrating when they were younger. Now, they note, they want to "own" and share that experience with peers-last year, more than 50 percent of those who signed up said it was their first time ever hosting a Passover Seder.  

From new takes on old traditions to the beginnings of new traditions, Birthrighters' Seders reflect their unique Jewish journeys and identities:

"Some friends and I wanted to have a Seder where each guest brought something to share about the [Passover] story in modern times," says past host Norah K. of Seattle, Wash. "We went around the table and talked about instances of slavery around the world, or oppression, and reminded ourselves to be vigilant of those things and work towards peace."

Another previous host, Vanessa R of Brighton, Mass., added, "I have never found a Haggadah that I was truly satisfied with so I decided to write my own and test-drive it with my friends. I envisioned a Seder where my peers felt engaged enough in the story of Passover to have meaningful discussions about it. I also wanted to make the story relevant to modern-day life and relate it to some of the social justice work I do."

NEXT's other do-it-yourself (DIY) offerings, including its High Holidays Initiative, aim to make Jewish experiences more accessible to Birthright Israel alumni. Additionally, NEXT's flagship initiative, NEXT Shabbat, has helped more than 7,600 Birthright Israel alumni host more than 17,800 Shabbat meals for their friends, creating Jewish experiences that have drawn a total attendance of tens of thousands of young adults.

"There are nearly 250,000 Birthright alumni in the U.S.-it is our mission to help them explore deeper Jewish living and learning," Levin adds. "During holidays, we especially see their passion and sense of ingenuity that breathes new life into Jewish experiences and helps to build vibrant communities. It's incredibly inspiring to our team, and reminds us why we do this holy work."

Along with offering DIY opportunities, NEXT consults with Jewish communities and leaders throughout the country to create a vibrant ecosystem of Jewish opportunities for Birthrighters and their peers. NEXT routinely shares information about national young adult engagement trends, and trains engagers-the professionals who interact directly with young Jewish adults-to successfully reach young adults in their communities.


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