“I was in the middle of peeling eggs for the HYC Seder,” said Rabbi Batshir Torchio, “when my 19-year-old daughter called. I told her what I was doing, and she laughed, saying, ‘I remember the HYC Seder!’ She spoke with such happiness and excitement, though it had been more than 11 years ago.”
HYC is the Havurah Youth Center, the JCCSF's afterschool program, and the seder is, of course, the ceremonial meal during Passover, which features symbolic foods and a participatory script that tells the story of the Jewish people's journey from slavery to freedom.
This year, Passover was celebrated from sunset to sundown, April 14 – 22, and the JCCSF offered the community at least nine different seders, each with its own spin on tradition. “I love the latitude the JCCSF has to interpret Passover in ways that speak to the entire community,” Batshir continued. She herself presided over the JCCSF’s sold-out 35th Annual First Night Community Seder. “Since we’re not a synagogue, we have a wider landscape within which to understand the holiday in the context of community. Our door is open to anyone who wants to join us.”
Hundreds of community members attended a wide variety of celebrations. At the San Francisco Multicultural Passover Freedom Seder, a capacity crowd broke matzah with their fellow San Franciscans. And for the first time this year, JCCSF and City Winery Napa came together for the Bay Area premiere of Downtown Seder, an innovative pre-holiday celebration featuring more than 20 artists, politicians, and comedians, including Israeli singer David Broza and comedian Lewis Black.
Even the customary kosher dinner menu at the First Night Community Seder included both gefilte fish and sautéed chanterelles, matzah ball soup and Moroccan vegetable tagine. All agreed that it was a most delicious intersection of tradition and innovation.