By Deborah Vietor
Aliza Kline is the Co-Founder and CEO of OneTable, a national organization that engages tens of thousands of Jewish young adults through peer-led Shabbat dinners. This year, OneTable is again partnering with Haggadot.com to make this engagement model part of Passover Seders. Haggadot.com is the largest online resource for Passover, providing thousands of options for blessings, artwork, translations, songs, activities, and more.
L’CHAIM met with Kline as she passionately referred to the first live Passover since 2020, following a shutdown during the pandemic. This left many Jewish people in their 20s and 30s, in addition to others, feeling isolated and disenfranchised. The partnership between OneTable and Haggadot.com will facilitate new Jewish experiences for Jewish young adults.
“Just as we are putting our toes back into the water, Seders offer us a chance to rebuild relationships and strengthen community all while cultivating Jewish practices,” Kline says.
Kline shared how OneTable is adapting and powering technology for other organizations, leveraging their expertise with Haggadot.com who are experts in DIY Jewish ritual. OneTable makes it easy for people to utilize technology to organize gatherings – like Seders – while integrating personalized content. Its curated resources include a Seder Shabbat Guide, recipes, playlists, and hosting tips. Haggadot.com’s resources enable people to create their customized, dream Haggadah. It serves more than half a million Jews annually with its diverse library of Passover resources.
In particular, Kline is excited about supporting young adults so they can create their own deeply personalized Jewish experiences. OneTable provides the scaffolding for them to create meaningful Jewish gatherings – by supporting volunteer hosts – who bring their own experience and creativity to the platform. Kline emphasized how Seders are one of the most personalized, home-based Jewish rituals, with a vast number of Jews participating, including many non-Jews at the table, sharing and offering a contemporary perspective as each generation tells the story differently.
“Jewish rituals like Shabbat and Seder have helped people during these difficult times,” she says. “Shabbat dinners hosted by and for young adults on OneTable increased dramatically. For context, at the end of 2019, we had 9,000 annual dinners. By 2020, there were 17,000 dinners, and at the end of 2021, there were 25,000 dinners!”
These numbers are impressive and unprecedented, setting the stage for more positivity, including Jewish young adults to come. Kline attributes these numbers to the sense of being grounded by Shabbat at a time when so many felt unmoored.
As the first night of Passover this year coincides with Shabbat, OneTable sees an opportunity to empower young adults. Kline refers to Passover and Shabbat falling on the same days this year as a “2-fer,” a two for one experience in hosting and participating in a live Shabbat and Seder dinner. This is such a Mitzvah, as we know many Jewish young adults need this extra support and this removes deterrents to hosting and attending Passover Seders.
Young adults can apply to become hosts at OneTable.org, post Seders, invite friends, and find seats at open dinners. OneTable will elevate their Seder with resources, providing “Nourishing,” (Subsidizing) for first and second Seders on April 15-16, offering up to $10 per guest, up to $100 per Seder if hosts agree to include up to 10 different guests the second night.
Eileen Levinson, Founder and Executive Director of Haggadot.com states, “The Seder can focus on freedom, social justice, oppression, antisemitism, LGBTQ + experiences, and more. Whether informed by events in our world today or by something in one’s life, this DIY dinner party can be deeply powerful. Young adults are searching for experiences that add value and enrich their lives – that give them space to ask some big questions and ponder possible answers.”
As freedom from oppression in all forms has been the Passover theme for Jews internationally, we have experienced freedom in many ways. Freedom from war, from the confines of power, hatred and greed, from the limitations created by fear in our minds, hearts and souls and from discrimination in all forms. Passover reminds us we have the ability through courage, creativity, connection and faith, how we can create freedom every day.
For more information regarding hosting or attending Seders and Shabbat dinners or donating to OneTable, visit www.onetable.org/passover. For information regarding creating your own personalized Haggadah, or to donate a Haggadah, visit www.haggadot.com.