So the boy and I headed up to Temple Sholom on Lake Shore for a first-night, community-wide young adult seder. Ian didn't stay because of outerlying factors, but I have some thoughts in general on the evening, because truth be told, the evening was a bust.
1) This was a young adult seder, aimed at people 22 to 40. There were 250 people signed up, and it was held in a gigantic room at the temple with tables seated for seven. It was open seating and ... there was NO MICROPHONE. Now, it started at 7:30 on a Monday. That means most people came straight from work or shortly thereafter. It's the beginning of the week. You don't have a microphone. People were RESTLESS. Talkative. Antsy. The rabbi was talkative, not loud enough, and this caused people to leave before the meal was even served. We hadn't even touched the second cup of wine when dozens got up and left. Why? It was 9:30 and we weren't anywhere close to dinner. Finally, the rabbi speeded it up and the evening ended around 10:30. A three-hour seder with a group of young adults? Most of whom likely were twice-a-year attenders? Ridiculous.
2) The haggadah (The Feast of Freedom edition) was ... well ... wordy. It's a great haggadah, and I've seen longer, but there was no transliteration. There was English and Hebrew, but NO transliteration. This meant about 10 people sang everything with the rabbi and the rest sort of hummed the tune. It isn't like services -- it happens once a year! Because it was a community-wide seder, there were Reform, Conservative, (Orthodox?), Conservadox, Reconstructionist -- you name it. A little help would have been STELLAR. It sucked to not be able to participate, because I could read the Hebrew quick enough. I mean, I can do it ... but not that quick, darn't!
See, there's the English on the left there and the Hebrew on the right ... but nothing else! I will admit that this haggadah WAS sort of nice because it had gleanings and explanations and insights on the margins of both pages to offer tidbits on what was going on. The weird thing, however, was that it sort of ... well ... skipped things. We never ate the egg. Well, our table did, anyhow.
3) Tables were doing their seders willy nilly. I sort of supported this, because it was going along so slowly and everyone was so hungry that it was almost necessary. The problem? Our table wasn't, so we were just hanging out as all the other tables noshed on matzo and charoset. I would have supported two large groups or tables to run their own. The shul I went to last year in Omaha did a great job with the large crowd ... but they had a mic. Then again, there was children there last year.
4) The dinner was not warm by the time we got it, unfortunately. The great thing about it was that there was this great matzo farfel kugel ... man. It tasted like bread pudding, really. Which was sort of a treat, of course. The rest of the food was pretty gross. Luckily, the gefilte fish was DELICIOUS with the horseradish. The charoset was pretty subpar, unfortunately. And we never got through the four cups of wine. Somewhere along the line, a few glasses just didn't appear in the haggadah. Sigh. A bust, really.
So basically, by 10 p.m. after dinner, there were about 50 people left. I felt really bad for the rabbi (who seemed pretty young himself), but the way things were going, it was inevitable. There was a woman going from table to table around 9 p.m. asking for someone to go tell the rabbi to quit his yabbering. If anything, I felt bad for the rabbi. It made me think ... would I be willing to keep schlepping through it all in hopes of getting to a few people if I were a rabbi? I don't know, really.
I'll end my first-night Pesach seder rant by saying that I did have some great people at my table (a recent film student grad, three med students and a fellow who is a counselor on Birthright trips as well as works for a company that promotes Jewish environmentalism for youths ages 11-13). I got some info from the latter on a great Birthright program and from one of the med students I got an e-mail address. It was nice to meet some other Jews -- hoorah!
I don't know if I'll make it up to Temple Sholom for Passover services tomorrow morning. Maybe I'm a horrible person but something about the bust of an evening sort of makes me want to sleep (although that's what I did pretty much all day, ugh). Tomorrow I will, however, be making charoset. I'm pretty stoked -- considering it's my first time throwing it together.
I hope your seders managed to work out great. I wish I had another to go to tomorrow ... last year's seders were absolutely fantastic. Next year, there will be a seder at home. I want to make it work, and I will.
Shalom and laila tov.