As you might imagine, the small town of Couer D’alene, Idaho, is no stronghold of religious Jewish observance. Yet it was precisely for that reason that the Thursday before Passover saw us hard at work in the kitchen of a nondescript hotel, preparing all the elements of a traditional Seder for the twenty local people who hadWe were researching chicken soup recipes when the phone rang... chosen to join us. For many, this would be their only annual taste of authentic, communal Judaism, and we wanted everything to be perfect.
We were preparing the charoset, and simultaneously researching chicken soup recipes, when the phone rang. The caller introduced herself as Nancy, director of a boarding school for at-risk teenagers about an hour away. She had heard we were in town, and since there were quite a number of Jewish teens enrolled in the school, she was wondering if we would be able to come down and speak to them about Passover. Of course we agreed, and with little time to spare before the holiday, scheduled our talk for later that afternoon.
We would probably have to pull an all-nighter to finish up in the kitchen, but this was important. We would put together some Passover thoughts and then head over to the school.
Twenty five students had assembled, and we shared the lessons of Passover and the meaning of true freedom. We had been worried about the kind of reception we might get, but they mostly listened attentively and asked some great questions.
Afterwards, we made our way to the director’s office. She thanked us profusely, apologizing for the late notice. “No worries,” we replied, “but we do have a favor to ask of you. We are arranging a Seder tomorrow night in Coeur D’alene, and we think the Jewish students would really like to be there. Is there any way to make that happen?”
Nancy thought for a couple of moments before responding.
“That’s a lovely idea, boys, and I do agree that our students would really enjoy that. But unfortunately, we’re so understaffed on the weekends, I don’t have anyone available to chaperone them...”
There was another woman in the office, Beth, who had greeted us when we arrived at the school. She was a volunteer and had sat with the boys during our speech. “Nancy, I’ll take them.” She turned to us. “Look, these boys are about the same age as our students, and they cared enough to drive an hour each way to spend a little time teaching about the holiday. That was so inspiring to see. I’d be honored to do my part to help our kids have their proper holiday celebration.”
Twenty-four hours later,"I'd be honored to do my part" we were putting the final touches on the Seder table. Beth and eight Jewish teenagers were our first guests, followed by the others, middle-aged to older folk. There was definitely an age gap going on, but we all sat together, and to quote one the participants, “I’ve never had such an amazing Seder experience before.”
We’d like to echo that, and if we would reflect further, perhaps it was from the fulfillment of embracing one of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s teachings: to love every Jew as oneself, and to share with them our most precious possession--the Torah and mitzvot.