Chaim Pelzner, Alexander Gedalkin
Chaim Pelzner, Alexander GedalkinCourtesy of OU

A very special Pesach (Passover) Seder was held in Nazareth Illit on Friday night, in an event organized by the Jack E. Gindi Oraita Youth Club at a local yeshiva high school for teens, to impress upon them the meaning and joy of the holiday.

The 115 participants included teens who came with their families or alone, as well as several neighborhood families in need.

Fifteen-year-old Eitan's family held Pesach Seders in the past, but this year his parents didn't intend to have one, so he came to the Seder by himself.

"There were so many beautiful things about this Seder,” said Eitan. “There was great food and a wonderful, friendly atmosphere. All in all in was a really joyous occasion."

Mariano, also 15-years-old, agreed that "it was really great to have everyone together. We talked, we sang, we ate. I wanted a different experience this year and this was great. We finished the Seder about 2 a.m."

“Everyone helped prepare for this Seder,” says Chaim Pelzner, Director of Programming for OU Israel. “This is a really serious group so everyone pitched in for an entire week."

The preparations were coordinated by Ariel Spier, Director of Oraita in Nazareth Illit. Aside from the meal, which was catered, the teens bought all the drinks, wine, matzot - even the plates, cups and silverware. 

“The day of the Seder, the teens and some of the parents did all the last minute work, from setting up to cleaning up at the end,” Pelzner said. Likewise the group held a festive lunch on Shabbat afternoon on Saturday, continuing the Pesach celebrations.

Each participant was given a copy of a 400-year-old Haggadah outlining the Seder from Oraita and OU Israel.

The original idea for the Seder came from Nazareth Illit's Mayor Alexander Gedalkin, who attended with his entire family.

"It’s important for us to observe and strengthen Jewish tradition," Gedalkin says.

Pelzner also came with his wife and four of his five children; his oldest daughter is doing national service at the Yemin Orde Youth Village on Mt. Carmel, near Haifa.

Speaking about the Seder's effect on the Youth Club's activities, Pelzner noted "there was definitely a strong connection that will encourage the teens to come to Oraita more frequently because they feel more connected both to each other and to the madrichim (instructors - ed.)."

“The way we read the Haggadah and talked about the Exodus from Egypt was impressive,” says David, 15, who came to the Seder with his brother. David is a regular at Oraita in Nazareth Illit, and noted “I really identified with the Seder this year."

“Oraita in Nazareth Illit is a very serious group. We hope they’ll all come again next year and bring more of their family and friends,” Pelzner says. “Without Oraita, many of these kids wouldn’t attend a seder.”

“We’re incredibly proud of the effort Oraita made to welcome these teens to the seder in Nazareth Illit,” says Rabbi Avi Berman, Executive Director of OU Israel. “Many of these teens come from homes that aren’t particularly interested in Jewish tradition. We love the fact that they can connect to Judaism through activities run by OU Israel. We hope to host Seders in Nazareth Illit and at other Oraita youth centers around the country next year."