A fantastic night and an all-round success! That was the unanimous verdict of dozens of guests who attended Belmont United Synagogue's first communal seder.
Around 80 people, young and old, had snapped up places for the festival get-together after the shul announced two months ago that it would be holding the event.
"We could tell there would be a demand but we were overwhelmed by the response," said Belmont United Synagogue chairman Anthony Broza.
Families - from grandparents to toddlers, from local to out-of-town - packed the tables end-to-end for the eagerly anticipated evening.
The gathering was the idea of the shul's charismatic Rabbi Elchonon Feldman, who has spearheaded a string of hugely popular communal initiatives since becoming minister of Belmont last year.
Rabbi Elchonon, ably assisted by Rebbetzin Jacqueline, led what was an extremely lively service with the emphasis on fun, getting everyone singing Pesach songs in English to popular tunes such as from Mary Poppins, reading from sections of the Haggadah and even managing to get the whole room standing on their chairs while the children sang Ma Nishtana.
The evening was interspersed with performances from the children, who - led by Belmont's dynamic new Youth Directors, Leor Harel and Deborah Kaiser - amusingly re-enacted scenes of the Passover story. Leor and Deborah worked "slavishly" involving all the children - from toddlers to teens - with activities, prizes and Pesach entertainment all night, with such results that the children did not want to leave even by the "bitter" end.
"It was a great evening because the dressing up was fun with clever ideas to retell the story along with games that involved the 10 plagues," said eight-year-old Nathan Gellman.
"This meant we had lots of fun while still keeping the laws of the seder and Pesach," added his brother, Joseph, 11.
The atmosphere was as fantastic as the food which was served up, and the ruach in the room almost palpable.
The seder concluded with a rousing communal rendition of Chad Gadya with the everyone "mooing", "barking" and generally creating a cacophony of noise at the appropriate moment of each verse, drawing gales of laughter and cheers.
"What a fabulous experience. It was so invigorating to see those young and old reignite their soulful passion for our people's timeless traditions. I can't wait until next year!" Rabbi Elchonon said.
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