Communal Seder Makes a Return in Kibbutzim

Amiad in the Upper Galilee is one of the kibbutzim renewing tradition of joint seder meals.

After a break lasting several years, partly caused by rapid privatization, some kibbutzim have decided to renew the tradition of joint seder meals.

One such kibbutz is Amiad, in the Upper Galilee. Not only is it summoning its members back to the shared dining table, the secular kibbutz is also making sure the premises are kosher, by arranging a special visit by kashrut inspectors just before the holiday.

"We didn't have a joint seder for about 5 years," says Esti Tomin, Amiad's culture supervisor. "People wanted to be with their families. Privatization made people rediscover family meals and family homes. This year there's a yearning for a joint evening."

Uri Heitner, director of community centers for the Golan Heights area and a member of Kibbutz Ortal, says the seder night is "one of the most important cultural nights on a kibbutz. There's no point in kibbutz life if you don't have culture, and culture is first and foremost Jewish culture.

"A kibbutz Passover is a beautiful event, and it's profoundly Jewish," Heitner continued. He believes that the decision to stop communal Pesach celebrations indicated a "disintegration of sorts. Canceling the kibbutz seder is tantamount to canceling togetherness and community."

Neighboring Kibbutz El-Rom, however, does not see a need for joint seder meals. "It just kind of faded," says the kibbutz's culture coordinator. "Since privatization started, the holidays have become much more of a family event. There's a lot more intimacy now." But the coordinator, who preferred to remain anonymous, is keen to stress that the second seder this year will be a shared one.

Several other kibbutzim also decided to hold at least one Passover meal together, including Netzer-Sireni, Lehavot Habashan, Ginegar and others. Heitner explains it as a process: "After years of privatization, everything disintegrates and a new thirst develops. Privatization resulted in a break-up and after a few years, many people want to revert to something shared and begin rebuilding communal life. A joint seder is one expression of that trend.

"There's a synthesis," he continued. "After the radical privatization, people begin searching for the community again."

Secretary of the Kibbutz Movement Ze'ev Shor also believes that "After the shock of privatization, people are returning to shared cultural activities. Pesach is an example of members of three generations coming together in song, dance and readings."

Shor says that "the kibbutz seder integrates traditional content with more kibbutz-oriented issues, like blessings of rain and harvest.

"We also long for peace and security for the State of Israel," he continued. "This year, many kibbutzim will be leaving an empty chair for Gilad Shalit, hoping for his quick and safe return."

The Amiad seder will be administered by a kibbutz member, and those present will sing Hebrew songs. Despite the communal atmosphere, in most kibbutzim each member will pay a share of the meal costs. After a subsidy from the kibbutz itself, prices range between NIS 50 to NIS 70 per person. Outside guests will have to pay a higher fee.