Think You’re Planning a Big Seder? Try Organizing One for 4,500 Guests

Thousands of Falashmura expected to attend the world's biggest-ever seder, in Gondar on Friday; Chabad, meanwhile, set to host 3,000 guests on Thai island of Ko Samui

Preparations being made for the Passover seder in Gondar, Ethiopia, April 2019.
Courtesy of Jewish Agency

The Jewish Agency is organizing what it says will be the world’s biggest-ever Passover seder, in Ethiopia this Friday.

Some 4,500 Falashmura — descendants of Ethiopian Jews who were pressured to convert to Christianity in past centuries — along with 80 Israeli volunteers, will be attending Friday night’s seder in Gondar, which is being funded by the UJA-Federation of New York.

The Ethiopian participants have spent the past few years living in transit camps in the northwestern Ethiopian city, awaiting the opportunity to immigrate to Israel.

They have prepared 10,000 matzot and 100 gallons of raisin wine for the seder, while more than 3,800 eggs and nearly 1,250 kilograms (2,750 pounds) of bananas were used to prepare the various seder dishes. An estimated 950 wooden beams are being used to light the fires needed for cooking and baking.

Presiding over the preparations is Rabbi Menachem Waldman, the spiritual leader of the Falashmura community in Ethiopia.

Preparing the Passover seder in Gondar, Ethiopia, April 2019.
Courtesy of Jewish Agency

The seder itself will be run by Matiko Yalo, a Jewish studies teacher who headed the Jewish community in Addis Ababa before immigrating to Israel in 2001.

A separate, smaller seder will be held in Addis Ababa.

An annual seder organized by the Chabad-Lubavitch movement in Kathmandu, Nepal, typically draws about 2,000 participants — most of them Israeli backpackers — and is considered the biggest such event in the world. The Jewish outreach movement said it expects at least 3,000 guests — a new record for the group — to attend its seder on the Thai island of Ko Samui this week.

An estimated 8,000 members of the Falashmura community are waiting to immigrate to Israel. At the end of 2018, the Israeli government resolved to allow 1,000 of them to come over by the end of this year. However, only applicants with first-degree relatives already in Israel are being approved for immigration. Upon their arrival in the Jewish state, the Falashmura are required to undergo an Orthodox conversion to Judaism.