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Jewish Grandparents: Here’s How to Talk About Passover and Easter with Your Interfaith Family

Not sure how to talk to your adult child about their observance of Passover and Easter, and how you can connect with your grandchild? You’re not alone.

As spring approaches, you might be planning how to connect with your kids and grandkids around the important holiday of Passover.

As someone who’s supported many multifaith families, I’ve learned a lot about the similarities and differences between Easter and Passover. If your grandchildren celebrate both, here’s my advice based on my experiences.

First, Establish Boundaries

Find out what your children want to teach their children about both religions as this may help inform you about what is off limits when talking with the grandkids. What’re their thoughts on the Easter Bunny? Will the parents create an Easter egg hunt? Leading with curiosity and chesed (kindness) is so important in navigating conversations of multifaith backgrounds. Knowing the answers to these questions may also prevent you from saying something in front of your grandkids that doesn’t align with what they’re learning at home.

Do some research, and learn about the similarities and values present in each religion or in the holidays of Passover and Easter. Feel free to ask your child-in-law for more information. They may be more than happy to share with you what they know. If you’re interested in teaching your grandkids particular traditions that are meaningful to you, ask your child(ren) if that would be acceptable.

The more conversations you have—and the more open you are with each other—the more clarity you’ll get about the boundaries around religion in your grandchildren’s lives. You’ll also learn where you fit in and how you can help! Most important, approach everything with compassion. Try to be open-minded and accepting of all responses.

Reflect on What You Know—Then, Share Your Story

L’dor v’dor (from generation to generation) is an important value in Judaism. Consider which Passover traditions you want your grandchildren to know about and spend some time sharing stories from your own childhood. What has your seder looked like over the decades in your life? Children love to hear about adult’s childhoods, and this is a great way to engage your children and grandchildren in reflecting on what the holiday means to you.

In general, it’s always good to lean in to what you know. Spring holidays are a great opportunity for the kids to learn from both sides of their family; they may already have a tradition of Easter celebrations, and that’s great. You can contribute in your own unique way to the Passover traditions.

If your children feel comfortable talking to you about involving their kids in the holiday, offer concrete and age-appropriate ways to engage them. Separated by distance? Send your grandchildren a Passover-themed craft box (there are many companies making these pre-made holiday kits that you can order online), ship a box of matzah ball mix to cook together over Zoom or read them a Passover-themed bedtime story (check out PJ Library) over FaceTime. 

Learn Together

If you don’t know the answer to why certain rituals are part of a seder or your grandkids are curious about the history of something you don’t know, this presents a great opportunity to learn together.

If you’re hosting a seder, preparation is important. You have the opportunity to share your practice (kevah) and intention (kavanah) of the many ways one can prepare for spring, growth and communal learning. Sometimes, the best way to learn is to do. There is no one way to host a seder, and many families have developed seder traditions that are unique to them over time. They will learn what makes your family special.

Passover has many physical symbols that are part of the seder(order) and Haggadah (story). Share why you prepare in certain ways and what you need to buy at the grocery store to be ready. What do you enjoy cooking?

Think about how everyone can participate; maybe pre-assign parts (to adults and older children) and ask people to share a personal anecdote of how they relate to the theme they read about. Remember, the Haggadah is meant to tell the story in an open way that includes multiple generations and familiarity levels with the teachings it contains.

Emphasizing humility when learning with and from each other can create a welcoming environment; include grandchildren and family members of other faiths in the shared story of freedom. 

Make Your Seder Inclusive

One way to approach a family conversation is to consider the needs of both faith communities. As Jews, we are called to look deeply at the world around us and observe inequities so we know what freedoms we must fight for today. This value is shared across many faith communities.

Maybe this includes choosing an organization you’d all like to volunteer at or give resources to. Brainstorm ways to give to your local community.

In terms of the seder, inclusivity has always been an essential part of the event. At the beginning of the seder, the Haggadah quotes a text from Ta’anit 20b: “Let all who are hungry come and eat.” Here we are invited to have a welcoming approach for all people to partake in the seder with us. It is a mitzvah (good deed) to ensure that anyone who wants to can be part of the traditional meal.

Find Common Ground with Passover and Easter

Inclusion is already central to what Passover is about. I always like to ask kids to recall a time they felt excluded, and ask: “How did that make you feel?” Placing ourselves in a stranger’s shoes reminds us how we want to be treated and what we can do to learn more about other people, religions and cultures.

Have a conversation about how to help your grandkids relate to acts of tikkun olam (repairing our world). How do we put ourselves in the “strangers” shoes? What “modern day plagues” do your children and grandchildren relate to?

Passover is a holiday about freedom. Spend some time brainstorming together what freedom (or lack thereof) looks like in our country today. Weave these ideas throughout the telling of the Haggadah. This will look different to kids of different ages and backgrounds, and may even be an opportunity to incorporate a children’s book about a community unlike your own.

This is a time to give back and ensure that people of both faith communities can celebrate Passover and Easter in a joyous way. Consider a family donation to a charity that helps others celebrate these holidays.

Navigating the spring holiday season with your children and grandchildren takes effort, but the reward is learning about one another’s customs and traditions together.

Chag sameach (a happy holiday) to all!

Rabbi Elyssa Cherney

Rabbi Elyssa Cherney is an 18Doors Rukin Rabbinic Fellow. She leads lifecycle rituals for couples and families in Philadelphia who aren’t affiliated with a particular synagogue. The most important aspect of her work is helping others mark time through rituals big and small. She created the website to help people connect their Judaism to holy moments in their lives.