Add Some CTN to Your Seder

  • For the last few weeks, Jews all over the world have been organizing, cleaning, cooking and stressing about the upcoming Passover Seder. Similar to the preparation for camp, there’s a lot to be done! Here are a few tricks of the trade, taken straight from the CTN playbook, to help make your seder even more memorable.

    Name games…The very first thing we do at camp, regardless of whether this is your first summer or you have been to camp for forty years, it is important to start by making sure that everyone in your cabin and activity group feels comfortable and is known by name. The Seder can be a long night and starting off with games and ice breakers will ensure that your guests are engaged and excited. If you are having new guests at your Seder, consider doing a quick name game such as name tag mania. If you’d consider your family and friends “returning campers” that already know one another, play a round of no teeth challenge. One trick that a veteran CTN counselor taught me last year was the value of creating community at your table. At CTN, we sit by mixed tables (boys and girls of different ages) and by creating nicknames for each member of the group the campers and staff all bond together. Form that bond and that sense of belonging and community and the rest will fall into place.


    Make it unique and special….Why is this night different from all other nights? The goal of the Seder is not to provide answers, but to solicit questions by doing special things not typically done during the year (leaning while we eat as an example).  Some have the custom of bringing props and games to the Seder with the purpose of enticing children to be more engaged and ask questions (the real purpose of why we sing Ma Nishtanah). Camp spends 10 months of the year thinking about how to make the 2 months of camp special, unique, and different. Add some CTN flare by adding shtick, fun, and goofiness to your Seder. Tutus, animal themed onesies, and jokes are a great way to bring camp into your festivities. If you’re feeling ambitious, perhaps you will consider breaking Color War? Whatever you do, make it different from your typical meal by being bold and silly.

    Know your audience….Last summer I spent a lot of time walking around camp and talking to our campers to get to know exactly what they love about CTN. The most common answer, “my counselors!”. When I asked what it was that they loved most about their counselors, I would often hear about how a staff member knew their favorite activity, or one counselor always made sure to dance with them when their favorite song came on. We all know how special it feels when someone really knows us, and makes the extra effort to show us they care. Our staff go out of their way to get to know our campers and passionately and enthusiastically look for opportunities to show them how much they care! Find out what your guests favorite drinks are, and create place cards by putting individual cans/bottles. Do you know that someone always loves hiding the Afikomen? Give them the honor and allow them introduce that part of the seder – it will help them feel more engaged and special.

    song sessionPlay us a song….Nothing builds community, enthusiasm, and camp spirit quite like singing. One of my favorite traditions at CTN is Saturday afternoon sing. Piano Man, Circle Game, or more recent crowd favorites like Wonderwall, help bond our campers and staff to each other and camp tradition. Some have the custom to end the Seder with Passover songs. Dayenu is one of my family’s favorites, but why stop there? If your guests are really into a good song session, ask them to share the lyrics of songs they love that can relate to the themes of Passover- freedom, new beginnings, connecting with the past, and building for future generations. As I am tone deaf, and everyone in my family is almost as bad- singing can be a challenge at my house- we like to lip sync or do karaoke instead. Think about making a playlist of some of your favorite songs and ending the meal with a good old fashioned song session- camp fire optional!

    gstoreCamp is all about collaboration and teamwork. Our staff are always helping each other out and balancing tons of different projects. It is not uncommon for a staff member to play the role of bunk counselor, coach, lifeguard, trip organizer, entertainer, parent, athletic trainer, and life coach – all in one day. Camp isn’t successful without teamwork, and we are constantly teaching our campers the value of helping out and giving back. The Dining Hall is no exception. Camp meals end with everyone pitching in to clean. After all the eating, singing, laughter, and entertainment, end your Seder with good ol’ fashioned teamwork. If you want to stack like we do at camp, great- either way make sure clean-up is a group activity! If your guests need a little incentive- try a CTN tradition and give out a trip to the G-store!

    Finally, remember that camp is all about the people and relationships. We encourage our staff to remember that programs are rarely perfect, sometimes schedules get changed, but if we always invest in building relationships and spending time with our friends everything will work out. When all is said and done, and your Seder is over you won’t be focusing on how delicious the matzah balls were, or if the décor was flawless, but you will remember the laughs, time together, and the special people that celebrated with you!

    Happy Passover- enjoy your Seder. Make it fun, engaging, festive, and memorable!

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