Hosting an online Seder, or virtual Seder, or a “Streaming Seder,” as we are calling ours, takes longer to explain than it does to set up. (If you are wondering what a Seder is, you can think of it as an interactive dinner party with a script.) Here’s how to make your Streaming Seder a smashing success.
The Online Invitation
The tech is easy. You can use Zoom, Google Hangouts, or any one of a dozen video conferencing tools. Choose one you like. I am using Zoom for our Streaming Seder because almost everyone attending is already very familiar with Zoom. But, again, there are dozens of easy-to-use solutions out there.
Gather the email addresses of your participants and send a calendar invite with the video conferencing login codes. You can do this from inside any video conferencing app. If you don’t use an online calendar, simply copy and paste the event details and send them using your normal email account.
Send instructions. (Sample below.)
To run your Streaming Seder, place your laptop, tablet or cellphone on the table in front of you, login and run your event – that’s it. Now, if you have your family around your physical table and want to get creative (and you’ve got some video skills), you can designate one of the people in your home (or tag team) the job of cameraperson – this allows you to go around the table and take some close-ups, etc.
My least favorite option is to put the laptop or camera far enough away so that everyone is always on camera – it makes it hard for your online guests to really see anything. That said, if you are designating a camera person or if you are going to move your laptop, smartphone or tablet around the table remember that your online guests are watching a video, so try to keep your camera moves smooth and steady as possible.
Audio Issues You Will Absolutely Have to Deal With
To make your life extremely easy, use one location, one connection. In other words, only one device per physical space should be connected to your Streaming Seder. Why? Audio feedback. To have more than one device logged in to the same meeting, all but one must have both their speakers and their microphones muted. This means muting the microphone (very easy) AND turning off the speakers on the devices.
You can do this easily, but telling non-technical people how to get this done comes with its own brand of stress. “Dad, just press the volume down button… no… not on your laptop, on Aunt Edna’s phone.” “But then how will Aunt Edna hear?” “She’ll hear on the speakers from your laptop.” “My laptop? What about her phone? She wants to hear it on her phone.” Multiply this by several non-tech-savvy relatives or friends, and you can see how this can quickly devolve into chaos. So follow this simple rule: One location, one connection. Problem solved.
The Haggadah is the text we recite at the Seder. To get everyone reading from the same page, you need everyone to have the same document. The low-tech way is to all use the same Haggadah. This is not always practical. In my family’s case, it was impossible. So, I created a pdf version of our family Haggadah. There are two ways to do this: (1) Scan the pages and make a quick pdf. (2) Make your own.
I chose option (2) this year. I scanned our family Haggadah, screen captured the Hebrew text, rewrote the parts I wanted to rewrite, and added family pictures where appropriate. I used the opportunity to highlight and codify our modern family traditions alongside the ancient ones. I sent it as a pre-read. So far, the reviews are pretty good.
No matter what the content of your pdf Haggadah, make sure it has page numbers. Online or in-person, after the third cup of wine, you will need to tell someone in the group what page you’re on.
What Guests Need to Do
To get the most out of the evening, guests should prepare and gather the ritual foods and have them available.
Modify the following to fit your needs:
- Hi all — I sent a calendar invite for April Xth at Xpm, but I wanted to send you a PDF that includes a description of the evening, instructions, and our revised for 2020 family Haggadah (the text we shall recite at the Seder). You may want to print it out (or have it available on a second device) for the evening. If you would like to enjoy the ceremonial food during our Streaming Seder, please have the following ready:
- Bitter herbs (Horseradish will do nicely)
- Charoset (Apples, Walnuts, Red Wine, Cinnamon, Sugar – chopped & mixed)
- Hard-boiled egg
- Parsley or other leafy greens (plus a small dish of saltwater)
- Red wine (Four cups per person – this is a minimum, not a maximum)
The link to the event is https://zoom.us/xxxxxxxxxxx
If you have any questions, please reach out.
It’s Really Just a Video Conference Call with a Twist
A Streaming Seder is really just a video conference call – with a twist. You may have couples and families gathering instead of just a group of singular talking heads. As everyone becomes more familiar and more comfortable with video conferencing (for obvious reasons), this will get easier. That said, do not let the “tech-y” part of this scare you at all. Social distancing does not mean social isolation. The spring holiday season is a beautiful time to gather family and friends and to count our blessings.
A Streaming Seder or any streaming meal, social gathering or just a one-on-one check-in is the very best way to stay connected to the things that make us most human. To my friends who celebrate, chag sameach and a zissen Pesach.
Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it.