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[an error occurred while processing this directive] A Hadassah Holiday Feature

Hadassah Holiday Feature
March 16, 2001

New York, NY -- Although Israelis are often casual about other holidays, nearly all of them want to take part in Seder night. In Eilat, the hippies on the beach crowd into restaurants for matzah and wine and to remember the Exodus from Egypt. Even in high security prisons, convicts ironically celebrate the Holiday of Freedom. So if you're stranded in a hospital on the eve of Passover, you get to take part in the communal Seder there. If you're at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem you go to the "Lucky Seder."

The 100 or more guests come from different ethnic backgrounds. Some are Hassidim, some new immigrants from Russia, Yemenite Jews and Ethiopians. In the room there will be a dozen different tunes for Had Gadya. And let's face it: a lot of people in the room have a good excuse for being cranky. Even so, there a long list of young adults who want to lead the so-called "Lucky Seder" at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem each Passover.

Before the holiday, the ceremonial room, used the rest of the year for circumcisions, is transformed into a festive dining hall. A team of ten Hasidim comes to make sure that not a kugel crumb remains.

Every year, a young religious couple volunteers to lead the Seder. When they invite "all who are hungry and all who are needy" to come in a join the Seder, they aren't fooling around.

Many of the guests in Jerusalem will be victims of Passover-cleaning, a mania in Israel. Men with legs broken when falling from ladders while spring-cleaning hobble in from orthopedics. Patients with stomach aches from eating leftovers in the back of the refrigerator take their seats. A couple of poor souls with burns from koshering stoves with blowtorches always turn up.

Birthrates actually increase in Jerusalem at Pesach time, induced by pregnant women working too hard. At every Passover Seder at Hadassah Hospital there are always women in labor and those who have just delivered.

Doctors and nurses, lab technicians and anyone else who is on duty join patients.

"There's plenty of room for wheelchairs, but we draw the line at gurneys, although there is a mitzvah of reclining at the Seder meal," said Rabbi Jacob Rakovsky, Hadassah Medical Organization's full time rabbi.

Those who can't be rolled in get individualized Seder plates at their bedsides. An anonymous donor donates all the Seder food.

"Many of our patients are on special diets, and can't drink four cups of wine and eat so much matzah," said Rabbi Rakovsky. "We do the best we can."

The Four Questions are assigned at the last moment. The youngest might be a child from Hadassah's space-age Mother and Child Pavilion.

Latecomers sometimes arrive by ambulance.

If you're stuck at a hospital, why is this called "the Good Luck Seder?"

"There's a belief that there's a sgulah (lucky omen) in leading this Seder," said Rabbi Rakovsky. "Any couple that has done the mitzvah of leading the Seder at the hospital has been blessed that year with a baby. Any single person who has helped has quickly found a mate. That's why we have a waiting list of young people eager to spend Seder night in the hospital."

Founded in 1912, Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America is the largest women's and largest Jewish membership organization in the United States. In Israel, it supports medical care and research, education, and youth institutions, and reforestation and parks projects. In the US, Hadassah promotes health education, social action and advocacy, volunteerism, Jewish education and research, and connections with Israel.


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