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Fired-up Birthright Israel returnees get help hosting seders

by dan pine, j. staff

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At the seder he is hosting next week, San Jose State University student Eric Medeiros predicts that he will break into song, perhaps belting out a rousing rendition of “Be Our Guest” from Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.”

Medeiros, 25, will do Passover his way, just as the organizers of Next: A Division of Birthright Israel would have it.

A seder in San Francisco last year hosted by a Birthright Israel alum  photo/next: a division of birthright israel
A seder in San Francisco last year hosted by a Birthright Israel alum photo/next: a division of birthright israel
Since 2011, Next has been helping Birthright alumni like Medeiros run their own seders. By registering to host, alumni gain access to Passover recipes, haggadahs, hosting tips and, most importantly, cash to help pay for the dinner.

“Next has been really fantastic,” said Medeiros, who went to Israel on a Birthright trip in 2007. “It’s an awesome program designed to keep people connected to Israel and their Jewish identity.”

For several years, Next has been offering a Shabbat dinner program, offering to defray the costs by providing $10 per person, up to 16 attendees. The same rules apply to the Next Passover seder program.

“We know the $10 [per guest] enables them to host people,” said Adam Pollack, an S.F.-based regional director for Next. “This is something they want to do anyway. It gives them an opportunity to share [Passover] with their friends in their home.”

Pollack says since the program began, Next has sponsored more than 1,000 seders, 150 of them in the Bay Area.

The Next Passover website offers tips to customize the seder, such as: Use technology, such as online haggadahs and iPhone apps, to find Passover songs; invite non-Jews; create themes, such as social justice; and include non-traditional symbols, such as an orange on the seder plate.

The website also has suggestions for Israeli wines.

The bottom line is enabling young adults who were energized by a Birthright Israel trip to stay connected to Judaism. “It empowers Birthrighters to interconnect with friends in new and authentic ways, and create Jewish life for themselves,” Pollack said.

For his seder in San Jose, Medeiros said he might have as many as 20 guests, including many who have never experienced Passover before. Thus, he’s happy Next is there for guidance.

“They don’t have to worry about bringing something extravagant or worrying about what’s kosher or not,” he said. “Just show up and have a great time … It’s rare in college to do a seder yourself with the people you know. You take ownership and get more excited about it.”

For details about Next’s Passover seder program, visit


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