Okon’s mega-Seder honors Israeli hostages
Photos: Submitted
Dallas resident Louis Okon set up a 110-foot long seder table as a tribute to the 133 Israeli hostages remaining in captivity, who were abducted on Oct. 7, 2023.

By Michael Sudhalter

From a young age, Passover has always been Louis Okon’s favorite holiday.

“Passover is about celebrating freedom,” said Okon, a fourth-generation Dallas resident. “I like to have a good mix of serious, covering the bases from a normal seder but also having a fun and memorable experience.”

Six years ago, Okon and his friend, Krista Weinstein, began collaborating on a mega-Seder in Okon’s backyard. It included complete with 50 guests, a burning bush, a 40-foot-tall pyramid, elaborate afikoman scavenger hunts and rented camels. 

It’s a tradition they’ll continue.

This year’s Seder, however, took on a somber meeting, given Israel’s ongoing war and the thought of the 133 Israeli hostages still in captivity, who were abducted on Oct. 7.

“I feel pretty hopeless, given the situation,” Okon said. “This is something we could do to honor and bring attention to the hostages.”

Okon and Weinstein had a conversation about having a Seder table for the hostages, in the street, in front of  Okon’s home. They decided if they were going to do it, it would take significant time and resources.

With the help of volunteers, Okon set up a 110-foot long table, full china, gold silverware, flowers, vases, Haggadahs and high chairs for small children. There was a picture of each hostage on the back of each seat.

“In the story of Passover, Moses says ‘Let my people go’” Okon said. “This table was not only a tribute to honor the hostages but on Passover, our way of telling the world, ‘Let my people go!’”

Okon, who belongs to Temple Emanu-El, said he often prays for the hostages’ safe return.

“We wanted to set up the table in a way that if the people (could) show up, this is the table they’d want to sit at,” Okon said.

The tribute was up for just one evening, because Okon did not want to inconvenience his neighbors. The attendees helped remove the table from the street by 2 a.m. following the Seder.

The word got out in the Dallas community about Okon’s poignant and symbolic dedication.

“I received a lot of messages from people I know and people I don’t,” Okon said. “They were amazed by it.”

President of Okon Recycling, Okon is the fourth-generation leader of the company that his great-grandfather started in the early 20th Century. A graduate of The Greenhill School and Indiana University, Okon has two daughters and a son, the oldest of whom is graduating from Hillcrest High School next month and attending Tulane University.

Okon has visited Israel twice, first on a men’s trip about six years ago.

“I was on Masada and made the decision to have my son’s bar mitzvah in Israel, so we went back in 2020 during COVID,” Okon said.

The theme of this year’s mega-Seder was “Exodus 2024” with a total of four high school graduates spending their final year at the event, before heading off to college

“Our seder is constantly evolving,” Okon said. “The kids get excited for it every year. I’ve learned that having a bush on fire for a few hours is a lot harder than it may sound. It only lasted eight minutes before this year, and we got it up to 90 minutes (this year).”

There’s something called a “Passover Pre-Game”, which is comparable to a happy hour.

The two camels were brought in from Austin and Houston so attendees could enjoy a ride through the neighborhood.

“Renting camels is not an easy process,” Okon said. “This is the third year I’ve had camels.”

Each year is a little bit different, and Okon likes to try new things.

“It’s more of a progression,” Okon said. “If something works well, we may keep it or tweak it. We add more stuff as we go.”

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