Doors are open at Thanks-Giving Square for young adults, 21-35
By Deb Silverthorn
WE (We Engage) invites Jewish adults ages 21 to 35 to celebrate together at its annual Passover Seder. Rabbi Heidi Coretz, SMU chaplain and Hillel director, will lead the Seder and dinner beginning at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 5, at Thanks-Giving Square, 1627 Pacific Ave. in Dallas.
“Our Passover Seder is such a fun experience, like all our programs, and something I really look forward to. I’m so happy we’re back at Thanks-Giving Square. Passover is one of our people’s most celebrated occasions and for good reason,” said Coretz, whose own family joins in the festivities. “It is the seminal story of our freedom, of our peoplehood.
“Our Haggadah has both Hebrew and English, with a modern and vibrant sharing of the Passover story,” she added. “We want everyone to feel welcome, to know we are not ‘too much,’ and ‘not enough’ — we’re ‘just right.’”
Open to grad students, and working professionals to age 35, the Passover Seder is just one of many programs WE provides throughout the year. There are monthly Shabbat dinners, other holiday celebrations and many other events, most of which are free thanks to an impact grant by the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas.
“That the Federation sees what we do, and understands the impact we have, is a great honor. Our students turn into our professionals who turn into supporters of the community. It’s full-circle support. I can’t say enough about how happy I am that those who make grant decisions respect and appreciate our efforts,” said Coretz.
After their 2020 Seder was canceled altogether, and smaller Seders at homes were held in 2021 and 2022, the WE Seder returns to Thanks-Giving Square, where both Coretz and Kyle Ogden, Thanks-Giving Square’s president and CEO, agree it belongs.
“It’s an honor to welcome Rabbi Coretz and the participants to Thanks-Giving Square and for us to share who we are. We are an organization based on respect for everyone and we’re thrilled to host this event,” said Ogden, who in prior years has been proud to welcome guests attending the Seders.
For Coretz, who has been a member of Dallas’ InterFaith Council for more than a decade, it is the bridge-building and caring core of Thanks-Giving Square that she says penetrates the Seder service and meal.
“Passover is about our freedom. For us to be in a place whose goal and heart is about diversity and inclusion, about harmony and goodwill, is perfection. The spirit in which we come to this Seder is to bring community to our students, mostly without local family. At Thanks-Giving Square we bring ourselves to the greater community,” she said.
Dr. Andy Stoker, chief engagement officer at Thanks-Giving Square, says that in its 60 years they have transformed who they are and seen even greater gratitude. “We welcome families and organizations to share their lives in our space and, in this Seder, we are truly lifted up,” he said.
This year’s Seder, catered by Cindi’s Deli with a typical menu including matzo ball soup and more, is BYOB to cover the four cups, with whatever a participant might want to partake in.
“The Passover Seder and all of the WE events are a great way to meet people, other young Jews. We’ve made so many friends, people we get together with, probably weekly, outside of the organized programs. Rabbi Heidi is everyone’s ‘Jewish Mom’ away from home. She has such warmth and couldn’t be more welcoming,” said Oscar Schechter.
Schechter, with Will Taylor, hosted a March 24 Shabbat dinner at their home. Schechter is a Hillel past-president and Taylor designed the WE logo, a Star of David, created from six puzzle pieces that connect just as participants of the organization do, each finding a place.
Richard and Megan Raizes have hosted a number of WE events including Shabbat dinners and the 2021 Seder on an outdoor patio. Richard first met Coretz as a freshman at SMU, in 2010. He has been connected with her through Hillel, the founding of WE and — in 2021 — at the couple’s wedding, where she officiated.
“Rabbi Heidi has been my rabbi since the day I got to SMU. She couldn’t be more wonderful. She brings community together. Now, as a young professional, I still appreciate her programs and events and coming together for Passover — really a family holiday — we feel like family. Rabbi makes it all very inclusive, with enough tradition and formality for respect but enough leeway and flexibility so that someone who has never shared a Passover Seder before would feel comfortable,” he said.
To RSVP (by end of day Sunday, April 2) for the WE Passover Seder, or for more information about future programs (the next Shabbat dinner is April 28), email HCoretz@smu.edu.