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Mehrgenerationhaus, Heidelberg-Rohrbach

April 19th, 2011

It is an interesting movement – the Multigenerational Houses in Germany. Although we have been living in Heidelberg off and on since 1993, this past week was the first time that I learned anything about them. Getting an email from Helena, another member of the US military related Jewish community – she mentioned that the Heidelberg Haus might be the perfect place to hold a community Seder for those of us not inclined to go the orthodox route.

The principle is simple, and honestly obvious once one thinks about it. It is simply a type of house where unrelated people of all ages live and create a family. Own room with bath is the standard. The cooking facilities are in common as are recreational spaces. Many offer community services, such as kindergarten so that you can’t think this is a substitution for the old residential hotels or boarding houses and it really is not a group home. This is essentially a location where people create a family of choice, not limited by age, gender or physical abilities.  Many are Evangelisch sponsored, but not all.

The Haus in Heideleberg was established in 2007. I think Helena found it when she was looking for a child care/kindergarten location for one of her small children. This particular community is an incredibly interesting mix of ages, interests and country of origin back ground.

So there we are – setting up for a Seder of about 45 people of ages from crawling to walking to rolling to ambulating through the children with care, stiffness, and cane. Americans, ex-Russians, Germans, Israelis, Spaniards and probably a couple more countries of origin that I missed.

room full of people

just before the Seder

The Seder itself reminding me in many ways of the one I attended in Budapest – 1998. Scattered tables (only way to fit enough people into the room) and someone sort of leading but a lot of chaos and multiple languages. So I should not have been surprised at a Russian Haggadah being translated in German with most of the songs done in Hebrew (have you ever heard some of them translated into local language? shudder). Lots of introductory remarks, most of the long passages skipped as well as spilling wine for the plagues (all those kids? a chance to drip juice/wine?).

There was more than enough to eat (as always – turkey, chicken, veggies, salads, fruits and more matzoh) and a lot of discussions.

taking time for conversation

taking time for conversation

The Piano became multi-use, serving for both buffet and concluding music.

and music at the end

and music at the end

I think a good time was had by everyone, Carlos and others did the clean up (first Seder in years where I haven’t had the opportunity to spend an hour in soap suds up to my elbows).
The Maus – earlier in the afternoon, after doing the vegetables for the Tsmimmis, helping with the turkeys (which we precooked in our ovens) and helping hem some sheets into table cloths before heading to the kitchen to make the Charoset, announced she was a jewel of a daughter.
Maus - the Jewel

Maus - the Jewel

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  1. April 20th, 2011 at 21:08 | #1

    Really very interesting concept. Wonder if this is happening in the US?

    Maus is a keeper.

  2. Helena
    April 20th, 2011 at 21:13 | #2

    it was a little chaotic I admit! BUT EVERYBODY LOVED IT!!!
    I asked Emma how she liked it when we rode the bike home, which Seder she liked better. ANd she said this one, I asked why and she replied cause there was nice songs and music!!!
    So next year- G-d willing since we have much room for improvement we will read the Haggadah with not many explanations and SING and PLAY MUSIC!!!

  3. Linda
    April 20th, 2011 at 21:18 | #3

    I’m so glad you had a happy Passover Seder and that things are going well with at least one child.

  4. Carmen
    April 20th, 2011 at 21:19 | #4

    Wonderful find!

    I have been reading about this type of housing – here it is called communal housing or community housing. There’s a big article on new housing modes in the AARP Bulletin this month.

    I think this is very interesting, and I am so glad you found a good place for Seder!

  5. Steven
    April 20th, 2011 at 21:25 | #5

    Fascinating idea, these houses. How many of those attending the seder lived in this particular one? I have no doubt that she is, in fact, a jewel. :-)

  6. Holly
    April 20th, 2011 at 21:26 | #6

    I think about 1/2 attending were in someway affiliated with the house including volunteers, staff and 3-4 who live there. it was hard to tell, and no one really cared, which was part of why it was so cool.

  7. Ann
    April 20th, 2011 at 21:28 | #7

    Lovely! Were most of the residents Jewish?

  8. Ruth
    April 20th, 2011 at 21:30 | #8

    Your Seder sounds perfect to me! I am numbers challenged this year…no sons home (Jeremy flies to Barksdale AFB this morning) to help celebrate, and my good friends all dealing with BIG stuff and un-available this year.
    Any thoughts on a Seder for two?

  9. Janet
    April 20th, 2011 at 21:31 | #9

    What a wonderful holiday… You are truly blessed as are your family and friends.

  10. Berg
    April 22nd, 2011 at 08:16 | #10

    Sounds like you all had a wonderful and memorable time. A ziessen Pesach to you all

  11. Brad
    April 22nd, 2011 at 13:43 | #11

    Let me know how it feels.

    I was retired for one day, and did not have time to savor the experience.

  12. Mark
    April 22nd, 2011 at 13:44 | #12

    I had a few friends who had a similar problem. One former SGM was doing a OCONUS(Stuggart) to OCONUS(Alaska) retirement. He had a few problems but had it worked out finally. He said there was a little mess trying to get it done properly. AS you mentioned the problem is with the knuckleheads in the Pentagon. I wonder how bad it was during Vietnam era when Navy guys wanted to retire at Subic Bay.
    Good luck.

  13. Cheryl
    April 23rd, 2011 at 08:59 | #13

    Of course, you always knew that anyway (about the Maus) :) Happy Passover!

  14. Bruce
    April 23rd, 2011 at 09:03 | #14

    Betty and I liked the pix of the seder.

  15. Chere
    April 24th, 2011 at 12:55 | #15

    Nice concept. George is looking well, and sort of elf-like. Is there any significance to white skullcaps?

    Seder at our church is tomorrow, did Brad tell you we’re Unitarian Universalists? UU, where all your answers are questioned….

    My moment to shudder= food on a piano- I cringe at the thought.

    I didn’t recognize the Maus at first, how they grow….

    Happy Spring and all attendant events,

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