A Seder now considered one of the largest in the world is set to mark its 30th anniversary in what could be considered unlikely location: Nepal’s capital Kathmandu.
The communal event has become a regular fixture in this part of the Himalayas for the past three decades — but the first one, organised at a time before mass communications, was a significant challenge.
That Seder was the brainchild of then-rabbinical students Mendel Kastel and Mendel Lipskier, who arrived in Kathmandu just days before Passover in April 1989.
Visiting Nepal on their way to attend yeshiva in Australia, they worked together make sure the spaces were cleaned and all the chametz disposed, utensils koshered and food provided.
Rabbi Kastel recalled seeing “cows walking around the streets, and all the water for drinking and cooking had to be boiled.”
Even phone calls had to be scheduled in advance, he said, and a trade dispute with Israel threatened to block a shipment of matzah, kosher wine and gefilte fish coming into the country.
But there was great enthusiasm for the Seder. The Israeli embassy in the city had circulated a sign-up sheet expecting around 90 people to attend an event in a local restaurant.
But ballooning interest across Nepal and the wider region meant that it had to be held out of doors.
Eventually 500 Jews came to the Seder night. The card tables supplied to them were too small, so they borrowed doors from a hotel that was being constructed nearby and laid doors on top of them lent, so they had enough space to gather around and read through the Haggadah.
The 2018 Seder in Kathmandu, organised by Chabad, will be something of a reunion as Rabbi Kastel intends to return.
He will be bringing his entire family with him — his wife, Tzippi, their seven children and two grandchildren.