7 Tips for Celebrating Passover with Your Non-Jewish Partner

We’re all a little ethnocentric. In other words, we all tend to view other cultures through our own subjective lens, believing our perspectives to be the best. 

How then do we bridge a perceptual difference of culture with our non-Jewish partners? A holiday like Pesach affords an opportunity for you to share your Jewish heritage in ways that can be spiritually uplifting for both you and your loved ones. 

In my work coaching Jewish-Gentile couples, I once met a Jewish woman who was eager to introduce her Christian fiancé to her traditions at Pesach. At first, he was uncomfortable, imagining himself as the “outsider” at her event. Sensing his wariness, she focused on an aspect of the Passover story she knew was safe for him: the biblical account. So, one evening, they sat together and read about her history in the Torah. That opened a discussion about spiritual truths they had in common.

Here are seven tips I’ve learned from couples like them to steer interfaith partners past our ethnocentric tendencies and toward a shared cultural—even spiritual—experience at Pesach. 

1. Highlight the Historical Inclusivity of Passover

Passover is a story of inclusion. That’s not a political or even a sociological trope. You might not know or might have forgotten about the others who left Egypt with the Israelites. Moses reported a “mixed multitude” left with the Hebrews (Exodus 12:38).

Moses also told the Hebrews they should welcome “the stranger” or ger, often translated “Gentile,” to the Passover festival.1 This is a reminder that we too were once outsiders in captivity: “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34).

This year, highlight that fact for your non-Jewish partner. Point out the way that men and women, adults and children are all included in the celebration in key ways. Let your partner know that they have a seat at the table—they have always had a seat at the table!

2. Let Them Be Part of the Preparation 

Including your partner at Passover doesn’t have to wait until the Seder. After all, a good portion of the instructions for the holiday are pertaining to preparation. Try including your non-Jewish partner in this phase! 

If they enjoy wine, ask them to pick out their favorite bottle of red for the occasion. If they’re gifted with cooking, provide them with a family recipe for charoset (or point them to a new one online). If they love to be social, ask them to curate the guest list, combining friends and family from both of your spheres.

Ask about their favorite foods and family meals and try to incorporate those dishes or flavors into the menu for the meal together. Maybe this year’s Seder meal will include matzah ball soup and Korean BBQ brisket. Or Jamaican jerk chicken. Or shepherd’s pie. 

Being involved in the preparation can help your partner feel like part of the occasion—not just an observer. Doing it together reminds us of the important part we each have to play in a much bigger story. 

3. Share the Sensory Experience

The Lord called out three essential elements that should always be part of our Seder plate: roasted lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs (Exodus 12:8). Bitter herbs (it was always horseradish for me) are a reminder of the brutal slavery that provoked our people to cry out to God. Matzah is the bread of affliction (Deuteronomy 16:3). And the lamb’s blood on the doorposts was a signal that all within those homes were trusting in His deliverance from their slavery; the Lord would pass over them when He saw it (Exodus 12:23).

For those of us who grew up celebrating Passover, we’re familiar with those elements— meanings, textures, and smells. But they could all be new to your Gentile partner. Take time to experience each element at the table so your partner can develop those memory triggers just like you developed as a child—pass around the shank bone, hold the matzah up to the candle, take a deep whiff of the horseradish. The things we see, touch, taste, and smell make the Passover story come alive. After all, we are meant to observe the Passover as if we ourselves are leaving Egypt.

4. Show How Humor Balances Heaviness 

It has been said that Jews can summarize Passover (and any Jewish holiday) with three sentences: “They tried to kill us. God/we won! Let’s eat!”

The Passover story is a heavy account. So, humor is an appropriate balance. Let your Gentile partner in on the little secret that Jewish humor has always been our coping mechanism against a pessimistic outlook in the face of so many trials. As a rabbi once explained, “Hence, as Jews, we are optimists—with worried looks on our faces.”2

When I was growing up, family friends would host a themed Seder in their home. Every year they gave all of us new ridiculous hats. One year, they were safari pith helmets, the next, cowboy hats. The themes had no relation to Passover, but wearing them for the duration kept us perpetually aware of how levity and weight can go hand in hand.

5. Make This Night Different from All Other Nights 

A great way to include your non-Jewish partner in a familiar celebration is to create an aspect that is new to you too.

One year, after having learned that the first Passover happened on the first full moon of the year, we decided that an impromptu post-Seder trip outdoors was in order. We all went out and looked up at the night sky, basking in the bright lunar light of Passover. It was such a memorable new way to feel connected to the story we had just read together, knowing that our ancestors saw that same moon on the night of their deliverance from Egypt. Going for a walk after all that reclining could be a new tradition you incorporate with your partner!

One of the traditional four questions in the Haggadah asks, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” Instead of jumping straight to our retelling, ask everyone around your table to answer with something that is different or new about this year’s celebration for them—it could be their first Passover as a new parent, their first time trying horseradish, or the first time they’ve ever attended a Seder! Giving each person a chance to share what makes this year’s celebration unique can “level the playing field” and make your non-Jewish partner feel welcome.

6. Call Out Familiar Pieces of the Seder 

As a symbolic meal, the Passover Seder is full of some unusual moments: salty parsley, the mention of graphic plagues, and lots of discussion about blood. It’s meant to be weird—after all, it’s to help us remember.

That doesn't mean, however, that it will all be foreign to your non-Jewish partner. Many Gentiles have heard of, seen, or even participated in the Christian practice called “communion.” The practice actually originates from Passover, often done while quoting the words Jesus said to his disciples when they ate the matzah and drank the third cup, the Cup of Redemption.

Some have also likened the eager anticipation of Elijah to that of children awaiting Santa Claus at Christmas. Some parents even go so far as to drink from Elijah’s cup when the children run to the door and, upon their return, claim that they just missed him.

Thanks to The Prince of Egypt, The Rugrats, and four hours of Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments, many Gentiles are at least vaguely familiar with Passover. Try asking your non-Jewish partner if they’ve ever encountered the story or the symbolism before. What was their experience like? What do they remember? Listening is part of discovery!

7. Relate the Hope of Passover to Our Current Moment 

At Passover, we acknowledge both our ancestors’ struggles and the Lord’s commitment to save and sustain us against all odds. Moses told the people of Israel, “It is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery” (Deuteronomy 7:8).

In a time of such heightened global antisemitism—and when some are in physical captivity—the story we retell can feel especially poignant. Pesach is an opportunity to communicate to our allies and loved ones about the importance of Jewish survival and freedom

Our survival is something to celebrate! Rabbi Malka Packer-Monroe, founder of 18Doors Atlanta, facilitates Seder dinners for interfaith couples. She shared sage advice that is worth repeating: “We have a choice every moment.... We can think about fear and scarcity and not enough-ness. We can feel we are not going to be okay and we are not safe, or we can go into that place of faith and gratitude.”3

As we celebrate Passover with our partners, may we remember to be grateful—for those around the table and for a God who has sustained us. As we conclude our evenings with the cup of Hallel, let’s “give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. And His loyal love endures forever” (Psalm 118:1).


  1. Numbers 9:14–15.
  2. Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, Jewish Humor: What the Best Jewish Jokes Say About the Jews (New York: William Morrow & Co., 1992), 26.
  3. Bob Bahr, “Rabbi Confronts Interfaith Couples’ Fear, Uncertainty,” Atlanta Jewish Times, April 8, 2020.