Jews invite others to share Passover traditions at the Seder table
Published 12:36 pm, Thursday, April 14, 2011
Jews around the world will mark the beginning of Passover on Tuesday with a traditional Seder meal, using traditional ingredients including matzo, bitter herbs, wine, hard-boiled eggs, lettuce and other symbolic foods to represent the Jewish exodus from Egypt, where they had been enslaved.
Congregations in Fairfield and Westport are observing Passover in different ways.
Congregation Ahavath Achim in Fairfield will have a large communal meal at the synagogue. In Westport, the Conservative Synagogue has hosted community Seders in the past, but last year instead matched people with its congregants willing to invite others into their home to share the holiday meal.
"The Seder encompasses a full experience. It's really a wedding celebration between man and God. We sit down to a festive meal and talk about the story of our freedom and the meaning of our freedom in general. We look to God, the source of our freedom, to thank Him and appreciate what we have. We have a responsibility to protect our freedom," said Rabbi Mitchell Rocklin of Congregation Ahavath Achim.
"We use a text that's been used for many centuries. The discussions get to the root of freedom and the modern experience. We study traditional text and apply it to the modern context as well," he said.
It's not a lecture. There is open discussion, he said. "We have lively discussions about the issues of the day. It's a good social time as well," Rocklin said.
The traditional text readings and the discussion take on a different form in the Glick household in Westport. Phil and Sara Glick, congregants of the Conservative Synagogue, said their Seder meals are not traditional.
"They are in the sense that we have all of the expected foods and we do all of the expected parts of the Seder, but we don't just sit there and read through the (Torah) like most people remember from their childhood, myself included," Phil Glick said. "We go out of our way to find ways to make it interesting for our kids, for our guests, and for my nieces and nephews," he said.
"As parents of young children, my kids are 10 and 12, my wife and I look for every opportunity we can to connect our kids with Judaism, and the Passover meal is an opportunity to do that amongst a lot of family and friends, and it's a way to make it fun," Glick said.
One year they told the story of the Exodus through a puppet show. "We all made puppets. We've done plays that we've written ourselves complete with costumes and scripts. We one year did it as a musical, where we wrote our own songs," he said.
A couple of years ago, the Glick family did their "TV Guide" Seder, where every different part of the Seder was a takeoff on some television show. "Our favorite part was the telling of the Ten Plagues, which we did as (the game show) `Deal or No Deal,' " Glick said.
They will return to a TV show or game show theme for this year's Seder meal. Glick said he's leaning toward "Jeopardy." "Originally, we thought Glee, but that's a lot of work to come up with that many original songs," he said.
Glick said he doesn't look just to the future, through his children, for the significance or connection to the Seder. He also has an eye in the direction of the past. Opening his home to others for the Seder meal provides him a connection to the great grandparents he never met.
"My mother said that as a child (she remembers) her grandfather would go to a synagogue service before the Seder and they never knew what stranger passing through town he would bring home with him," Glick said.
"When the synagogue started doing this last year, instead of having a community service at the synagogue, I volunteered because it gave me a connection to my great grandfather (Morris Zaas)," Glick said. "It was nostalgic for my mom as well that I did that," he said.
In Fairfield, the Seder is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Tuesday in the synagogue, 1571 Stratfield Road.
Rocklin said Congregation Ahavath Achim hopes to offer the Passover experience to as many Jews as possible, but said the community Seder is open to non-Jews as well. "We're looking to open our synagogue to the area. This is one event of many that we do throughout the year," he said.
The event fee is $15 per person and reservations are required. Space is limited. Registration closes Sunday or when space is filled. To register call 203-372-6529 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A listing of community Seders and other Passover events throughout the nation is available at the website, www.chabad.org.