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Diverse Communities Come Together for Interfaith Seders in 2009

Posted: April 23, 2009

In the weeks leading up to Passover, thousands of people from diverse faiths and ethnic backgrounds came together in different parts of the country to celebrate the Jewish tradition of the Passover Seder in events sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

The Passover holiday commemorates the deliverance from Egyptian bondage as the beginning of national history and the time of the barley season, remembrance of the relationship of Israel with the land.

In a longstanding tradition of furthering intergroup understanding, ADL brings together communities of differing faiths and ethnic backgrounds with Jews to learn about and celebrate the universal values and themes in the story of Passover: liberation from slavery, freedom from political oppression, the obligation to remember and teach about our heritage.

This year, in cities across the country, Interfaith Seders brought together Jews, Blacks, Hispanics, Catholics, religious and community leaders, and others, to share in the experience of the Seder. 

The following is a sampling of ADL Interfaith Seders held around the country in 2009:

Boston, MA

Approximately 500 people, including co-chairs Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and City Council President Michale Ross, attended a community Seder held at the University of Massachusetts-Boston campus. The “Nation of Immigrants”-themed event invited people of different religions, ethnicities, and sexual orientations to gather and discuss stories of heritage and culture.

Students from the Kwong Kow Chinese School played large red Chinese drums.  A large world map hung at the entrance, and attendees were invited to place stickers on it to represent their origins. Kosher meals of Caesar salad, matzo, and the traditional Seder plate were served to reflect the Passover traditions.

Denver, CO

On March 15, ADL’s Catholic/Jewish Dialogue held a Seder for Dialogue members and guests at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Aurora, Colorado.  Catholic members experienced a traditional Passover Seder, enhanced by commentary, readings, and songs from Jewish members who shared their family traditions and learning.  The Mountain States Catholic/Jewish Dialogue has been meeting for more than 25 years, encouraging understanding and respect for each tradition’s beliefs and providing a forum for discussing issues that arise in Catholic and/or Jewish communities.

Los Angeles, CA

The “Immigrant Journey” Seder, conducted by Rabbi Stephen Julius Stein at Wilshire Boulevard Temple on March 31, was co-led by Sister Angela Hallihan, Secondary School Religion Coordinator, Department of Catholic Schools, LA Archdiocese, and hosted by ADL's Asian Jewish Initiative, Latino Jewish Roundtable and Holocaust Education Committee. 

In attendance were lay leaders, diplomats from Austria, China, France, Hungary, Mexico, Switzerland and Turkey, representatives of community agencies from the Asian and Latino communities and Catholic School teachers who are alumni of the ADL Bearing Witness™ program.  At the conclusion of the Seder, all voices joined together to sing “Next Year in Jerusalem.”

New York, NY

NY Archbishop Timothy Dolan joined more than one hundred seventh and eight-graders from the Immaculate Conception School of Jamaica Estates, Queens and the Solomon Schechter Day School of Nassau County for the fourth annual Interfaith Freedom Seder.

Seder participants asked the Four Questions of Passover, recounted the ten plagues inflicted on ancient Egypt and ate matzo – the traditional Passover unleavened bread.  Each table contained the traditional Passover Seder plate, as well as multi-colored jellybeans to represent diversity, and twizzlers candy to represent the whips of slavery.  More

San Diego, CA

Sixty-five students from San Diego Jewish Academy and Cathedral Catholic High School came together to learn the rituals of Passover, eat the traditional foods and sing songs. The program included participation in and explanations of the traditional Passover service, with symbolic foods that represent the trials and tribulations of the Israelite people as they struggled to achieve freedom from slavery in Egypt. Educators from both schools prepared the students by teaching the meaning of the biblical story of the Exodus in both faiths and how it can bring about greater understanding among communities.

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