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Thousands Reached Through Interfaith Seders in 2008

Posted: April 8, 2008

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.

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.  Many of this year's community Seders focused on the theme of "A Nation of Immigrants" -- celebrating America's rich cultural and ethnic diversity on the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's landmark essay of that name, which was reissued this year by ADL and publisher Harper Perennial.

The following is a sampling of some of the many ADL Interfaith Seders held around the country this year:

Boston, MA

ADL's New England Region hosted three Interfaith community Seders this April, with more than 1,000 guests coming together to celebrate:

  • The 2nd Annual "A Nation of Immigrants" Seder brought together a diverse group of participants who shared in Passover traditions and made connections among all of our stories of exodus and freedom. The planning committee was comprised of leaders from dozens of ethnic communities in Greater Boston, and the event included: a unique Haggadah which incorporated American immigration stories into the traditional telling of the Passover story; lively music in English, Spanish and Hebrew; and personal stories from Thamy Almeida, an ADL A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute Peer Trainer who immigrated from Brazil as a young child and recounted the difficulties she faced when she arrived, and Regional Board Member and Boston City Councilor, Mike Ross, who shared a personal story of his father, who immigrated to this country after surviving the Holocaust.
  • The North Shore Interfaith Seder was hosted at the Jewish Community Center in Marblehead, MA and included the awarding of the Lenny Zakim Humanitarian Award to Cohen Hillel Academy and the Ford School of Lynn. These two schools, a Jewish day school and an urban public school, were honored for their longstanding mentoring partnership. Students and their families joined with hundreds of other guests at this event. 
  • The South Shore Interfaith Seder was held at Congregation Sha'aray Shalom in Hingham, MA, and was co-sponsored by more than 20 local congregations and No Place for Hate® community leaders. This unique event for the South Shore area builds bridges of understanding among neighbors that continue to be strengthened though other ADL programs in schools, houses of worship and communities throughout the South Shore of Massachusetts.

Chicago, IL

In partnership with the Chicago Urban League and Leaders United, ADL hosted the 11th annual African-American/Jewish Seder, which brought together more than 500 business, civil and community leaders for an evening of celebration and tradition on April 2.  The "Freedom Seder" was co-officiated by the Rev. Dr. Leon Finney of Metropolitan Apostolic Community Church and Rabbi C. Michelle Greenberg of Temple Jeremiah.  The Seder reaffirms the spiritual ties binding the African-American and Jewish communities, including their similar histories and shared commitment to opposing bigotry in all forms.

Los Angeles, CA

As part of a longstanding tradition of furthering intergroup understanding, ADL's Pacific Southwest Region brought 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.  The "Nation of Immigrants" Seder, conducted by Rabbi Stephen Julius Stein at Wilshire Boulevard Temple on April 9, was hosted by the ADL's Asian Jewish Initiative, Latino Jewish Roundtable and Holocaust Education Committee.  In attendance were ADL leaders, diplomats from China, the Philippines, Mexico and Israel, representatives of community agencies from the Asian and Latino communities, and Catholic school teachers who are alumni of the
ADL Bearing Witness™ program.  All participants received a copy of John F. Kennedy's A Nation of Immigrants, the landmark essay on the contribution of immigrants to American society. At the conclusion of the Seder, which was a moving experience for all in attendance, 100 voices joined together to say, "Next Year in Jerusalem."

New Orleans, LA

The Fifth Annual Interfaith Passover Seder was held in New Orleans on April 3 on the campus of Loyola University,  bringing together students and faculty from the Tulane and Loyola University college campuses with ADL board members and community members.   ADL board members served as table sponsors and leaders for a participatory Seder and meal.  ADL sponsored this annual event in conjunction with Hillel Foundation of New Orleans, Loyola University Campus Ministries, Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, Loyola Jewish Student Association, and Holy Name of Jesus Church.

New York, NY

A Jewish and a Catholic School in Queens brought together their 8th graders for a third annual interfaith model "Freedom Seder" program.  Carl Ballenas, an alumnus of ADL's Bearing Witness Program, organized the event in partnership with the Solomon Schechter Day School of Nassau County and Immaculate Conception School of Jamaica Estates Queens.  Offering remarks at the April 1 event were City Coucnil member James F. Gennaro (D-Queens) and Joel Levy, ADL New York Regional Director.

Orange County, CA

On April 15, ADL's Orange County Office celebrated the 9th annual Jewish/Latino Passover Seder Dinner at Temple Beth Sholom in Santa Ana, CA.  The event was co-sponsored by Temple Beth Sholom and the Catholic Diocese of Orange.  Nearly 200 participants came together to commemorate the liberation from oppression in biblical times and to relate those experiences to contemporary issues.  This Jewish-Latino multilingual Seder affirms spiritual and historical similarities between two great communities in Southern California, using a trilingual Hagaddah in Hebrew, English and Spanish and discussion questions that relate the Passover story to current issues, including bigotry and xenophobia in the U.S.

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2008 Anti-Defamation League