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Passover begins with interfaith seders

Passover begins with interfaith seders

Discovering each other, two stories of interfaith seders:


In Newtown, CT more than 140 worshippers attended an interfaith Passover seder at Congregation Adath Israel:

Presiding over the seder were Rabbi Shaul Praver of Congregation Adath Israel, Monsignor Robert Weiss from St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, Reverend Mel Kawakami of Newtown United Methodist Church, Reverend Leo McIlrath, Coordinator of Corpus Christi: An Ecumenical Catholic Faith Community, Reverend Kathleen Adams-Shepherd of Trinity Episcopal Church and Reverend Matt Crebbin of Newtown Congregational Church.

… Donna Monteleone Randle, coordinator of the event, missed the ecumenical gatherings she had experienced when she lived in New Jersey and wanted to start something similar in Newtown. “I thought it would be something fun to do for the town — something for (religious groups) in the town to do together,” she said.

Enlisting the help of Susan Rubin, a member and employee of Congregation Adath Israel, the two sought donations of food and other items from local and area businesses and the participating houses of worship all contributed to preparing the food, flowers and other items integral to the seder.

“St. Rose did all the eggs, United Methodist did all the green vegetables, Trinity did the flowers,” said Randle.

And from Erie, PA Congregation Brith Sholom invited others to their seder to inform them about Judaism and its traditions:

Frances Schoenfeldt and her parents recognized foods on the plates in front of them at Congregation Brith Sholom but didn’t know what the parsley, horseradish, hard-boiled eggs, matzah and haroset symbolized.

They learned the meanings at an educational Seder on Monday night at Erie’s Conservative Jewish congregation.

“We came to get a better understanding of the Jewish Passover, how it relates to Christianity,” Tim Schoenfeldt said.

The family from St. Gregory Catholic Church in North East joined about 180 other Christians at the event at Brith Sholom, 3207 State St. Rabbi Leonard Lifshen told them the purpose wasn’t to pull them from their faith, but rather to inform the community about Jewish ways.

“We’re here to really understand the holiday of Passover,” he said.

… Stephen Tome, 12, said he attended the event with his mother because he’s learning about the Holocaust in school and wanted to know more about the Jewish people and culture. Gretchen Tome, of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Fairview, also said they were there “because I think it’s important to learn about all religions.”

During a Seder, people, especially children, learn by asking questions, Lifshen said.

These two stories model ways for Christians to participate in others rituals without co-opting their traditions. Daily Episcopalian has two essays on Seders and Christians here and here.

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Elizabeth Kaeton

I am delighted to see this tradition of Interfaith Passovers rekindled. In Northern NJ they had fallen out of fashion for awhile. The Reconstructionist Congregation that once shared our facilities and sanctuary simply flat out refused to have a Seder with us, instead, inviting us to their Seder where, we were told in less than inviting terms, we could sit in a table at the back, wear white skull caps, and not ask questions. The Rabbi explained that to do anything else would be like inviting Jews to a Eucharist. We wouldn't do that. She wouldn't share Seder with us except as guests. Times change. So do people. We can no longer afford to be religious separatists - on any side - Christian, Jew or Muslim. Jesus, that good Rabbi, fed people when they were hungry. So should we all.

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