250-plus share a model seder at a church

By Lu Ann Franklin
Published by The Times of Northwest Indiana – March 8, 2015

Sharing the Passover Seder meal creates a bridge between past, current and future generations, and reminds Jews of the responsibility to promote freedom and dignity for all peoples.

On Sunday, more than 250 guests heard that message and shared an ecumenical seder meal at St. Maria Goretti Church’s banquet hall. Hosted by the Jewish Community Relations Council, the event brought together parish members, those of other Christian faiths and members of Congregation Beth Israel and Temple Beth-El.

“It’s a privilege to be part of such wonderful feelings, enthusiasm and excitement,” Fr. Charles Niblick of St. Maria Goretti Church told those gathered prior to start of the community seder.

“I hope we can continue this relationship in spirit, in hope and good will because God knows we need that in this world,” Niblick said.

The eight-day holiday of Passover, or Pesach, remembers the Hebrews’ delivery from slavery in ancient Egypt, Rabbi Mordechai Levin of Congregation Beth Israel explained. “Moses went back to lead our ancestors out of Egypt. The exodus began Judaism.”

Seder, which means “order,” takes place in homes on the first and second night of Passover and “today is very different from ancient times,” Levin said. “We have a model of an outreach seder here today.”

Teaching children about the meaning of Passover and freedom remains central to the traditions, said Rabbi Leonard Zukrow of Temple Beth-El. The telling of that story called The Haggadah was on each guest’s plate during the seder.

“We want to cause children to ask questions. Then we have a reason to give an answer,” Zukrow said.

Each table was set with foods that are part of the seder plate, which itself is a symbol of freedom, the universal theme of Passover, Zukrow and Levin said.

Guests also tasted other foods often served during Passover including gefilte fish and matzo-ball soup.

Wine plays a central part in all Jewish traditions, and seder guests drink four cups of wine, symbolizing God’s four promises of deliverance to the Jewish people, Zukrow said.

“I grew up and went to Lutheran parochial school. You can compare the things you learned as a child in the Old Testament,” said Judy Grambo of Schererville. “All of this is very informative. I’m glad I came.”

For Congregation Beth Israel member Elyse Levy, sharing the traditions of the Passover seder with others of different faiths was important.

“It’s nice that rather than be vilified, that people are interested in our culture,” said the Munster resident. “Everybody’s traditions are different.”


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Rabbi Levin is the rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel in Munster, IN. He received his rabbinic ordination from the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary, and is a member of the Rabbinical Assembly. In 2010, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City for his years of dedicated service to the Conservative movement and the Jewish community...Full bio