What do you get when you combine over 100 people representing 25 faith communities, 10 rabbis, and a bunch of matzoh and haroseth? This isn't a setup for a joke; it's a description of our upcoming Third Annual Cathrine Fischer Schwartz Interfaith Seder, which will take place this Sunday afternoon at Congregation Beth Israel.
While the story of Passover is unique to the Jewish community, its themes of freedom and redemption are universal. The slavery and spiritual oppression we experienced under Pharaoh's rule prepared us to experience the miracle of Sinai. Passover is so central to the Jewish experience that we are commanded to retell the story to our children every year so they will know and understand the complementary values of liberation and responsibility.
For many years, my wife, Ruth, and I have invited friends of different faiths to our home for Seder. We all read passages from the Haggadah, we share tears as we partake of horseradish, and we try - to the best of our ability - to explain gefilte fish to the uninitiated. It is a time of much laughter, serious conversation, deep spiritual exploration, and tons of food. Over the years we have come to appreciate how enriched our Passover experience can be when we share it with a diverse group of guests.
The themes of Passover speak not only to Jews but to all people. The Seder gives us an opportunity to introduce our neighbors of other faiths to its universal messages. What is really exciting is hearing how others react, interpret and apply the messages of Passover to their own lives and experiences. Although our Interfaith Seder this weekend won't feature a complete Passover meal, we will be sharing many of the highlights and some of the unique foods that make Passover so special.
Finding common ground between faiths that share a common beginning, values, and beliefs makes for a much stronger community. It creates bonds of mutual respect and deep friendship. And in times of crisis, this friendship forms a vital network of support.
It doesn't matter how many Seders you have attended; each one is a new experience and an opportunity to examine the meaning of freedom and redemption through the lens of the present. Although Passover is weeks away and there is still snow on the ground, we can start preparing ourselves now to welcome the spring with fresh eyes and new ideas.
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