The Congregation Children of Israel observed the first night of Passover on Monday with a joyous celebration filled with music, blessings and food.
Passover or Pesach is April 10 through April 18 this year and commemorates the Jews’ freedom from slavery in Egypt centuries ago.
A Seder is held on the first two nights of Passover, and the food in the Seder symbolizes parts of their journey into freedom.
“This is a night when we are telling our story to our children,” Rabbi Shai Beloosesky said.
The celebration began in the sanctuary with readings in Hebrew and songs before more than 200 people adjourned to the dining area where the bulk of the Seder was held.
The elements of the Seder were at each table, as was the book The Open Door: A Passover Haggadah, edited by Sue Levi Elwell, to give them a text to follow.
Elements of the Seder plate include bitter herbs, which represent the bitterness of slavery; the fresh greens dipped into salt water with the water representing the tears they shed; and the three matzah with their lack of yeast as the people had no time to wait for the bread to rise before they started their journey out of Egypt.
With the local congregation’s celebration, there was music throughout the Seder, and more than once, they were encouraged to get out of their seats and join in the dance. The evening ended with a meal of various types of chicken, vegetables and desserts and one more dance to the Israeli folk song, Hava Nagila.
Earlier in the Seder, Beloosesky encouraged the band to play selections from Fiddler on the Roof, a musical about a Jewish family living in Russia during the early 1900s.
While many members of the Jewish community took part in the evening, they weren’t the only ones celebrating. Beloosesky opened the observance to Christians as well. Holy Week and Passover intersect each year, and what was known as The Last Supper was a Seder that Jesus shared with his disciples.
Beloosesky didn’t think it was unusual to share the night with non-Jews.
“When we left Egypt, some of the Egyptians went with us,” he said.
And despite the difference of beliefs, Beloosesky said everyone at the meal had one thing in common. “We are all human beings,” he said.
Among the Christian congregations taking part in the Seder were members of Keys Grove Baptist Church in Keysville, Ga., and Grace Redemption Church.
It was Gloria Garner’s first Jewish Seder.
“It was a very joyful event, even more joyful that I expected,” she said. “We loved it.”
For Christians such as Garner, the Seder has an added meaning as they try to imagine Jesus and His Last Supper.
The Rev. Rickey Dent of Keys Grove Baptist Church said he was excited to participate in the Seder with members of his congregation.
“This has a great impact on me because it all starts with the Passover,” he said.