While Christians are preparing for Holy Week – which begins on Palm Sunday, March 28 – members of the Jewish community are preparing for Passover. The celebration takes place from sundown on March 27 to sundown on April 4.
The highlight of Passover is the Seder, a special family meal that recounts the biblical story of God freeing the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.
The America Jewish Committee Cleveland hosts an annual interfaith Seder for community leaders. This year, Cleveland Bishop Edward Malesic was among about 150 leaders who participated in the virtual event on March 18. The 2020 AJC Cleveland Global Leadership Passover Seder was canceled as the coronavirus pandemic spread. Event organizers wanted to find way to resume the tradition in a safe way this year.
Lee C. Shapiro, regional director, AJC Cleveland, said the virtual event was planned to include the key components of a traditional Seder. It lasted about 90 minutes.
Rabbi Jonathan Cohen and cantor Kathy Sebo from The Temple-Tifereth Israel led the virtual Seder, which included recitations, prayers, drinking wine or grape juice from symbolic cups, washing of hands, blessings, eating certain foods and song. Sometimes there is dancing.
At the AJC Cleveland virtual Seder, five community leaders also offered personal reflections on freedom.
Rabbi Cohen guided the group through the parts of the Seder using a Haggadah booklet prepared for the event to explain the components of the Seder and the Seder plate:
- Horseradish – symbolizing the bitter enslavement of the Jews’ ancestors in Egypt.
- A hard-boiled (or roasted) egg – representing the holiday offering brought in the days of the Temple in Jerusalem. The meat of the animal constituted the main part of the Passover meal.
- A piece of roasted meat or shank bone – representing the lamb that was the special paschal sacrifice on the eve of the exodus from Egypt and annually on the afternoon before Passover in the Temple in Jerusalem.
- Bitter herbs – reminding the Jews of the bitterness of the slavery of their ancestors in Egypt. Fresh grated horseradish, romaine lettuce and endive are common choices.
- Charoset – a mixture of apples, nuts and wine resembling the mortar and brick made by the Jews when they toiled for Pharaoh.
- A green vegetable – alluding to the backbreaking work of the Jewish ancestors. The vegetable – often parsley – is dipped in salt water to remind them of their ancestors’ tears.
Near the end of the virtual Seder, participants were assigned to breakout rooms where they had time to discuss the event and share their thoughts. After the Seder concluded, attendees were encouraged to stay on the Zoom platform and to continue their conversation.
AJC Cleveland is a Jewish global advocacy network that has existed for more than 75 years to ensure the well-being and security of Jews and other vulnerable people in the U.S., Israel and around the world.