Columbia Jews commemorate Passover

Wednesday, April 8, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 4:54 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 8, 2009

*CORRECTION: This article has been corrected to reflect that Stella Read is the vice president of Congregation Beth Shalom. An earlier version incorrectly identified her title.
It has also been corrected to reflect the proper terms for dishes served during the Seder feasts and the writings included in the Haggadah. An earlier version incorrectly identified the names of the dishes and the contents of the Haggadah.

COLUMBIA — Jewish residents of Columbia will have multiple opportunities to participate in seder meals and Passover celebrations next week.

Passover is an annual observance for Jews that commemorates the Jews' freedom from slavery in Egypt. It includes a traditional family meal, called a Seder, which includes a retelling of the Exodus story and symbolic foods.

Calendar of Passover Events

Wednesday: 1st Seder dinner, 6 p.m., Alpha Epsilon Pi, 901 Maryland Ave.
Thursday: 2nd Seder Dinner, 6:30 p.m., Hillel, 1107 University Ave.
Friday, April 10: Passover Shabbat Dinner, 7 p.m., Hillel, 1107 University Ave., $7
Tuesday, April 14: Social Justice Seder, 6 p.m., Hillel, 1107 University Ave., Registration required by  April 7. Contact Struby at 882-6549
Thursday, April 16: Pizza at Sundown for “break Passover,” 7 p.m., Hillel, 1107 University Ave.
Passover lunches and dinners will be served all Passover week at the University of Missouri Hillel

Congregation of Beth Shalom:
Thursday, April 9: Community Seder, 5:30 p.m., Jack’s Gourmet Restaurant, 1903 Business Loop 70 E.

The Jewish Student Organization at MU held a chocolate Seder on Friday. At the chocolate Seder, six items on the Seder plate were replaced with candy-like alternatives.

Although MU student Brett Knight usually goes home to St. Louis for Passover, this year, he plans to attend a seder at the Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi. On Wednesday evening, the fraternity will host a free kosher dinner for all Jewish students.

Along with the Jewish Student Organization, the Hillel Foundation will also be hosting student-led Seder dinners at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday. Students will be served a kosher and vegetarian feast for $10 per student.

At 6 p.m. on Tuesday, there will be a Social Justice Seder, sponsored by  the MU Alumni Association, MU LGBTQ Resource Center, the MU Multicultural Center, the MU Women’s Center and the Jewish Student Organization. It is the fourth annual Social Justice Seder at MU and includes discussions about the different social justice issues facing the nation today.

The Passover holiday is a chance for Jews to express gratitude to God for leading their ancestors out of slavery in Egypt.

“The Passover celebration gives us ownership of the Jewish story and its message of freedom,” said Stella Read, vice president of Congregation Beth Shalom*.

Knight added, “It puts us in perspective. It is the celebration of the freedom of our people.”

The biblical Book of Exodus explains how God killed the firstborn sons and animals of ancient Egyptian families, but liberated the Jews by “passing over” the homes that displayed lamb’s blood above the door frames. In addition to remembering Jewish history, Passover is a time for families to come together and discuss the Torah, the sacred literature of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible.

Along with the exclusion of work on the first and seventh days of the week, seder meals include readings from the Haggadah, the Jewish text containing prayers*. This accompanies the meals to tell children about the story of the escape from Israel.

“Much of the Seder is marked with special concern for the children," Read said. "On the first eve of Passover, we retell the story of the exodus from Egypt and to explain the meaning of the rites and symbols connected with the celebration of Passover.”

“Seders bring happiness and sorrow together,” said Knight. Charoses, a dish of chopped apples and nuts, represent the mortar that the Hebrew slaves made for the Egyptians. Moror, or bitter herbs, symbolize the bitterness of slavery. Both are served during seder feasts.

Also known as the ‘Feast of Unleavened Bread,’ the Jews refrain from eating any bread products during the seven-day Passover holiday to commemorate their ancestors' quick escape from Egypt, which happened before their bread could rise. Matzo, unleavened bread that symbolizes freedom, is the only grain product allowed at the meal.  

“I was raised in a Reformed Jewish family; we had a ritual of carrying a candle around the house looking for bread crumbs to prepare the house for Passover,” said Knight.
An exchanging of silverware and a spiritual cleansing of all kitchen utensils to remove any particles of leavened products are other customs that occur in preparation for Passover seders.

“The things that are not so fun about the holiday, are also important. You don’t realize just how much food has grains, flour and corn syrup in it until you can’t eat it." Knight said. "As you do the commitment, it makes you reflect on what it really means to be Jewish."

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