COLUMBIA — Congregation Beth Shalom's Passover Seder, the ritual feast to celebrate Passover, began at Jack's Gourmet restaurant Tuesday night with Mary Hartigan reading from the Haggadah, the text that explains the history and order of the service.
"Pesach is a time of special importance to the Jews. It is a reminder of a great event in the history of the Jewish people. While the event which Pesach commemorates happened long ago, every Jew relives it at Seder," Hartigan read from the Haggadah.
More than 70 members of the congregation gathered for the meal that marks the beginning of Passover. Women from the synagogue's Sisterhood prepared the symbolic dishes that celebrate the event — lamb shankbone, roasted egg, bitter herbs, a mixture of fruits and nuts and the special bread called matzoh.
Ten tables were set with the food needed to mark this ritual, which commemorates the Jews' exodus from Egypt. According to the Haggadah, God aided Moses in bringing plagues to the Egyptians. The Hebrews escaped the final plague, which would kill all the firstborn children, by marking their door posts with lambs' blood.
Congregation Beth Shalom's Seder this year was led by two lay members. They orchestrated the service, which included the reading of the narrative, questions about Jewish history posed to children and the symbolic meal.
"It's a daunting task to take on. We've been working on it for a few months," Hartigan said, who led the Seder with Leslie Miller. "This is the first time either of us have led."
Hartigan has recently taken a course preparing her to be a rabbi's assistant.
"I really like working with (the rabbi) on the different services and aspects of our religious practice," she said.
Miller said it was her favorite Jewish holiday, one that brings families and generations together in a shared, ancient tradition.
"Information and education leads to understanding of what we do and why we do it," she said. "That's part of Judaism."