About 60 congregation members attended the Lawrence Jewish Community Center’s Passover Seder Tuesday night, sharing dinner, conversation and history.
The Passover holiday commemorates the Exodus, during which the Israelites escaped slavery in Egypt and followed Moses through the Red Sea. During the first two days of Passover, Jewish families and communities gather for the ritual dinner known as a Seder.
Rabbi Moti Rieber said the message of Passover reminds Jews of their history and to use their ancestors’ stories to guide them now.
“The key is that we, ourselves, are liberated,” Rieber said. “It’s a yearly struggle to free ourselves of the things that constrict us.”
Each table is set with Seder plates on which are arranged a hard-boiled egg, parsley, a sweet concoction of fruits and nuts known as “charoset” and grated horseradish. The combination might seem confusing to the outside eye, but the stories of Jewish ancestors are told through the symbolism in the foods.
The egg represents a sacrifice offered in the Temple in Jerusalem and the parsley is dipped in saltwater, which represents tears. The horseradish and charoset are eaten together to represent the moments of both suffering and joy in life. Matzo is also eaten to remind Passover observers of the food of the impoverished and suffering in Egypt.
Throughout the ceremony, attendees read and sang in English and Hebrew from a book called the Haggadah. Greg Rudnick, who brought his son Jakob to the Seder, said Passover helps pass on faith and traditions throughout generations.
“Passover is a story and the Seder is really a lesson framed by nice food and company,” Rudnick said. “It gives our children exposure to tradition and plants the idea in their heads.”
Rudnick said Passover is about reflecting on the suffering in the past, but also showing thanks.
“This is like a thanksgiving for being free,” Rudnick said. “It’s gratitude for freedom and health.”
The Seder at the Lawrence Community Center came just two days after the Overland Park shootings at the Jewish community center and an assisted living facility that left three people dead. Though the Lawrence center was armed with two police officers just in case, Riever said the provision was really for the peace of mind of attendees.
“Because of our history, Jews are particularly sensitive to this sort of thing,” Rieber said.
Rieber had two daughters at the Johnson County Jewish Community Center during the time of the shootings Sunday, but they both left unscathed. He said the tragedy moved him to go into Passover with even more compassion for the community.
“There are crazy people out there, and we have to remember our stories to get us through,” Rieber said. “We do what we’ve always done: We gather as a community to support each other and be Jewish together.”
Passover began Monday and will continue through the evening of April 22.