Lewisboro Jews Ready to Celebrate Passover

SOUTH SALEM, N.Y. – Sunset on Friday night will mark the beginning of the eight-day-long Jewish holiday Passover – probably the most family-centric of all the faith’s holidays, marked by the traditional dinner known as the Seder.

“Passover is about the Jews’ liberation from slavery in Egypt 3,300 years ago,” said Rabbi Carla Freedman of the Jewish Family Congregation in South Salem. “The holiday is celebrated every year on the full moon in the Hebrew month of Nisan. Exodus tells us that’s when the slaves were freed.”

Freedman explained that the first two days of the holiday feature a Seder. Families and friends gather for a dinner that includes a series of rituals symbolic of the Children of Israel's exodus from Egypt.

“The rituals are performed in a prescribed order at the dinner table,” the rabbi said. “They involve eating food and discussing the symbolism.”

The menu consists of bitter herbs (usually horseradish), which represents the bitterness of slavery. It can include parsley dipped in saltwater, which represents the tears of the slaves. There is also a mixture of fruits and nuts, which are ground to resemble mortar, symbolizing the bricks the slaves used in the structures they built.

Matzo bread – which is unleavened bread – is eaten throughout the eight-day holiday. It symbolizes the bread the slaves did not have time to let rise.

“In recent years, other symbolic items have been added to the Seder, such as the orange,” Freedman said. “It represents the women in leadership roles in Jewish religious life.”

Freedman said her congregation doesn’t plan any Passover-related events, other than a Seder on the second night for those with nowhere else to celebrate it, because the holiday is a “home-focused event.” She noted that observant Jews are not supposed to work the first two or last two days of Passover.

In the end though, she said, Passover is marked mainly by the food that’s eaten and what it symbolizes.

“It’s all about changing what you eat for eight days,” she said.

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