Communal Seder Teaches About Exodus From Slavery

70 Attend Meal At Start Of Passover

April 24, 1997|By Jennifer Vick | Jennifer Vick,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Six-year-old Adam Eisenstadt's yarmulke was slightly crooked and he could barely see above the table, but the boy sat patiently, listening to an age-old story to mark Passover.

About 70 people, seated at tables laden with Seder plates and bottles of wine, attended a Seder meal Tuesday evening at the Beth Shalom synagogue in Taylorsville.

The Seder was part of Passover, the eight-day Jewish holiday that teaches the young and reminds the old of the exodus of their forefathers from slavery in Egypt.

Arnold Zalis, president of the growing congregation, said the Seder is a "teaching process" for families, who gather for the Jewish equivalent of Christ's Last Supper.

Rabbi Seymour Essrog, with a Passover Haggada, or prayer book, in hand, led the congregation through the recitation of the kiddush or benediction over the wine and bread, and the retelling of Passover stories.

"We are all friends here," said Essrog, who has been the spiritual leader of Carroll County's first Jewish congregation since 1993. "Relax, but please join with us and we will have a wonderful experience."

Before the initial meal, the symbolic significance of the Seder plate contents -- an egg, shank bone, bitter herbs, parsley, and haroseth -- were recognized.

Each ate the parsley that symbolizes rebirth, and the bitter herb, symbolic of the lives of their forefathers that were embittered by hard labor in the Pharoah's slave camps.

Also broken and eaten was matzo, an unleavened bread that represents the Jews' hasty retreat from Egypt, which left them with no time to wait for their bread to leaven. During Passover, anything made with flour is prohibited.

Congregation members dipped their pinkies into the wine and spilled three drops onto napkins for blood, fire, and pillars of smoke, and then 10 drops for the 10 plagues the Holy One brought upon the Egyptians.

"I hope you all have a designated driver here," Essrog joked.

Food for the Seder was provided by a caterer. Also on the menu were matzo ball soup and gefilte fish served with horseradish. Traditional servings of chicken, vegetables, and potato kegels followed.

Mark and Nancy Eisenstadt's sons, Adam, Christian, 8, and Matthew, 11, drank grape juice instead of wine, and stood with the rabbi during part of a Passover story.

This marked the second year Beth Shalom has held the Seder celebration.

The Eisenstadts, who live in Mount Airy, are one of 130 families that attend Beth Shalom.

The congregation began in 1977 with 17 families. Its first services were held in a barn. Essrog became the spiritual leader of the congregation nearly four years ago. Essrog leads interfaith programs, and uses religious texts that transliterate Hebrew into English.

"It's a very warm, friendly, welcoming congregation," Mrs. Eisenstadt said.

She plans to send Adam to the synagogue's religious school, the first Jewish religious school in the county, in the fall. The school was added onto the synagogue last year.

Members and nonmembers were present at the dinner.

Adam Eisenstadt's eyes began to droop as the Seder approached two hours. But he found energy to join his family in song to conclude the Seder and to recite with the congregation, "O Pure One in heaven above, Restore the congregation of Israel in Your love."

Pub Date: 4/24/97

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