Interfaith seders aim to foster a ritual kinship


April 10, 2001|By Betsy Diehl | Betsy Diehl,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

A LOCAL congregation is busy preparing for a seder this week. It will be like most Jewish seders, except there is an important difference: It will take place in a Lutheran church.

Joy Aker, deacon of New Hope Lutheran Church in Kings Contrivance, started the seder tradition at the parish about 16 years ago. She said the seders were small at first, but have grown in popularity over the years.

Aker grew up in a largely Jewish neighborhood on Long Island, N.Y., where she often was invited to seders. She saw firsthand the connection between the Jewish ritual and her Christianity. "Many people think that the Last Supper was a seder," she said, adding that the ritual of the seder can offer Christians some insight into Jesus' Jewish heritage while fostering an understanding of the Jewish faith in general.

"As Lutherans, we feel a tremendous kinship with Jews," said New Hope interim Pastor Bob Lowden. The seder is an opportunity to "lift up the connections" between Christians and Jews, he said.

Rabbi Martin Siegel, who founded the Columbia Jewish Congregation in 1972, accepts the notion of Christians celebrating seders. "The seder is a very free-form ritual," he said. "It's about unity. Religion shouldn't divide people - it should unite people."

Siegel recently attended a seder that united Christians and Jews along with a host of other denominations. The "freedom seder," held at Owen Brown Interfaith Center on April 1, was organized by a former member of his congregation, Anthony Fleg.

Fleg, 22, was raised in a Jewish-Catholic household. He was introduced to "freedom seders" as a student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He said that the events originated in the 1960s to unite Jews and blacks during the civil rights movement. Fleg took the idea further, including people of many different faiths in the seder.

Those who attended the multidenominational event included Imam Abdel-Hady of the Dar Al Taqwa Muslim group; the Rev. Cynthia Snavely of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation; the Rev. Kathryn Moore of Christ United Methodist Church; David Jahler of Calah Jewish Congregation; Pastor Serge Michel of Columbia Nazarene Church; George Martin, deacon of St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic parish; and Fred Myers of the Baha'i Community.

Fleg acknowledges that a seder sounds Jewish, but he stressed that it provides the ideal setting for people of different faiths to come together to gain an understanding of one another. He hopes that multidenominational seders catch on.

"Passover is not just a Jewish event anymore," Fleg said. "Hopefully there is something greater that will come out of these events."

Cadet honored

Bryan Frizzelle, son of Wayne and Kathy Frizzelle of Oakland Mills, was recently named to the dean's list at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. Bryan, 21, is a 1997 graduate of Oakland Mills High School. He is a senior at West Point, where he is studying international strategic history.

Kathy Frizzelle said that her son planned to join the military at an early age. "When he was in the fourth grade, he decided that this is what he wanted to do," she said, noting that some of Bryan's relatives served in the military, including an uncle who graduated from West Point.

Bryan plans to graduate in June, when he will be commissioned an Army second lieutenant. His mother said that he has accepted a three-year assignment to Fort Hood, Texas. "He's really pretty excited," she said.

Election forum

The Oakland Mills Community Association will hold an Elections Issues Forum at 7:30 p.m. April 18 at The Other Barn in the village center. Candidates for one Columbia Council representative seat, Patricia Boyd, Earl Jones and incumbent Barbara Russell, will make brief presentations and take questions from residents.

The four candidates for the five vacant village board seats, David Hatch, Bill McCormack, Karen Blue and Kittye Wright will also be present to answer questions and hear residents' concerns.

Residents may cast their ballots at the forum, send them by mail by April 20 or vote in-person April 21 at the Oakland Mills Shopping Center. Information: 410-730-4610.

Parting words

Neighborhood children might be shocked to learn that some people have to go to school this week. Joan Ford, secretary to Principal Sue Goglia at Dasher Green Elementary School, is such a person.

"I'm a 12-month employee," she said. Which means she is spending much of spring break posted at her desk in the school office, as usual.

But Ford says she doesn't mind. "It's a great use of time. It's three times more productive."

She does plan to take a day or two off, but not to relax. "I'll be weeding through my yard. It backs up to a farm, so it'll be quite a chore."

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