While Passover may commemorate the exodus of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt, the organizers of the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia’s Passover Seder said it’s about so much more than that.
“I think it’s a very beautiful holiday,” said Beverly Wolov, assistant director of the JCCNV and co-organizer of the Seder. “Something about Passover makes people want to come together. It’s very family-oriented.”
This year, the JCCNV offered a second night Seder. A Seder is the ceremonial meal eaten on the first two nights of Passover. Specific foods and spices represent what the Jews went through during the events leading up to the exodus. The “Seder Plate,” includes these main symbolic foods and reminds those eating it of the suffrage their ancestors endured.
Matzo bread resembles the bread the ancestors ate when they hastily left Egypt and couldn’t wait for their dough to rise. Bitter herbs represent the bitterness of slavery. The JCCNV Seder used parsley as the Karpas, a green vegetable, standing for the arrival of spring and the gathering of spring harvest.
THOSE GATHERED at the Seder recalled their own people’s suffrage, and also thought of others who suffer around the world today. The introduction to the Seder included prayers and thoughts for those other than just Jews.
“As we sit here at our Passover Seder, we need to think of those who are oppressed,” said Naomi Sweet, JCCNV Judaic Director and a Fairfax County teacher.
Sweet and Wolov have organized the Seder for seven years, and had a slightly smaller crowd this year since the Seder fell during the same time as spring break. About 70 people showed up, many with family, and some by themselves. Dave and Michelle Adler came from Burke because they didn’t feel like cooking. Larry Krutzel said he’s new to the area and wanted to come to get to know others.
“I came to celebrate tradition with the community,” said Krutzel. “And also to network socially.”
Separate “singles” tables were marked so those who came alone could interact with each other. Candi Chase came by herself because she had missed going to Seders the last few years. Chase lives in the Inova Cameron Glen Care Center, a nursing home in Reston that does not provide a traditional Seder dinner. She really wanted to get out this year and enjoy herself.
“Seders are special, that’s why we come together,” said Chase. “I said ‘this year is going to be different. I’m going to a Seder to have a good time.'”
One of the things she missed most about Seder dinner is the Hillel sandwich, made of bitter herbs, a sweet mixture made to resemble mortar, and matzo bread. She said she missed the “delicious” sandwich because it represents the traditions of her religion and her people.
Naomi Sweet led the Seder through the Haggadah, the book used to recount the story of the exodus. She also encouraged the group to talk to each other by setting aside a few minutes for discussion. Some of her instructions were overcome by the noise in the room, so most tables ended up talking about topics other than Sweet’s suggestions.
“Last year we had a microphone,” said Wolov. “But people are talking to each other, that’s what’s important.”
The community Seder is always a success, said Wolov, because it brings people together. They sit down as a family to show thanks and remembrance to those who have suffered.
“Even if they do nothing Jewish all year, people want to track down a Passover Seder,” said Wolov.