Saturday, February 28, 2009

Seder Dinner

4 cups of "wine"
Shelby winning the matza scavenger hunt
Jeff and Mike rapping Jewish style
Ophir washing his hands One of many musical numbers Symbolic food
This week we had a Passover Seder Dinner here at the JC. It really was fun and enlightening to participate in this long-standing tradition. We all dressed up and were in the Oasis by 5:00pm. The tables were arranged like this: there was a large U-shaped table in the middle for Ophir and the 12 or 13 readers who took turns reading paragraphs from the Haggadah, surrounded by smaller tables of 4 or 6. There were 2 flower arrangements on the head table, and colored candles in clay pots on each of the smaller tables. A Haggadah was placed at each seat as well so everyone could follow along, whether or not they actually read.We began by singing the table of contents, which we did whenever we began a new phase of the meal- there are 12 of them. Each phase entails either a musical number, washing of the hands or reading a different part from the Haggadah. The night lasted from 5 until 9 for us. In terms of food, we started out with a piece of lettuce dipped in salt water and matza (unleavened bread-much like a cracker). Next we had soup and salad, followed by the main course of bbq chicken, veggies & potatoes. Dessert was fruit salad and an assortment of bars and cookies. Our professor and his 4-year-old son did not eat the same thing because it was not made in a Kosher kitchen; they had a special meal brought in.

The Passover Seder Meal is a Jewish ritual feast held on the first and the second nights of the Jewish holiday of Passover. This holiday usually comes in late March or April, but we had to have it early this year since our professor would be helping with his own family's Seder meal during the traditional time. Our Jewish Professor, Ophir Yarden, led the dinner.
The Seder dinner we had was as close to the real thing as you can get. In typical Jewish tradition, families and friends gather around the table on the nights of Passover to read one of the many versions of the Haggadah, the story of the Israelite exodus from Egypt. Seder customs include drinking of four cups of wine (grape juice), eating matza, and partaking of symbolic foods placed on the Passover Seder Plate. With a Haggadah serving as a guide, the Seder is performed in much the same way all over the world.
If not for the Exodus, as explained in the Haggadah, the Jewish people would still be slaves in Egypt. Therefore, the Seder is an occasion for praise and thanksgiving and for re-dedication to the idea of liberation. The Seder goes on until late at night, with the participants reading the Haggadah, studying the meaning of various passages, and singing special Passover songs. Ophir said it's not unusual for the dinner to last until midnight or 1 am- trying the whole time to keep it entertaining enough for the kids to stay awake.
Here's part of the group in front of the Oasis (cafeteria) before we entered the dinner. There were 2 anointed hand washings involved in the dinner. The first time Ophir just did it for all of us, but the second time we got up and used the special bowls to wash our hands.This is what the appetizer plate looked like. Earlier in the day one of the jobs in preparing for the dinner was helping in the kitchen. I wandered in for a bit when they were making the brown stuff in middle- it's a sweet crunchy apple salad and so delicious~One of the first steps was dipping the herbs in salt waterOne of the first musical numbers~Grape juice- we drank 4 glasses of it throughout the night. After we ate the main part of our dinner Ophir said he "lost " part of the original matza bread that was supposed to be saved for dessert. He sent everyone on a scavenger hunt to find it and Shelby was the lucky winner! This was just one example of something they do to keep it upbeat. Jeff & Mike accepted the challenge of turning one of the Passover songs into a rap.

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