Santa Barbara County Jews celebrated one of their most important holidays, Passover, this weekend. Most devout have already celebrated once, at home with their families or in a larger group, with members of their congregation or friends.

But this coming weekend, Congregation B’nai B’rith is hosting a second, interfaith celebration, in which members of all faiths are invited to participate. Interfaith events have become a common way for members of the faith community in town to foster greater understanding between different religions, but these events are typically held on holidays which are common to all. The Interfaith Thanksgiving held last November was a good example.

But the Interfaith Seder to be held on Saturday, April 26 is different, simply because it’s an event usually very specific to the Jewish faith. The Seder, or Passover dinner, commemorates the Jewish exodus from Egypt. While the preparation of the meal is based on traditional Jewish law – all food eaten is kosher, for example – there are specific rules regarding the items served.

One of the best-known elements of a Passover Seder is matzo, an unleavened cracker which can be eaten alone or made into dumplings for soup. According to the Old Testament Book of Exodus, God commanded that for the duration of the Passover festival no leavened bread could be eaten. One of several explanations for this is the fact that the Jews departed Egypt too quickly to prepare normal bread. What this rule means, for less observant Jews, is simply not eating leavened bread for a day or two; for more Orthodox Jews, this can mean removing every crumb of bread from the house before Passover begins – which involves a truly detailed spring cleaning.

Another type of food ritually served at a Seder is bitter herbs, usually horseradish and romaine lettuce. This portion of the Passover plate symbolizes the slavery of the Jews in Egypt.

While a Seder involves a great deal of very specific preparation, many modern Jews also incorporate a variety of non-traditional foods, as long as they are prepared and served in a way that’s consistent with staying kosher. The Interfaith Seder will incorporate all of the traditional Passover foods and rituals; however, other kosher food will be served and the Jewish ritual blessings will be accompanied by input from clergy of other faiths, such as Bah¡’-, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam.

The Interfaith Seder is a great opportunity to learn more about the Jewish faith. It’s also going to be a wonderful dinner, and a chance to appreciate Santa Barbara’s sense of community, both social and religious.

The Interfaith Seder will be held on April 26 at Congregation B’nai B’rith of Santa Barbara, at 1000 San Antonio Creek Road. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., and the Seder begins at 6:00 pm. Car-pooling is suggested, and tickets in advance are necessary due to very limited seating. The suggested donation is $20 for adults and $5 for children (5 to 12). Proceeds will support the programs provided by the Interfaith Initiative. Call 805-201-3134 or e-mail for more information. To assist with cooking or setup for the event, mention your interest when calling. Meal preparation will take place on Friday, April 25 and Saturday, April 26 before the event.


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