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Greenwich Seders: The Festive Meal, Early or Late

GREENWICH, Conn. – Rabbi Andrew Sklarz of the Greenwich Reform Synagogue won’t be dressing up Friday night as Moses, as he does when teaching the Passover story to his Hebrew school students.

But he will be leading about 75 adults and children at a reform Passover seder, starting at 6 p.m. at the Stanwich Road temple, to commemorate the Biblical story of how Moses led the Jews out of bondage in ancient Egypt after centuries of slavery.

“Everyone is welcome, and we expect to be through the four questions, such as ‘Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights,’ and partake in the festive meal within an hour,” said Sklarz.

“Our intention is to share this joyous holiday of the Jews’ liberation from slavery in Egypt, but we want to do it in a way that is comfortable for everyone and without going until all hours of the night.”

However, for the more devout Jews, a community seder starting at 7:30 p.m. that will go until 2 a.m. or later, is being held by the Hasidic sect at the Chabad Center of Greenwich. It will be held at the Elm Street home of Rabbi Yossi Deren, his wife Maryashie Deren, and their 10 children.

“This is a very special holiday as we believe every Jew must experience the exodus from Egypt as though actually taking part in it ourselves,” said Maryashie Deren.

“Every year we have up to 50 people, and we discuss the meaning of Passover both from a religious perspective, and how we are all slaves to our work and technology today,” Deren said. “But Passover provides a chance to reflect on the real meaning of our lives, what is truly important within our soul.”

Deren’s 14-year-old son, Menachem, explained the importance of reading and experiencing the full Haggadah before ending the seder. He said the festive meal won’t be served until about 10:30 or 11 p.m., “if we’re lucky.

“When Moses said, ‘Let my people go,' to Pharaoh, he was not just talking about leaving physical bondage, but spiritual bondage, because the Jewish slaves were forced to serve idols and not practice the true Jewish religion,” Menachem said.

In the Bible’s description of the Exodus, God helped the Children of Israel escape slavery in Egypt by inflicting 10 plagues upon the Egyptians before the Pharaoh would release his Israelite slaves; the last and worst of the plagues was death of the first-born.

The Israelites were instructed by Moses to mark their doorposts with the blood of a spring lamb so the “spirit of death” would “pass over” their homes.

According to the Bible, Jews left in such a hurry they could not wait for bread dough to rise, or leaven. That is why on Passover only unleavened bread, or matzoh, is eaten by observant Jews, and that the holiday is called the festival of the unleavened bread.

Sklarz said that at the reform Seder he tries to emphasize how the Passover story relates to modern times.

“We live in a world of violence, poverty, bullying and wars, and we all have known what it is like, in one form or another, as Jews or collectively as people, to feel oppression,” he said.

“Passover is a time we celebrate the end of our people’s bondage in Egypt, but also focus on how to make a difference in the world in which we live today,” said the rabbi.

For information about attending the Chabad Center Seder, call 917-576-0615.

For information about attending the Reform Synagogue Seder, call Rabbi Sklarz at 203-629-0018.

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