Jewish Passover Seder celebrated at Zocalo

Jenn Forsland will lead Seder attendees in song. - File photo
Jenn Forsland will lead Seder attendees in song.
— image credit: File photo

Have you ever wondered what the Jewish celebration of Passover is all about? What is the symbolic meaning of the ritual, the matzah, the karpas, and the bitter herbs? How does this central, annual event in the life of the Jewish community lead to building and sustaining community? Why not set aside the evening of Thursday, April 17 to find out?

The Community Justice Centre, together with its partners Wachiay Friendship Centre, the Immigrant Welcome Centre, Volunteer Comox Valley, the Laughing Oyster Bookstore and Zocalo Café, are hosting a Jewish Passover Seder at Zocalo Café. The evening  will give the Comox Valley an opportunity to experience this important Jewish celebration, including the full ritual and story, and the important festival meal (non-Kosher) — all done with a special focus on Tikun Olam, which means 'repairing the world.'

The theme will be introduced by various story tellers from the Comox Valley and the Lower Mainland. The stories will be about the many and various ways that communities of faith have collaborated with secular communities to make things right in the world. Mbegi Sadike will recall efforts to end apartheid in South Africa when he was young. Medwyn McConachy will share the story of a project bringing Permaculture to Palestine — the art and science of growing food in sustainable and earth regenerating ways,

Helen Boyd founder of Care-A-Van will talk about health justice for the near homeless, and Richard Clarke, of Dawn to Dawn, will share the society's work about mitigating the impact of homelessness. All of these are just a few examples of Tikun Olam at work in our community and abroad.

Leading the Seder ritual will be Rabbi David Mivasair, a progressive, re-constructionist rabbi from Vancouver. He was ordained by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, founder of Jewish Renewal and a long-time colleague in inter-faith work with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Dali Lama, and Nobel Peace Laureate and Muslim scholar, Shirin Abadi. Rabbi Mivasair has long been active in the inter-faith movement in Judaism, and has spent considerable time living in Israel and Palestine working for peace between those communities.

As an important part of the Passover Seder involves singing songs that relate to the themes and ideas of the Exodus story, Jenn Forsland of the Jenn Forsland Group and conductor of Celebration Singers here in the Comox Valley, has agreed to help out by leading those attending in the singing of these easy and joyful songs. At the conclusion of the evening, a new Song about Tikun Olam, commissioned for this event, will be premiered by Josie Patterson. She is a rising young composer, (and Vanier high school student), from Cumberland.

The Seder ritual has been specially written to draw attention to the desire we all share for the repair of the world, and relates it to the Exodus story of the escape from slavery to freedom.  And, as with most Jewish festival events, there will be plenty of group singing and talking and discussing!

The Seder is an inclusive, respectful and joyous event, open to the whole community — you don't have to be Jewish to find this a powerful and meaningful evening. It will leave you moved and more fully aware of the cultural and religious roots of a Jewish understanding of the world.

In the context of an increasingly diverse and multicultural community, a deeper understanding of how and what our neighbours find meaningful in their lives can expand our own capacities to understand and be more compassionate towards one another.

Each participant will receive a souvenir printed copy of the Seder ritual and each table will have the opportunity to participate in the readings, discussions and general good fun.

The evening includes a specially prepared Passover meal by Chef Peter of Zocalo Café. Tickets are $30 each, $20 for those under 13, and are available at Laughing Oyster Books and Zocalo Café on Fifth Street, and at the Community Justice Centre on Eigth Street (call ahead to make sure they're open – 250-334-8101).

A word of warning: last year's Community Passover Seder of Compassion was sold out a week before. Tickets are going quickly, so don't be disappointed. Ticket sales will close as of 5 p.m, Monday, April 14 if not sold out before.

— Comox Valley Community Justice Centre

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