- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 1, 2007

A Jewish group is trying to get people more excited about Passover by giving away do-it-yourself Seder kits to help prepare meals for the religious holiday, which begins at sundown today.

The nonprofit Jewish Federation of Greater Washington distributed about 500 kits to help Jewish with the Seder meal, traditionally eaten on the first two nights of Passover.

This is the second year of the distribution as part of the Creative Seder Initiative outreach program, also known as CSI-D.C., said Sharon Doner, director of the group’s Jewish Information and Referral Service.

The kits include a Seder plate, a cookbook, matzo-ball soup and games.

Volunteers also distributed bags of Passover materials at outdoor markets and grocery stores in the region.

Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew, commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from a 400-year enslavement in Egypt.

According to the Book of Exodus, the prophet Moses pleaded for the freedom of his people. When he was ignored, God brought 10 plagues upon the Egyptians, the last of which was supposed to kill the firstborn of every man and animal in Egypt.

Moses said God would “pass over” the Israelites’ houses if they smeared their door posts with lamb’s blood.

A roasted lamb shank representing the Passover sacrifice is one of the symbolic Seder foods. Others include sprigs of parsley symbolizing renewal and hope, bitter herbs representing the bitterness of slavery and a hard-boiled egg for life.

Passover is second to Hanukkah in observance among area Jews, Ms. Doner said.

“It’s a family time,” she said. “People love to get together.”

For nearly 20 years, Jewish Information and Referral Service has run a Seder matching service through which young couples, seniors and others who might be dining alone are placed with Jewish families who have extra space at their dinner tables.

The “Share a Seder” program places about 50 people a year with volunteer families or community Seders hosted by synagogues, Ms. Doner said.

The National Synagogue, in Northwest, hosted 250 to 300 people in each of its first two years, Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld said.

The synagogue will host its third free Seder today after its 7 p.m. service, and it is booked to capacity, Mr. Herzfeld said.

“Passover is a holiday that represents redemption,” he said. “Redemption is where we become complete, and we can’t be complete if people are left behind.

“We invite people in the community to join us … whether they can’t afford to have a Seder, whether they are lonely or whether they simply want to give of themselves.”

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