Passover, the Jewish celebration of freedom that centers around the story of the deliverance from Egypt, begins next Friday, April 6. In preparation for Passover, Peninsula Temple Sholom in Burlingame, together with the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Peninsula and the First Presbyterian Church of Burlingame held an interfaith seder service on Thursday, March 29.
The seder, or traditional Passover meal, included reflections on the “Four Freedoms” described by President Franklin Roosevelt in his 1941 State of the Union address: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.
Over 170 people from Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities in the area joined in this interfaith celebration, which was held at Peninsula Temple Sholom and featured music by the Temple Cantor Barry Reich and members of the First Presbyterian of Burlingame Choir.
The traditional seder includes several references to the number four. During the ritual meal, four glasses of wine are blessed and drunk; there are four questions asked by the youngest person present; there is a description of four kinds of children and the questions they ask. Following this pattern, four religious leaders offered reflections on each of the Four Freedoms.
Dr. Elizabeth Frykberg of the Presbyterian church spoke about freedom of speech; Rabbi Rebekah Stern of Temple Sholom addressed freedom of worship. Rev. Paul Watermulder and Rabbi Daniel Feder finished with comments on freedom from want and freedom from fear.
Three additional faith leaders added their perspectives: Maha Elgenaidi, Executive Director of Islamic Networks Group, based in San Jose; Rev. Kristi Denham of the Congregational Church of Belmont; and Rabbi Corey Helfand of Peninsula Sinai Congregation.
As those seated around the tables followed traditional rituals of breaking unleavened bread, dipping parsley into salt water, and tasting bitter herbs, all part of remembering the Exodus story, they also joined in singing more modern songs and sharing in prayers for the world of today. There was opportunity for learning about the Jewish traditions of Passover, and to meet and talk with people of other faiths.
This was the first interfaith seder in Burlingame, but everyone agreed that it should become a yearly custom.