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Fairfield Families Prepare for Passover

Monday night marks the beginning of a special time in the Jewish community. The holiday of Passover begins April 18 at sundown. Rabbis such as Ahavath Achim’s Mitchell Rocklin, Chabad of Fairfield’s Shlame Landa and Congregation Beth El’s Daniel J. Satlow will lead their communities in eight days of prayer, remembrance and family gatherings.

Passover commemorates the ancient Israelite’s flight from slavery in Egypt in 23rd century B.C.E. According to the book of Exodus, God unleashed 10 plagues on Egypt while sparing the Israelites, until the Pharaoh agreed to release the Jewish people.  Rabbi Moishe Denburg of the Chabad , which includes a congregation in Fairfield, explains that celebrating that salvation is still important today, even as Jewish people are still persecuted all over the world.

“The impact of that first redemption from Egypt was a redemption of our Jewish souls,” Denburg said. “Yes, our bodies would continue to go to another exile. But our neshama , our souls, would be free to choose to follow the paths and wishes of Torah and God.”

The main focus of the holiday is the seder, a dinner with family and friends. Jewish families eat matzoh, or unleavened bread, and bitter herbs to remember the slavery endured in Egypt. Yet they also drink wine or grape juice to symbolize the celebration of the first Passover and the flight from persecution.

The seder also features the Haggadah, a re-telling of the biblical story. Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, another Chabad leader, stresses that the Haggadah is told in first person, to make the connection stretch across centuries.

“You don’t tell your kids, ‘The ancient Israelites left the ancient land of Egypt,’ you say, ‘ I left Egypt, and when I was there, this is what happened,’ ” Freeman said. “It has to be real.”

If you are not organizing your own seder with family and friends, Congregation Rodeph Sholom on Park Avenue in Bridgeport will be hosting a communal seder Monday night at 8 p.m. For more information, contact (203) 268-6940.

Does your family have any special Passover traditions? Tell us about them in the comments below.

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