My wife and I returned on Sunday to Apalachicola after spending the Passover holiday in Atlanta with my oldest son and his family, and enjoying the second seder with our old friends at our old synagogue in Asheville. While we were away we had seen the picture of my grandchildren and son Danny from the Apalachicola Times celebrating the Passover seder with the Trinity Episcopal Church congregation. I was happy that the picture was in the Times and I looked forward to reading the article by Jennifer Sheffield, which I was surprised to see on the front page.
Having worked with Alex and Maya on The Four Questions during the weeks before our trip, I was happy to hear from Danny that they had done well, and everyone was proud of their contribution. It was so gratifying to know that they had been able to celebrate the holiday in Apalachicola thanks to the decision by Trinity Episcopal to have a seder and open it to the community.
In recent years many churches have begun having seders, and there are a great many formats being used. Many are celebrations of the Last Supper, and are usually during Holy Week, observing the crucifixion of Jesus, and the Easter Rejoicing. Few churches have decided to do a Jewish Passover seder commemorating the exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, to freedom eventually in the land of Canaan, and the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, and the cementing of a holy covenant between the Israelites and their God while wandering 40 years in the desert.
Trinity Episcopal's decision to do a Jewish seder is significant and greatly appreciated. Jews living in small communities, as a tiny minority, often struggle to maintain their Jewish identity and holiday observances. Religious observance is a community thing. We travel to Panama City regularly to join their small congregation in Sabbath and holiday observances, and to connect with other Jews. Obviously this is inconvenient and sometimes burdensome, but it is our need to maintain our Jewish identity.
Trinity Episcopal's Passover seder done in a Jewish way was welcoming and heartwarming allowing Jews who chose to participate the opportunity to be with local friends and to feel a real sense of acceptance and community. If we had known more about the seder we would have considered staying in Apalachicola instead of going to Atlanta and Asheville.
I want to express my sincere appreciation to the members of Trinity Episcopal for the beautiful and sensitive outreach to local Jews, few in number, but appreciative of the gesture. My grandchildren were able to experience their first seder, and to have a role usually given to children to ask the questions which sets the stage for the retelling of the exodus story.