Rabbi Kenter on Keeping Kosher @ Rivertowns Patch

Published: Thursday, April 21, 2011 7:00 am Source: Rivertowns Patch

“Passover speaks to different people differently, and how they observe the holiday reflects that,” said Rabbi Barry Kenter, of Greenburgh Hebrew Center in Dobbs Ferry.  “Both of your friends are acknowledging this is a special time of year.”

“Matzo”—cracker-like, unleavened bread—is widely accepted as the symbol of Passover. As recounted in the Biblical book Exodus, the Passover story is about the Hebrews’ harrowing escape from servitude in Egypt. Before leaving, they had just enough time to make the bread for their journey, but not enough time to let it rise before the Egyptians began to pursue them. Contemporary Jews celebrate Passover by eating only unleavened bread in honor of their ancestors’ crossing-over from slavery to freedom.

“But matzo is only one part of Passover,” Kenter said. “The story is also about celebrating freedom and having the leisure to spend a long time over a meal—something our ancestors could not do when they were enslaved.” And something we—leading our busy and over-scheduled lives—rarely take time to do.

During the Passover Seder—or meal—participants are reminded to recline in their seats and ask questions. Everyone reads along, following the story in a book called the Haggadah.

“Every year, I ask each person who comes to my Seder to bring either a question or a piece of information about the history and traditions of Passover,” Kenter said. “Even though the book is the same year after year, the experience is always new and different.”

And, like my family, Kenter said he has added items to his Seder plate to incorporate a more worldly and contemporary awareness. “We now put an orange on the Seder plate,” he said, which has come to symbolize rights for Jewish women and homosexuals. (There is a story about a man commenting to a famous female Jewish professor in the 1980’s that: “Women belong on the Bimah—[in leadership positions in the Synagogue]—like oranges belong on the Seder plate.” Though the story’s veracity is questionable, the orange on the Seder plate has become a symbol of tolerance for many American Jews.)

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