Yesterday our family celebrated Passover. We are not Jewish so people are usually a bit surprised when we tell them of this long standing family practice. It has served us well over the years – we never have conflicts with in-law families because none of them are Jewish -an extra benefit. Let me share this strange history of ours.
When my oldest daughter, Becky, was in sixth grade, she attended religious education classes at our local church (CCD). I was the teacher of the class. I loved teaching this grade because the curriculum focused on the Bible. In addition to spending a few years delving into the scriptures I had done considerable studying of Jewish traditions which I liked incorporating into my classes. As the season of Passover came around, I had the idea of introducing the students to this most beloved ritual by hosting a seder for the students and their parents. I learned about the various foods and their meaning and searched for a script. It was not easy finding a script that was child friendly. This was before the days of the internet. I ended up writing my own. I also wanted to tie in a Christian connection with reference to the Last Supper and Eucharist.
I made yarmulke’s for all of the boys, those little caps that you see on the heads of Jewish men and boys. I prepared all of the foods and placed small portions of these on all of the tables in the cafeteria where we brought the families together. I sat at a head table where I led the mothers in their part of the lighting of the candles and our parish priest led the fathers in the telling of the story, the Haggada. A teenage who helped with our program led the sixth graders in reading the four questions. It is in answering these questions that a Jewish father is prompted to results relate the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. It was a wonderful experience. The families were deeply touched and it gave new meaning to their Catholic experience of the Eucharist. We repeated the event each of the following years that I taught there.
When I studied World Religions in college, our professor took us to visit a local synagogue where the Rabbi spoke to us about Jewish practice. He made statement I will never forget. “We Jews are unique as communities in that our most important spiritual events are celebrated in our homes, not in the synagogue.” I yearned for such rituals in my own home with my husband and children. After the experience of celebrating the Passover meal with my sixth graders, I decided to bring it into my own home. I rewrote the script paying careful attention to how to bring in a Christian element while being faithful to what I believed is the Jewish intent. The end product is what our family uses to this day. Last night as we read the Haggada and ate the traditional foods for the 33rd year, I felt pleased. I would not be embarrassed to have Jewish friends share this meal with us though it would feel awkward, like performing Chopsticks on the piano for a virtuoso.
One year our children presented us with a collection of six hand bound books that contain the Haggada. Our book artist daughter, Heidi, created them. They are elegant, long and slender with tapestry covers and silk ties. The cover page reads:”THE JEUB FAMILY SEDER, revised by Judith Ellen Zapf Jeub, lived by the Jeubs, bound by the youngest child Heidi Jeub”. On the last page she wrote: “This Seder meal is possible, due to my mother’s ability to see beyond what is handed to her every Sunday. Due to her intelligence and open mind, my family is able to make connections between the Old and New Testaments. With the simple action of experiencing something beyond our ‘normal everyday life’ once a year, we approach our society with a tolerance and appreciation for difference. This script also makes us realize how blessed we are as a family, and in many ways, a society, to have the privilege and duty of freedom. May our children carry on this tradition of learning understanding and praying. Amen.”