“It celebrates the birth of the Jewish people, beginning with the Exodus from Egypt over 3,000 years ago,” said Rabbi Zalman Charytan with Chabad Jewish Center in Kennesaw. “Every year there is a time when Jewish people come out to celebrate their heritage.”
Passover begins tonight, when many families gather for the traditional Seder. The word means “specific order of things” in Hebrew, said Addie Schneider, director of the religious school at Temple Kol Emeth, a Reformed synagogue in east Cobb.
The Seder includes a reading of the Haggadah, which tells the story of the Jewish exodus from bondage in Egypt, as well as a meal served in proper order.
“That’s a big family event,” Schneider said. “There are all kinds of ceremonies.”
Passover continues through April 2. During the eight-day period, Schneider said, Jews are expected to refrain from eating food with leavening ingredients that cause it to rise, such as yeast or baking soda. They also must avoid eating grains like wheat or barley, which eliminates everything from bread to beer.
“There is a big chunk of diet that is forbidden,” Schneider said.
While some Jews have avoided eating products made from corn, Schneider said others are starting to change on that restriction.
“Many modern Jews allow that nowadays, because of the realization that when rabbis originally made the laws, they didn’t even know that corn existed,” she said.
The Chabad Jewish Center, which has Orthodox rabbis who do not require congregants to be Orthodox, will host its own Seder tonight. Charytan said it is aimed at Kennesaw State University students and others who aren’t able to celebrate with their families. While the event has a regular cost of $39 for adults, KSU students are admitted free.
“Our goal is to be serving them, as well,” Charytan said.
While the Seder is traditionally held on the first night of Passover, Temple Kol Emeth will have one Tuesday. Schneider said the Second Night Seder allows people to celebrate with other members of the community after being with family and close friends on Monday.
One food they plan to eat is the flatbread matzo. Because it is required to be cooked within 18 minutes of being mixed, Schneider said, matzo is OK to eat during Passover.
“It’s sort of like eating a Saltine without salt,” she said. “They figured out that after 18 minutes the ingredients start to rise.”