How did the communities that Shavei Israel supports celebrate Passover this year? Last week, we told you about the historic, first-ever community Pesach Seder being held in Kaifeng, China. Here’s a look at what’s happening with our emissaries in Poland, and with the Bnei Anousim in Spain, Portugal, Italy and South America.
Rabbi Yehoshua Ellis led a communal Seder for the Polish Jewish community in Katowice. Rabbi Avi Baumol did the same in Krakow at the JCC there. 120 people attended. Leading up to Pesach, Rabbi Baumol also held a number of “Pesach prep” events including one called “Ask the Rabbi about Pesach.” The dough may not have been rising, but the questions certainly did!
Over in Wroclaw, 150 people attended a community Seder. They certainly came prepared: in the week before the holiday, Rabbi Tyson Herberger ran a series of “model Seders” based on a “chocolate” theme: chocolate-covered wafers instead of matzah, bitter chocolate as maror (bitter herbs) and Nutella chocolate spread filling in as a substitute for charoset (which itself symbolizes the mortar the Israelite slaves used in their Egyptian building projects). Matzah was also distributed during the events, which were held in the towns of Zary and Walbrzych, and in two Jewish schools in Wroclaw.
Then, just prior to the holiday, on Saturday night, Polish Jews were invited to a melave malka with two Israeli emissaries in the area to learn the melodies used for the Seder, and then on Sunday night, to meet up in a local pub for one final “sip” of chametz in the form of a pre-Pesach beer.
Rabbi Shimon Yehoshua headed up a Seder for 80 Bnei Anousim in the city of Cali. Eighteen people from neighboring Ecuador joined the Seder, which took place in a hotel that Rabbi Yehoshua made kosher especially for the holiday.
There were two Seders in Portugal – one in Belmonte with Shavei Israel’s emissary Rabbi Elisha Salas, and another in Trancoso with Genie Milgrom, who we’ve written about here, as special guest. Before Shabbat, Migrom told her remarkable story of proving her Jewish roots and, on Sunday, led a hands-on genealogy workshop based on her methodology.
Rabbi Nissan Ben-Avraham’s students in the Spanish city of Granada held a community Seder at the home of Jose Manuel Romero Camarero. Eleven people attended – three families including four children. In Alicante, a group of 10 people made Seder together at the home of Yaakov Hernandez.
The students of Rabbi Pinchas Punturello held a community Seder in Palermo, Sicily. The Seder included four young Bnei Anousim who were in Israel recently – we’ll have a report on their trip in a coming issue.