Beginning at sundown Monday, Jews throughout Southern California and the world begin Passover, a celebration marking the angel of death's "passing over" of homes of Israelites held captive in ancient Egypt, and of Israel's exodus from Egyptian bondage during biblical times.
Also known as Pesach, Passover is observed for eight days, ending after sundown April 29.
The first night of Passover (and for some Jews also the second and third nights) is a time of gathering family and friends for the Passover Seder, or meal at which matzo or unleavened bread is eaten to symbolize the haste with which the Israelites fled Egypt. They left in such a hurry that it is said there was no time for their bread to rise.
In addition to family gatherings, a number of community Seders are planned throughout the area. And last week, a number of congregations held "model Seders" designed to teach the meaning of Passover and the symbolism of the dinner.
During the Seder, many variations of the Haggada (literally, the "telling") are used to recount the story of the Exodus with commentaries, blessings, prayers and songs. Always there is a place at the table that remains vacant in case the prophet Elijah knocks on the door. "Elijah's cup" also graces the table. Elijah is identified with the "Wandering Jew" of medieval folklore.
COMMUNITY PASSOVER SEDERS
A traditional Passover Seder open to the community is planned Tuesday at 6 p.m. by Temple Beth Tikvah of Fullerton, 1600 N. Acacia Ave. Cost is $25 for adults, $12.50 for children ages 3 to 13. Children under 3 are free. Phone (714) 871-3535. Rabbi Ned Soltz will lead the Seder in prayer and songs.
A community Seder will be held Tuesday by Kehillat Ma'arav--The Westside Congregation--at 6:30 p.m. Rabbi Michael Gotlieb will preside over a traditional Kosher Passover meal. 1715 21st St., Santa Monica. Cost is $40 for members, $45 for nonmembers, $16 for children under 13. Reservations at (310) 453-8358.
A variation on the community Passover Seder is planned by Temple Beth Zion-Sinai. The Conservative congregation, at 6440 Del Amo Blvd, Lakewood, plans a "Share a Seder" program in which congregants invite members of the community into their homes to share a Seder. To participate, call the temple office at (562) 429-0715.
JAILED AT PASSOVER
Passover services and Seders will be held in Los Angeles County jails. Sheriff Sherman Block said his department encourages inmates to observe religious events. "Our hope is that by allowing them to practice their faiths, the paths of their lives may take a turn for the better," Block said. Passover observances will be held Thursday at 10 a.m. at the North County Correctional Facility, and at 12:30 p.m. at the Sybil Brand Institute. An observance was held Friday at the Central Jail. Participating were Rabbi Martin Ryback, Jewish Chaplain at Men's Central Jail, and Rabbi Mike Weiss.
PASSOVER IDEAS WANTED
B'nai B'rith Center for Jewish Identity is asking families to share their Passover Seder ideas for "putting pep into Pesach" for possible publication in a booklet to be printed in time for next year. For example, some families have a wine-tasting Seder. Some Seder hosts get creative with old standards, challenging guests to sing a verse of "Chad Gadya" without taking a breath. "We hope that this booklet introduces people to ways to make the holiday even more meaningful for people of all levels of religious observance," center President Barbara Stollman said. Send Passover ideas to: the Center for Jewish Identity, 1640 Rhode Island Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036 or e-mail CJI@bnaibrith.org.
"A German Requiem" by Johannes Brahms will be performed at Garden Grove United Methodist Church, at 4 p.m. on May 4. It will feature a full orchestra and chorus, including soloists Patricia Larkin and Mark Schneider. 12741 Main St., Garden Grove. Suggested donation of $5. Phone (714) 775-6501.
"A German Requiem" will also be performed by Westwood Presbyterian Church's Chancel Choir, with full orchestra under the direction of Donn Weiss. Soloists will be Rhonda Dillon, soprano, and Conrad Immel, baritone. April 27, 4 p.m. at the church, 10822 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. Donation of $10. Call (310) 474-4535.
Pasadena Presbyterian Church and First United Methodist Church of Glendale will present two performances of "A German Requiem." They will be May 3 at 8 p.m. at the Methodist church, 134 N. Kenwood, Glendale; and May 4 at 4 p.m at the Presbyterian church, 585 E. Colorado Blvd. The performance will involve 90 voices of the combined choirs and an orchestra. $10 donation. Call (818) 568-2608.
Mary Preston, organist of the Dallas Symphony, plays the works of Windor, Durufle, Doppelbauer, Rinck, and Reger at All Saints Episcopal Church, 504 N. Camden Drive, Beverly Hills. April 20, 5 p.m. $10 admission, $5 for students and seniors. Call (310) 275-2910.