Passover began Friday night at sundown and Spokane Jewish families opened their homes to Jews and nonJews for the traditional celebration.
“It’s so important we don’t want to leave anyone by themselves,” said Al Berman, of the Temple Beth Shalom. “It’s always been a tradition - you find a stranger and welcome them to your home.”
Berman connected several individuals and small families with other families preparing the traditional Seder meal. Earlier this week, he had one unmatched family, a mother and her two sons, when Cora and Howard Glass called and said they had room at their table.
Newcomers themselves, the Glasses wanted to make their first Passover in Spokane special.
“Especially with this holiday, we are supposed to be hospitable to strangers,” said Howard Glass. “The Torah says, ‘You were once a stranger in a strange land,’ meaning Egypt.”
During the eight days of Passover, Jews remember and relive their ancestors’ enslavement to the Egyptians. According to Scripture, God freed the Jews, sending 10 plagues over the land, including the Angel of Death, who killed the first-born son in every Egyptian household.
To avoid the plagues, the Jews marked their door posts with the blood of a lamb and the curses passed over their households.
For Jews, Passover is traditionally celebrated in the home with family and friends. In Spokane, where most Jews are not native to the city, families have to work hard to make the holiday meaningful.
“Every Jew is suppose to participate in the Seder, not only to remember the Exodus, but recreate it,” Glass said. “You can’t do that alone. And there really should be kids there.”
Robin Way is a single mother trying to connect her sons with their Jewish roots. Last year, she prepared her first Seder.
“It just didn’t flow like it should have,” she said of the symbolic meal that incorporates prayers and songs along with traditional food.
She was eager to join the Glass family for the Seder this year.
Glass was raised in an Orthodox family in New York City. His parents followed the strict dietary laws laid down in the Torah.
His upbringing was quite different from Way, who was raised in a Reform family in Connecticut.
“We did nothing and we knew nothing,” she said.
Three years ago, Way decided to join the Temple and learn more about her culture and religion.
Way said she felt more comfortable among Jews in Spokane than she did in her hometown.
“Going to the Temple was a little unsettling at first, but there were no raised eyebrows,” she said. “But it was more unsettling growing up in a Jewish community and trying to fake it.”
By joining the Glass family for dinner, she was hoping to learn more about keeping a kosher kitchen and saying the traditional Hebrew prayers.
Cora Glass is a good teacher. A Christian, she has learned to observe Jewish customs with her husband and their children.
Way said that since her return to Judaism, she feels her family has found its identity.
“This gives us an activity as a family, a sense of belonging, not only to each other but to a community,” she said. “It’s a very settling, warm feeling.”