April 9, 2009 in City

Passover begins, celebrating freedom, tradition

By The Spokesman-Review

Jews in the Inland Northwest and around the world this week are celebrating Passover, the annual festival marking the Hebrews’ Exodus from slavery in Egypt.

The festival began at sunset Wednesday and ends April 15. Jewish residents from across the region were invited to a public Seder, or traditional dinner, at the Chabad of Spokane, said Rabbi Yisroel Hahn, executive director of the South Hill chabad.

Typically, Seders are a time to bring extended family together and for recounting the story of the Exodus, particularly to children.

But Passover is more than a celebration of the Jewish past, said Rabbi Jack Izakson, of Temple Beth Shalom in Spokane.

“It is our festival of freedom,” Izakson said, adding that his prayers will be for Jews living in danger in many parts of the world.

“Israel still has one of its soldiers kidnapped, and we will be remembering him at our Seder.”

The fate of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was captured in 2006 and is believed to be held by Hamas in Gaza, remains very much in doubt, according to the global Jewish news service JTA.

Shalit’s father, Noam Shalit, met with new Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week to discuss his son’s situation.

“We have no reason to be optimistic. Gilad’s freedom does not appear to be on the horizon,” Shalit said after the meeting.

Jews also celebrated a sunrise ritual Wednesday that is performed only every 28 years, when according to Talmudic calculations, the sun returns to the exact position as at the time of Creation.

Hahn said the Birkat Hachama, or blessing of the sun, was performed in Spokane as it is by Jews throughout the world.

Kevin Graman can be reached at (509)459-5433 or kevingr@spokesman.com.

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