Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
22 Mar 2013
22 Mar 2013
Six young leaders from the Archdiocese of Sydney joined 100 others from different faiths, cultures and political parties for a unique Passover dinner last Wednesday which commemorates the Israelites' 40 years in the Wilderness when Moses led them from bondage in Egypt to the Promised Land.
Organised by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies' Outreach program, the dinner was held five days ahead of the actual date of Passover this year, which according to the Jewish calendar begins at sunset on Tuesday, 25 March and ends at nightfall on Monday, 1 April.
One of the holiest and most significant religious festivals in the Jewish calendar, Passover is observed by Jews across the world whether they are Orthodox, religious, practicing or secular Jews.
Held at the University of NSW, Wednesday's Passover dinner for the city's young leaders, including many from Sydney's vibrant Jewish community, was a chance for those from other faiths, political alliances and cultures to gain a unique and very special insight into the ancient ritual of the Passover Seder.
Seder or the Passover feast is held on the eve of Passover Week or the Week of Unleavened Bread, as it is sometimes known, and includes the prayers, teachings and songs as well as ritual Passover dishes in a Jewish religious ritual that dates back more than 3000 years.
"The Passover Seder is full of rich symbolism with each course throughout the meal carrying a message, meaning or teaching from the Flight of the Children of Israel from Egypt," says James Van Schie, the Archdiocese of Sydney's Executive Officer for Renewal.
For Catholics and Christian denominations, the passages from Exodus read during the Passover Seder were a familiar part of their own religious heritage and like many at the dinner, James says he was struck by the many similarities between the Christian and Jewish faiths.
"We are all children of Abraham," he points out.
Not only do Christians and Jews study the Old Testament and are both familiar with Exodus and the other Books of the Bible, but Passover has special meaning for many of us with scholars citing Passover as the reason Christ and the Apostles gathered for The Last Supper.
James like all men at the dinner, no matter what their faith, wore a Yarmulke as a sign of respect. Accompanied by songs and readings, the meal began with the ritual foods of Passover such as bitter herbs, unleavened bread as there was no yeast in the wilderness, and "karpas" dipped in salt water. Karpas or fresh greens such as lettuces symbolises the abundance prior to slavery in Egypt and the salt water the hard labour the Israelites were forced to endure.
Wine was also drunk throughout the meal, with the first cup during the recital of the Kiddush blessing, the second during the retelling of the Passover story, the third cup of wine after the "holiday feast" of delicious dishes which come towards the end of the meal and finally the fourth cup of wine with the recital of the Hallel shortly before the end of the evening's celebrations.
James says as he listened to the ritual prayers, readings and songs, he reflected of the equally rich traditions of the Catholic Church and the role these play in Christian faith and teachings.
"I reflected on Palm Sunday which will be celebrated this weekend when Catholics everywhere will carry palm fronts and crosses made from palm leaves and recall Christ's triumphant - and final journey - into Jerusalem," he says. "I also reflected on Holy Week, rituals such as the washing of the feet, The Stations of the Cross, fasting as we recall the passion of our Lord, the use of light during the Easter Vigil, the solemnity of Good Friday, the death of Our Lord and the joy of Easter Sunday, when we celebrate His Resurrection."
For Bedelia Melville, Interfaith Assistant with the Archdiocese's Commission for Ecumenism and Inter Religious Relations the Passover dinner for Sydney's young leaders, hosted by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, was yet another strong step forward in the promotion of tolerance, understanding and interfaith relations.
"Like the others from the Archdiocese who attended the dinner, the evening offered a real insight into one of Judaism's most ancient and holy traditions. I'd never been to a Passover Seder before and was fascinated and honoured to be part of such a special evening," she says.
All at the dinner were also immensely moved by 93-year-old Eddie Jaku OAM who spoke poignantly of his incarceration at Auschwitz, the death of his parents during the Holocaust and the horror of this time.
In addition to learning more about the Jews and the Jewish faith, Bedelia says the Passover dinner provided a wonderful opportunity to meet a cross section of Sydney's young people and exchange ideas and make new friends.
"We wanted to honour leadership this year and thought the story of Moses leading his people out of bondage in Egypt served as a wonderful inspiration," explains Natalee Pozniak, Public Affairs Manager for the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies. "At Passover the story of Moses and the flight from Egypt is commemorated, and we believe Moses with his position as leader, his responsibility to his people and his vision for the future is a great inspiration for leaders everywhere."
For this reason she says young leaders from across a wide spectrum were invited to the dinner.
In addition to James Van Schie, those who attended the dinner included the Archdiocese of Sydney's Promoter of Justice and Peace, Chantelle Ogilivie-Ellis; Justice and Peace Research and Project Officer, Christine d'Rozario; committee member and former president of St Peter's Society at the University of Sydney, honours student, Annemarie McCLaren; Strategic Relations Manager for Campion College, Michael Mendieta; senior student Samuel Green from Campion college.
Among the others who attended the dinner were representatives from Sydney's Jewish community, the Chinese Australian Forum, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, the Sikh Council of Australia, the Buddhist Council of NSW, the NSW Young Liberals, NSW Young Labor, the Muslim Women's Association, the Council of International Students, NSW Young Lawyers, members of various local councils, Young UN Women and the Council of Indian Australians.
Photos courtesy of Giselle Haber Photography
SHARED FROM ARCHDIOCESE OF SYDNEY