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Jewish feast celebrates freedom

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
April 18, 2014 at 11:01 p.m.
Updated April 18, 2014 at 11:19 p.m.

Families of the Victoria Temple B'nai Israel prepare to celebrate  Seder as a group Friday night.


Kadesh: The Kiddush blessing marking the holiness of this day, and candles are lit to mark the beginning of the holiday.

Urchatz: A ritual washing of the hands (not found in some Reform Hagaddot).

Karpas: Eating a vegetable (often parsley) dipped in saltwater to represent the hopefulness of spring with the tears of slavery.

Yachatz: Breaking of the matzah; remembering the brokenness that slavery represents.

Maggid: The telling of the story of the Exodus from Egypt.

Rachtzah: Washing of the hands a second time, done with a blessing since you are going to eat more substantial food.

Motzi: The recitation of the blessing before eating (leavened or unleavened) bread.

Matzah: A special blessing said before eating matzah at the Seder.

Maror: Eating the bitter herbs to taste the bitterness of slavery.

Korech: Eating a sandwich of matzah and bitter herbs in fulfillment of Numbers 9:11. Then eat a sandwich of matzah, maror and charoset (a sweet chopped apple, nuts, cinnamon and grape juice dish).

Shulchan Oruch: Eating the dinner, which traditionally includes matzah ball soup, hard-boiled eggs, gefilte fish, meat and vegetables and macaroons.

Tzafun: A piece of the matzah that had been broken earlier has been hidden. The kids are sent to look for it. This is one of several ways that the compilers of the Hagaddah entertain the kids. Finding the afikoman symbolizes a move from brokenness toward healing. The afikoman (now the matzah of freedom) is supposed to be the last thing eaten.

Barech: The recitation of the Birkat HaMazon, the grace after meals.

Hallel: The recitation or singing of Psalms of praise.

Nirtzah: A prayer that God accept their service, then end the Seder with the words "lashana haba'a b'irushalayim!" or "Next year, may we be in Jerusalem." These words are spoken in hope that all Jews return to a peaceful Jerusalem.


"We now begin our Seder," Rabbi Anna Beroll announced, smiling.

She patted a bobby-pinned yarmulke to her head, checking to make sure it was in place, then signaled to members of Temple B'nai Israel to pick up the Passover Haggadah books and begin the ritual feast.

"This is such an exciting day," Beroll said, explaining the significance of the annual Passover Seder. "One of most important parts is the Maggid. It's a retelling of the story of Exodus, and it's told in a question-and-answer format to make it more interactive."

Passover is celebrated by Jewish families around the globe for eight days, or fewer for some Reformists, with a traditional Seder meal marking the beginning of the holiday.

Because Beroll lives in Austin and needs to drive to Victoria to lead the meal, the temple's Jewish families held the Seder on Friday, a few days into Passover.

The temple's rear library on Main Street transformed into a white-tablecloth dining room, carafes of sweet vintage Manischewitz wine sat atop each of the six tables; the aroma of matzah ball soup filled the space.

But before the crowd could feast on the buffet-style kosher fare, they first had to get through the early parts of the meal, which traditionally includes about 15 parts of prayer and symbolic noshing.

The ordered feast includes Hebrew blessings, sung prayers, wine and grape juice drinking, breaking matzah bread and eating food from the Seder plate display - parsley, saltwater, roasted eggs, radish and sweet apple and nuts.

A lamb or goat shankbone is also placed on the Seder plate, representing the lamb sacrifice offered in the Temple of Jerusalem, but it is not consumed, Beroll said.

Susan Monty Branfman, one of the Seder's organizers, said Passover is a celebratory occasion for Jewish people. But it's also a time to remember the Exodus story of God freeing the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and the centuries following of maltreatment and holocaust.

"It's a story we've been telling for 3,000 years," Branfman said, mentioning feelings of thankfulness for the freedom to worship openly in Victoria. "There are still (Jewish) people who face persecution in many parts of the world."

Though Victoria's area Jewish families are decreasing in number, Branfman said she's thankful for the closeness she experiences with all members of the temple.

"We're a small congregation. And this is the time to embrace our rich heritage and celebrate our freedom," Branfman said. "I'm proud to live in America and be Jewish."



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