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Celebrating Easter and Passover in Interfaith Relationships

Originally published April, 2000. Republished March 31, 2011.

Individuals in interfaith relationships often find that their religion takes on more meaning when they describe and/or share their traditions and rituals with someone they love. They take their own religion less for granted. Celebrating both Easter and Passover is one way to think globally--about the need for peace and understanding between nations--and act locally--by working to foster tolerance within yourself, your marriage and your family.

Both Easter, which is traditionally celebrated at sunrise, and Passover, traditionally celebrated at sunset, are family gatherings where occasional friends are invited to join in a special and ritualized meal. As at any family gathering, at both Easter dinners and Passover seders there is always more politics than meets the eye. Weeks of planning, who gets invited, who hosts, who brings what dishes, even who sits where, may be the result of thousands of innuendoes and years of family traditions. The children often have their own sets of feelings, needs, hierarchies, and agendas: who has to sit near Grandma, who gets to sit next to the window, who wins the egg or the afikoman hunt, and do I have to wear a suit?

A difference between Easter and Passover is that celebrating Passover occurs in the home, as opposed to synagogue or church. A Passover seder stands on its own as a religious event without the need for a rabbi as guide. Easter, however, includes the magnificent and formal beauty of the church and a church service. Easter music, including the Bach creations of the Passion of St. John and the Passion of Saint Matthew, is moving and inspiring.

Passover lends itself quite well to interfaith relationships because of:

1. The emphasis on innocence, on asking questions about the meaning of the celebration. The ritual of asking questions is built into the seder.

2. The emphasis on overcoming suffering. The story of the Exodus is a story of victory over oppression by the pharaoh of Egypt. The theme of overcoming oppression is one that most people can relate to.

3. The acknowledgment of spring. Both Easter and Passover involve an appreciation of spring. This includes eggs, which are part of the seder table and Easter celebrations, lambs, which are part of the seder table and Easter, and greens, which are served at both Passover and Easter.

4. The fact that Jesus' last supper was a Passover seder. The famous and ubiquitous Leonardo da Vinci painting of The Last Supper reminds the educated onlooker of the connection between these two events.

5. Both the betrayal of Jesus and the slavery of the Jews are stories about one's essential goodness not being known. The story of the resurrection of Jesus has enormous spiritual passion: it represents the hope of peace and an ongoing connection with a loved one despite that person's death. It reminds people that they can, in memory, ceremony, prayer, or meditation, reconnect with the essence and spirit of those who have gone.

Those couples lucky enough to have both a Christian and a Jewish head-of-household will probably find the honoring of Easter and Passover the richest in intelligence and spirit of all holiday combinations.

 

Derived from the Greek word for "assembly," a Jewish house of prayer. Synagogue refers to both the room where prayer services are held and the building where it occurs. In Yiddish, "shul." Reform synagogues are often called "temple." "Dessert" in Greek, it refers to the matzah that is hidden at the beginning of the Passover seder and which, customarily, children look for and ransom back to the adults before the conclusion. The spring holiday commemorating the Exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. The Hebrew name is "Pesach." Hebrew for "my master," the term refers to a spiritual leader and teacher of Torah. Often, but not always, a rabbi is the leader of a synagogue congregation.
Carla Haimowitz

Carla Haimowitz is a licensed pychologist who has been in private practice in Oakland and Berkeley for thirty years. She writes the "Ask Carla" column for the Contra Costa County Jewish Community Center and also works for Jewish Family and Children's Services.

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