The Rev. George Balasko, left, and Rabbi Joseph Schonberger hold Haggadah, prayer books for the Seder meal, during the pre-Passover event Wednesday night at Stambaugh Auditorium in Youngstown. Sisters D’Ella, 14, and Millie Heschmeyer, 10, participated in the event. Sophia Brooks also sang.
By LINDA M. LINONIS
A pre-Passover Seder at Stambaugh Auditorium attracted 218 people who participated in the ritual meal celebrating the Israelites’ liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt.
Rabbi Joseph Schonberger of Temple El Emeth in Liberty led the event Wednesday night with commentary by the Rev. George Balasko, retired priest in the Diocese of Youngstown. The two lead Jewish/Christian Studies North.
Jack Kravitz, owner of Kravitz Delicatessen, suggested the community Seder. “It’s part of our effort at sharing cultures,” he said.
He added the deli, which prepared the meal, is the site of various celebrations such as Oktoberfest, St. Patrick’s Day and Polish Fest.
“The Seder is a real celebration of Judaism,” he said. Passover begins at sundown April 14.
Rabbi Schonberger said the Seder, usually a family event, offers a “sense of connection” among participants. “There is a formality to it, as the order of a Roman meal, and it’s filled with lessons,” he said. “The Romans ate on couches on their left sides because everyone was right-handed.” So, he noted, the tradition is to “lean to the left” as a symbol of being free.
Father Balasko commented that what Christians know as the Last Supper may have been a Passover meal.
Four traditional questions pertain to the significance of the night. The rabbi noted the meal is marked by ceremonial foods rich in symbolism. Matzah, unleavened bread, recalls the Israelites hasty departure from Egypt that allowed no time for the dough to rise.
Rabbi Schonberger said the Hagaddah, the prayer book, is used.
There were four cups of wine or grape juice at the Seder along with the Cup of Elijah. “Each cup represents another aspect of redemption and freedom,” the rabbi said.
“Elijah’s cup is about personal protection and redemption for the future.”
Miriam’s Cup, “the cup of living waters,” that sustained the Israelites in the desert also is mentioned. Miriam’s Cup of water serves to “refresh and inspire.”
The Seder revolves around the idea that “there is value present in all humans because all are creatures of God,” Rabbi Schonberger said.
“The theme of hope and healing for one group ... the Israelites in Egypt of long ago ... that it would grow into a universal freedom.”
The rabbi shared with the group that the miracles experienced by the Jewish people “gave a positive sense of purpose and resolve that involved kindness and caring.”
Rabbi Schonberger presented a light-hearted, celebratory program that included familiar tunes with new wording contributed by his wife, Susan Schonberger. These included “Don’t Sit on the Afikomen” sung to the tune of “Glory, Glory Hallelujah” and “Take Me Out to the Seder” to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
Though Passover hails Jewish freedom, the rabbi said, the celebration is incomplete because “other people still suffer” from oppression.
Nicky Uerling of Boardman, a campus minister at the Newman Center at Youngstown State University, said she wanted to learn about the symbolism of the Seder. “It’s the first one I’ve attended,” she said.
She was with YSU sophomore, Jessica Kimmet of Youngstown, who said she was taking a class in world religions and studying Judaism. Connor Hetzel of Boardman, YSU sophomore, said he had served at Seder meals at St. Charles Borromeo Church and wanted to experience the meal as a participant.
Carmel Szabo of Hartford said she’d never been to a true Seder and wanted the experience. She attended with a friend, Virginia Ohlin of Warren, who said, “It’s interesting to learn about other religious practices.”
Margaret Wellington of Boardman said she wanted to learn about the religious ritual. She was accompanied by her cousin, Randall Wellington of Youngstown, who added the event was an enjoyable experience.