Category Archives: Judaism

First person: Breaking the chains of religious tradition

By FRAIDY REISS
c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

(RNS) Where I come from, girls are married off as teenagers to men they barely know and are expected to spend their lives caring for their husband and children. They are required to cover their hair and nearly every inch of their skin, and to remain behind a curtain at parties and religious events.

Where I come from, if a woman wants to feel her hair blow in the wind or wear jeans or attend college, the courts have the authority to take her children away from her.

Where I come from, you might be surprised to learn, is the United States. Specifically, New York and then New Jersey, in the Orthodox Jewish community.

Recently, two women have brought national attention to the fact that Orthodox Jewish women who leave that insular community risk losing custody of their children: Deborah Feldman of New York, whose memoir about her escape from the Satmar Hasidic sect hit The New York Times best-seller list; and Perry Reich of New Jersey, whose custody battle — which includes accusations from her husband that she sometimes wears pants — earned her an appearance last month on the “Dr. Phil” television show.

My story is similar to theirs. When I was 19, my family arranged for me to marry a man who turned out to be violent. With no education and no job, and a family that refused to help me, I was stuck. By age 20, I was a trapped, abused, stay-at-home mother.

Ten years later, still trapped and unhappy, I finally took what became one of my first steps away from Orthodox Judaism: I stopped wearing a head covering.

The consequences were swift and severe. My family cut off contact with me; one of my five siblings kept in touch long enough to inform me the others were contemplating sitting shiva for me, or mourning as if I had died.

Perhaps most shockingly, several rabbis informed me I should say goodbye to my children because I was going to lose custody of them during my looming divorce proceeding.

They were not bluffing. Numerous family attorneys unaffiliated with any religion advised me to stop publicly flouting Orthodox laws and customs.

As the attorneys noted, and as illustrated by Feldman’s and Reich’s experiences, judges look at religion as one factor in a custody dispute and generally view stability to be in the children’s best interests.

They have been known to award custody to the parent who will continue to raise the children in the same religion as before the family breakup.

Where I come from — that means here in the United States, in 2012 — women fear, legitimately, that they might lose their children if they lose their religion.

Feldman and I each managed to settle and avoid divorce trials, and each of us retained custody of our children. Others have not been as lucky. Reich, for example, remains mired in her custody battle.

Fear in the religious community, therefore, persists. I recently started a nonprofit organization, Unchained At Last, to help women leave arranged marriages, and the most common inquiry I receive is from Orthodox Jewish women who want to leave the religion and are willing to accept ostracism from their family and friends, but are terrified that a judge might remove their children.

For many, their situation seems especially hopeless because they, like Reich, felt pressured to allow a beit din (an Orthodox Jewish court) arbitrate their divorce.

The beit din’s binding decisions and agreements routinely include a provision that the children will be raised within Orthodox Judaism.

Secular courts generally enforce those decisions and agreements, even if a mother later realizes she does not want to raise her children in a religion where men bless God every morning for not making them a non-Jew, a slave or a woman.

Where I come from — the United States — the First Amendment is supposed to empower people to choose whether and how to practice religion, without interference from secular courts. What went wrong?

(Fraidy Reiss is the founder/executive director of Unchained At Last. She lives in Westfield, N.J. A version of this commentary first appeared in The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J.)

Advertisements

BRIEF: UNCW lecturer to speak about N.C. eugenics and Nazi eugenics Thursday

Anthropometry demonstrated in an exhibit from ...

Anthropometry demonstrated in an exhibit from a 1921 eugenics conference. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

New York Times bestselling author and investigative journalist Edwin Black will speak about eugenics programs used against blacks and mentally disabled people in North Carolina as well as the eugenics programs of the Nazis at 7 p.m. Thursday (April 26) in the School of Nursing McNeil Auditorium, Room 1005 on the campus of the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

His speaking tour is based on his book War Against the Weak and is sponsored by UNCW’s History department, the Block & Rhine Fund for Jewish Studies in association with The American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists.

The lecture is free and open to the public.

Details: 910-962-3308.

– Amanda Greene

Court says non-Jewish man can sue for anti-Semitic remarks

By STACY JONES and BEN HOROWITZ
c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

(RNS)A New Jersey appeals court has ruled that a man who alleges he

endured anti-Semitic slurs can sue his former supervisors — even though he is not Jewish.

Myron Cowher, a former truck driver for Carson & Roberts Site Construction & Engineering Inc., in Lafayette, N.J., sued the company and three supervisors after he allegedly was the target of anti-Semitic remarks for more than a year.

Cowher, of Dingmans Ferry, Pa., produced DVDs that appear to show supervisors Jay Unangst and Nick Gingerelli making such comments in his presence as “Only a Jew would argue over his hours” and “If you were a German, we would burn you in the oven,” according to a state appeals court ruling handed down April 18.

The appeals court did not consider the merits of Cowher’s case, only whether he has standing to pursue it. The suit, alleging discrimination that created a hostile work environment, had been dismissed by a Superior Court judge who ruled that because Cowher was not a Jew, he could not sue.

However, the appeals court reversed the judge in its 3-0 decision, saying that if Cowher can prove the discrimination “would not have occurred but for the perception that he was Jewish,” his claim is covered by New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination.

The “proper question” in this case, the court said, is what effect the supervisors’ allegedly derogatory comments would have on “a reasonable Jew,” rather than on a person of Cowher’s actual background, which is German-Irish and Lutheran.

Employment attorneys say the ruling is significant in that it expands the scope of who can bring discrimination suits under the state law by allowing a person who is not actually a member of a protected class to pursue a claim.

The law has typically been used to protect people based on their actual age, race, religion or sexuality. Judges, like the one who initially ruled on the validity of Cowher’s suit, have sometimes dismissed cases when there’s a discrepancy between the alleged remarks and a person’s actual characteristics.

The alleged slurs occurred from January 2007 until May 2008, when Cowher left the company due to an unrelated disability, according to his attorney, Robert Scirocco.

Gingerelli, who still works for the company, and Unangst, who does not, could not be reached for comment. Both men denied that they perceived Cowher to be Jewish, the court said.

Unangst also said that “perhaps” he had commented to Cowher about “Jew money,” that he had called him a “bagel meister” and that he had used the Hebrew folk song “Hava Nagila” as the ring tone for calls on his cell phone from Cowher, the appeals court said.

Cowher testified he had told both men to stop the comments, but they had not, the court said. Cowher’s attorney said Cowher is pleased with the ruling and intends to go forward with the case.

Cowher stayed on the job for more than a year after the alleged comments began because “he needed the work,” Scirocco said. He added that Cowher is now working as a truck driver for another company.

(Stacy Jones and Ben Horowitz write for The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J.

BRIEF: Temple of Israel plans an “Invite your neighbor” service

The Temple of Israel is planning its first Invite Your Neighbor Shabbat service at 8 p.m. on May 4 at 1 S. 4th St. The service will include explanations of Jewish prayers and customs and a “Torah Roll” (a close-up look at and explanation of the Torah scroll).

Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky, courtesy StarNews file photo by Paul Stephen

“Many people are curious about Judaism and often aren’t sure if they are even allowed to enter a Temple or attend a service,” said Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky, spiritual leader of Temple of Israel, Wilmington’s reform Jewish house of worship. “Of course they are always welcome, and this is a great chance to reach out to people, both unaffiliated Jews and those who are not Jewish.”

Details: 910-762-0000.

– Amanda Greene

Historians race clock to collect Holocaust survivor stories

Yad Vashem Hall of Names

By MEREDITH MANDELL
c. USA Today 2012
Reprinted with permission

JERUSALEM (RNS) Zvi Shefel recalled the day the German army arrived at his Polish town of Slonim in the summer of 1942. The soldiers immediately began mass exterminations and eventually killed more than 25,000 Jews, including his mother, father and sister.

There is nothing in that town that Shefel, 86, can find about his family,

Memorial to the Deportees, Yad Vashem, Jerusal...

Memorial to the Deportees, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, Israel Denkmal der Deportationen, Jad Vaschem, Jerusalem (Israel) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

he said while attending the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial Thursday (April 19) for the “Day of Remembrance” commemoration of the 6 million Jews killed in the Nazi genocide of World War II.

“I’ve visited all the archives in Belarus to find the names of people, but they weren’t there because the archives of Slonim were burned by the Germans when they retreated — but we have to keep the memory of what happened in order to never forget,” he said.

The annual remembrance was observed in Poland and other nations as well, and it took on special meaning this year to historians who are trying urgently to collect the remaining testimonies of eyewitnesses as their numbers dwindle.

One survivor dies in Israel every hour, according to the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, a nonprofit group based in Tel Aviv that helps care for needy survivors. Today, there are 198,000 survivors in Israel; 88% are 75 or older.

Israel’s Yad Vashem memorial contains the largest archive in the world of historic material related to the Holocaust — or Shoah, as it is known in Hebrew — and it has been intensifying its campaign to record the accounts of survivors. Teams of historians have been dispatched to interview elderly survivors in their homes and collect artifacts.

Holocaust memorial

Holocaust memorial (Photo credit: NH53 via Wikipedia)

“We are really racing against the clock to find every survivor and get their stories told before they die,” said Cynthia Wroclawski, manager of the Shoah Names Recovery Project.

Since its establishment in 1953, Yad Vashem, an Israeli governmental authority, has collected 400,000 photographs, recorded roughly 110,000 victims’ video testimonies and amassed 138 million pages of documents on the Nazis’ genocide of Jews in Europe. It was after the Holocaust that the United Nations approved in 1947 what many Jews had sought for decades: a permanent homeland in what is now modern Israel.

At Yad Vashem on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a speech that the lesson of the Holocaust is not only to remember the past, “but to learn the lessons and more importantly to implement those lessons to ensure the future of our people.”

On Thursday, thousands of young people from Israel, the USA and other nations marched between the Nazi death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau to honor the millions of Jewish dead.

Despite the immense scholarship on the Holocaust, many unknowns remain, including the identities of roughly one-third of the Jewish victims.

In 1955, Israel began creating a page of testimony for each victim, and by 2004, Yad Vashem had 3 million names when it first uploaded the names database to the Internet. Survivors have since added pictures and scanned letters to the victims’ individual pages in what have become “virtual tombstones.” At the end of last year, 4.1 million names had been recovered, Wroclawski said.

“We are trying to find them by name, which is an expression of an individual’s identity. The Nazis tried to exterminate not only the people but every memory of the individual and strip away their humanity and any memory of them,” Wroclawski said.

Shefel created the Slonim Jews’ Association in Israel for the few survivors from Slonim, which is now a part of Belarus. He and members of his group have been putting together a list of names from memory and came up with 3,000 for the Yad Vashem remembrance project.

“It’s very hard to connect the names,” said Shefel, who read off the names of his family members who perished, as did many others at the memorial. But “without history, there is no future.”

(Meredith Mandell writes for USA Today.)

BRIEF: On Holocaust Remembrance Day, Wilmington premiere of “Promised Land” at local church

Northside Baptist Church and the Wilmington Women’s Club will show a free Wilmington premiere of “Promised Land,” a movie about building bridges in Israel through surfing. The movie is  at 5:45 p.m. today (April 19) at 2501 North College Road. Today is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Details: 910-791-6053.

– Amanda Greene

 

North Carolina ACLU and Equality NC launch video project against Amendment One

By AMANDA GREENE
Amanda.Greene@ReligionNews.com

The North Carolina American Civil Liberties Union and Equality NC Foundation launched the KNOW + LOVE Project today (April 18), online video stories about families with lesbian or gay members.

The groups plan to release new videos in the weeks leading up to the May 8 vote on Amendment One, the state’s proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

One of the site’s first videos includes Christian and Jewish faith leaders talking about Amendment One and its impact on gay and lesbians in the state.

“North Carolina is part of what is supposed to be the New South,” said  Ricky Woods, pastor of First Baptist Church- West, Charlotte. “I think it’s important that we continue to hold the line in terms of what we believe is important, and one of the things we think is important is that no segment of our state should be discriminated against.”

Pastors from across the state told stories about gay or lesbian couples in their congregations who were not allowed input on end of life decisions or child care issues because they were not legally married.

Amanda Greene: 910-520-3958 or on Twitter @WilmFAVS

Holocaust violins live to play another song

Amnon Weinstein holds a Kelzmer violin. RNS photo by Ken Lambla

By KEN GARFIELD
c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (RNS) Another voice from the past is telling the stories of the Holocaust.

Violins that outlived the owners who played them in the death camps and Jewish ghettos are being brought back to life by Amnon Weinstein in his shop in Tel Aviv. As Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance) gatherings occur around the world in April, 18 violins tracked down and repaired by Weinstein will be unveiled in Charlotte, N.C.

A dozen public concerts, worship services and other programs throughout the month are expected to attract thousands who are drawn to the music, and the history behind each instrument — the first time the violins will be shared with the public in North and South America.

Weinstein hopes he can bring the violins to other communities, in a bid to recall the 6 million Jews and 5 million others who perished at Hitler’s hand.

Weinstein, 72, lost some 380 relatives in the Holocaust — “cousins from here to eternity,” he said. These violins, he said, symbolize the power of music to outlive evil. They represent the dead, and speak for the aging survivors whose voices are being silenced by time.

“Nothing is like it was in 1945,” Weinstein said. “The only thing that didn’t age is the violin. It’s the same, the sound of the violin. It speaks by itself. It gives you another open door to try to understand.”

Like a detective, Weinstein, a violin-maker, has spent more than a decade scouring the Internet, talking to survivors’ relatives, literally searching attics and basements for violins presumed lost to time.

One of his many triumphs: A violin played in the men’s orchestra at Auschwitz in Poland was sold by an unnamed survivor for $50 to a man named Abraham Davidovitz in 1946 near Munich, Germany. Years later, the Davidovitz family gave it to Weinstein after inscribing on the label: “The violins continue to play for all those who did not live to make music.”

Several violins are believed to have belonged to some of the thousands of klezmer musicians who played traditional Jewish folk music across Eastern Europe. These violins are inscribed with the Star of David. Today, klezmer music remains popular in synagogues and at festivals across the U.S. and Europe.

One of the violins tracked down by Weinstein is beyond repair, no longer able to make music. Weinstein believes it was played in the rain at one of the camps. It, too, bears witness, he said.

Nick Strimple, a Holocaust music scholar who teaches at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, said music played in the camps and ghettos has a complicated legacy.

The Nazis ordered inmate musicians to play marches as other inmates were sent off to forced labor assignments. “It was easier for the Nazis to keep them regimented,” he said. At the Dachau camp, Strimple said, inmates would put on secret concerts in the barracks and latrines, sometimes on homemade instruments.

In the ghettos, though, not everyone wanted to make music. Some Jews likened it to “dancing in a graveyard.” Others, Strimple said, picked up their instruments for comfort, even adapting songs to suit the times. In the ghetto in Lodz, Poland, for example, Jewish mothers would sing a traditional Yiddish lullaby, “Raisins and Almonds,” to help their children fall asleep. In the ghetto, the title of the song was changed to “No More Raisins, No More Almonds.”

USC’s Strimple, who is not Jewish (he directs the music at Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church), is moved by Weinstein’s crusade, and what he believes it symbolizes.

“The survival of these instruments,” he said, “prevents the Nazis from having any kind of victory after the fact. It’s a way for the dead to communicate with us.”

Dan Napolitano, director of teacher education and special programs at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, appreciates the power of artifacts to bring the story to life. The display of more than 3,000 shoes taken from people who died at the Majdanek camp in Poland, for example, is one of the most talked-about by the 33.2 million people who have visited the museum since it opened in 1993.

In synagogues and community squares this month, candles will be lit and prayers said to remember victims and survivors of the Holocaust. In that same spirit, Napolitano believes the violins can help people better understand the scope of what happened.

“They are unique touch points on the history,” he said. “They capture our imagination and get us to ask hard questions: Who owned them? Why did they lose them?”

Weinstein likes to tell of the violin he was working on one day in his shop in his native Israel. He found himself scraping away black gunk until he realized what it was. The violin had been played by an inmate in the orchestra at Auschwitz, a short walk from the gas chambers and chimneys.

It was ashes.

“Project Conversion” – A Lumberton man’s year of burying hatred by exploring 12 different faiths

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

By AMANDA GREENE
WilmingtonFAVS.com

Andrew Bowen sat yoga-style in his armchair, absentmindedly fingering a set of Muslim prayer beads in his left hand as he talked about 2011 – his year of conversion.

But he’s not Muslim. In fact, the 29-year-old Lumberton resident doesn’t call himself by any of the 12 faiths he practiced for a month at a time last year.

Not Hindu (January). Not Baha’i (February). Not Zoroastrian (March). Not Jewish (April). Not Buddhist (May). Not agnostic (June). Not Mormon (July). Not Muslim (August). Not Sikh (September). Not Wiccan (October). Not Jain (November). And not Catholic (December).

Finding faith in God again was not Bowen’s aim. This young father of two was looking for faith in humanity.

The hardest decision

Bowen became a Christian in high school and took “a nose dive into fundamentalism,” he said. “It just ignited a furnace in me.”

As a teen, Bowen said he was extremely critical of faiths different from his own. Once when a pair of male Mormon missionaries visited his home, Bowen said he chased them down the street as they retreated on their bicycles.

After high school, Bowen met his wife, Heather, at East Carolina University.

The Bowens had two girls, Shaylie and Nevaeh, and thought their family was complete. But in 2008, Heather’s tubal ligation failed, and she was pregnant with their “miracle baby.”

But the doctors discovered the baby was behind her ovaries, an ectopic pregnancy which threatened Heather’s life.

And Heather and Bowen had to choose to abort the baby, something the couple never dreamed they would do. They were devastated.

“It was a really dark time. I went into a very deep state of depression,” Heather recalled.

Project Conversion

But Heather and her husband dealt with the baby’s death in polar opposite ways.

She bought a devotional Bible and was baptized at a local Baptist church. He plunged into a “two-year stint of just seething hatred toward God.”

The couple fought each time Heather wanted to talk about her growing faith. Still, deep down, Bowen worried his hatred would consume him.

“The best way I can describe it was flying down the road like a bat out of hell toward a wall,” Bowen said. “With any transformation, there’s a fire that has to be applied.”

So Project Conversion was born. He would study and practice one faith each month, guided by a mentor from each belief system. But this was no reality TV stunt.

It was an obsession – his own personal intervention.

“It was 110 percent balls to the walls for me,” Bowen said, describing his dedication to the project.

To find his mentors in late 2010, he had to look outside his tiny, mostly Baptist farm town. His Zoroastrian mentor lives in Chicago. His Jewish mentor lives in Charlotte. His Muslim mentor lives in Fayetteville.

Truthfully, Heather was skeptical about Project Conversion at first.

But she “saw changes in him. He was more patient. There was more of a sense of peace about him,” she said.

His first two weeks each month were spent intensely reading and learning a faith’s tenets and the last half was spent exploring the faith’s practices and rituals and visiting nearby congregations if possible. For his Sikh month, he spent five hours watching YouTube videos on how to tie a turban. During his Jewish month, he spent a weekend visiting different congregations with his Jewish mentor, journalist Michael Solender in Charlotte. He’s filled an entire bookshelf with holy books from his research.

Now as he’s writing a book and speaking about Project Conversion and blogging about the experience for Beliefnet.com, Bowen is still exploring all he’s learned.

“The most important thing I learned in Buddhism was how to wash dishes. Like there is nothing but this dish. It taught me finally to be quiet,” he said. “With the Mormons, the first thing I did was apologize. It was about humility and being one of them and serving them.”

Islam “showed me how much I was wasting in my life from food to activity. Bowing with the men in the mosque was astounding,” he said.

Catholicism was “a wellspring of expression and arts in worship. It was an ocean I could bury myself in for days and not come up for breath.”

The project also touched the lives of his mentors.

“It was energizing in that it allowed us to really put on the table and discuss conversations my wife and I wouldn’t normally have had with other people,” Solender said.

Bowen was one of the best students of Wicca Greenville resident Melissa Barnhurst has had.

“On the first week, he’d already run into tons of public backlash in the stereotypes against Wicca. But he stuck with it,” she said. “He gave it a lot more than some students who’ve come to wanting to become Wiccan.”

Meanwhile, his wife was still working as a labor and delivery nurse at a local hospital. Things were hard financially, at times, because Bowen wasn’t working.

And then there was November, Jainism and Heather’s least favorite

Andrew Bowen during his Jain month, November 2011. Photo courtesy of Andrew Bowen.

month. Bowen loved becoming a monk, meditating wrapped in his grandmother’s sheets, not bathing and walking with a broom to whisk away any creature in the Jain tradition of respecting all life.

“It was the not bathing or washing your hands,” she said. “The nurse in me was beginning to have a fit.”

Though he admits his experiment caused hardship, the couple had a deal. Bowen put his wife through nursing school. She carried the financial burdens through Project Conversion.

“It was entirely disruptive to our family. We argued more than we ever did, but my kids participated in celebrations, and my wife’s Christianity opened up a whole lot more,” Bowen said.

His wife agrees.

“Faith has become a constant topic in our house,” Heather said. “We may not share a faith. We may never share a faith, but there’s definitely a respect there.”

And now?

Bowen still meditates daily using various prayer books, and he attends Mass occasionally at a Catholic church in Lumberton.

At its essence, Project Conversion was about burying his hatred and learning tolerance.

“For so long, I suffered with ego so now I’m just going to make the faiths of others more beautiful to themselves,” he said. “I don’t think about God now. I just participate.”

Orthodox seder emphasizes God’s redemption of Jews during Passover; today

Passover Seder Table, Jewish holidays עברית: ש...

By AMANDA GREENE
WilmingtonFAVS

The first night Passover seder at Chabad of Wilmington Friday started about 9 p.m. and stretched into the wee hours of Saturday morning.

But it was a light-hearted night for the 50 attendees at the center’s Orthodox community seder commemorating the Jewish exodus out of Egypt after escaping God’s 10 plagues on the Egyptians. Per Jewish tradition, photos were not allowed during the seder.

Chabad’s gathering was just one of several community seders around the Cape Fear region this weekend.

Each place at the U-shaped set of tables inside Chabad’s worship area had blue, green or red goodie bags with parts of a seder – lettuce, round matzah (the unleavened bread symbolic of Jewish affliction as well as freedom) and a Haggadah (the book guiding participants through the seder). Bottles of wine, water and grape juice lined the tables for the four cups that should be drunk during the seder.

“Wow, I’ve never seen this done before,” said one attendee holding up the individually bagged lettuce and matzah. “We practice safe seders!”

Chabad Rabbi Moshe Lieblich led the seder, asking his two young sons and another boy to recite a portion of the seder in Hebrew.

“If we had not left Egypt, we would have still been Egyptians, and we would have been part of the uprisings there last summer,” the rabbi said, referring to the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011.

Each time a glass of wine was drunk, each participant leaned to the left “to symbolize freedom and power,” Lieblich said.

Between seder parts, participants washed their hands in a ceremonial basin. They splashed water from a silver chalice three times over each hand up to the wrist.

Lieblich discussed the meaning of the four children in the seder: the wise child, wicked child, simple child and the child who doesn’t know how to ask.

“Of course, in Chabad, we say there is also a fifth child, the child who doesn’t show up to the table,” he added, “but it is incumbent to us to bring him back to the table.”

As each participant read a portion of the Haggadah, the rabbi asked visitors’ names. Some people drove from an hour away to attend the seder for the first time.

Wilmington resident Peyton Jones brought his family to the seder to expose his daughter’s boyfriend to his first Jewish seder. Jones, who is Christian, said he was also learning so he could lead his family’s seder Saturday night (April 7) to honor his wife, who is Jewish.

“I don’t know what I’m doing so it’s nice for a non-Jew to experience it among Jews,” he said.

When it came time to break the matzah, the rabbi explained there would

Handmade shmura matzo used at the Passover Sed...

Handmade shmura matzah used at the Passover Seder especially for the mitzvot of eating matzah and afikoman. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

be no hiding of the Afikomen, a small portion of matzah sometimes hidden by Jewish children in exchange for a prize from their parents.

“Chabad doesn’t have the custom of hiding the Afikomen,” Lieblich said, “because we don’t want our kids to learn to take things from their families.”

Wilmington resident Paul Sternlieb said experiencing the seder was “a nice tradition. It’s a good reminder of the enslavement and then escaping Egypt.”

Lieblich said all Jews at the Friday night seder are linked to the Jews who crossed the parted waters of the Red Sea with Moses.

“Ultimately, we all have the same source, the same essence,” he said. “Every generation we must remember God did not just redeem them but he redeemed us, too.”