Sunday, April 08, 2012

Orthodox rabbi has his first local Passover seder 

The Jewish holiday Passover began last night at sundown, and some Columbia residents who practice the faith are getting a chance this weekend to take part in Orthodox seders led by a rabbi recently transplanted to Columbia from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Rabbi Avremi Lapine moved to Columbia last year from Brooklyn as part of a decades-old movement to bring Orthodox practices to cities across the world.

The rabbi said that since he came to Columbia, he has not yet amassed a full congregation. However, he said he has seen "a lot of success" in attracting interest in Orthodox Judaism. He said weekly services held at his home have been attracting up to 15 attendees, and community events have been attracting as many as 30 people.

He said one draw to the services is an emphasis on acceptance.

"We accept everybody," Lapine said.

Lapine came to Columbia as part of Chabad-Lubavitch, a movement within Orthodox Judaism that, shortly after World War II, began outreach movements throughout the world.

Lapine said the Passover seder he held last night was the first he has held in Columbia. Passover is an eight-day celebration commemorating the departure of Jewish slaves from ancient Egypt. During Passover, observers are discouraged from consuming "chametz," or anything derived from wheat, barley or oat that was not protected from fermentation. This includes pasta, bread, cake, cookies, cereal and alcoholic beverages.

Those observing the holiday are also discouraged from working, driving and using electronic devices. Lapine said cutting out those activities can help observers focus on their relationship with God.

"It gives you time to think and reflect," Lapine said. He said these practices are usually observed on the first two and last two days of Passover.

Last night, members of the Jewish-affiliated Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity chapter at the University of Missouri prepared their basement for the Passover seder with Lapine.

Jeremy Hershey-Nexon, a member of the fraternity who said he is a Conservative Jew, said there aren't major differences in the seders held by Conservative Jews and Orthodox Jews, except for differences in basic rituals.

"It's the same songs and the same prayers, for the most part," Hershey-Nexon said.

Jason Hoffman, also a member of the fraternity, said he doesn't always eat kosher all year round, but during Passover, he generally observes the holiday, alters his diet and gives up the foods that are discouraged by his religion.

"We gave up the bread to sort of show appreciation to what our ancestors did," Hoffman said.

Lapine will hold a seder at his home, 313 E. Brandon Road, at 8 p.m. today.


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