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Pesach Seder table


Seder guests arriving


Pesach Seder guests


Pesach Seder guests

 


MA NISHTANA IN SIX LANGUAGES:-A HUNDRED AND FIFTY ATTEND THE FIRST COMMUNITY SEDER AT CHABAD’S NEW JEWISH LEARNING CENTER

By Chaim (Hart) Peikoff, May 4, 2011

It is a Jewish soul set when we remember The Exodus in our minds, hearts and souls as if we are going out of Egypt today with Moshe [Moses]- NO not Charlton Heston! I am afraid he did not lead us out of Egypt, contradicting popular opinion. The Talmud states that every Jew in every generation should feel this way. And of the utmost importance --- is the mitzvah of eating shmurah matzah and its deeper and more elevated meaning.
 
I attended two Seders with the Chabad Lubavitch. The first Seder was at the Jewish Learning Center [JLC] and the second one was at the home of Rabbi Boruch and Chana Heidingsfeld and their family and mutual friends. Both were inspiring! These two warm experience surprised me. Why? No children were crying asking Mom, "Hey Mom when is this going to be over?" Well at the Heidingsfeld's the second Seder ended at 2 am. And it flew by: Well for certain time walked by quickly and for me it was an awakening to the importance of Judaism in my personal life.
 
The first Seder began at 8:10 pm on April 18th, Nissan 14 in the Jewish Calendar at the JLC, and also was the birthday of Maimonides. Prayers were held beginning at 7:30 pm. I am excited in a calm way sharing this wonderful experience. Approximately 150 attended the Seder with the majority being Israeli immigrants mainly Hebrew speaking individuals and Russians. Some families were from Argentina and a few local English speaking families attended too and a number of seniors. And it was a pleasure to meet a few  non Jews who attended as well. In fact a non-Jewish couple sat at my table and they were very pleasant and at times were mesmerized by the magical energy in the room. And the children who came with their parents made the night beyond complete!
 
I did not attend prayers before the Seder because Rabbi Shmuly Altein asked if I would take pictures and if I did, it needed to be done right away as people filed in. Pictures were captured before the eve of the holiday.  I gladly accepted this request and greeted people as they entered the JLC and asked their permission to digitally capture them and their family. No one was opposed. Please see the pictures presented with this article as they depict the warmth and loving energy embracing this evening. Sometimes a few pictures tell a story of 1000 words.
 
The room setting at the JLC was humbly beautiful! The artistic table creations complete with all the Seder requirements delivered a feeling in the room of warmth and spirituality. The surroundings contributed to this special feeling-- atmosphere enhanced by the Torah Ark, Tefillin,Tallit, Siddurs, Mezuzah's, Chumash books which are the Five Books of Moses  (which include Torah readings, Maftir and Haftarah; and as well commentary from  Rashi and others.), the Talmud, Mishnah, Tanya and Midrash and many more enlightening books. Being surrounded by such ancient history over 3000 years old enriched the Pesach experience for me in my journey to learn more about my Judaism. The more I engage the rewards come forth. It is one step at a time.  

Rabbi Shmuly Altein, the director of the Jewish Learning Institute and Adina his wife who is also the director of tORAH tOTS, a wonderful children's preschool program together conducted the service. Rabbi Shmuly positioned himself in an elevated way. He stood solidly on the seat of a stable chair so all in the room could see him in this large but cozy room.  At one moment in time I thought he was at the top of Mount Sinai.  He has a way of communicating which mixes antiquity, wisdom and customs with humor which in and of itself enriched the Seder. I was free to sense the comfort and warmth in the room.
 
The Seder began and continued with Rabbi Shmuly and Adina delivering ongoing explanations, anecdotes and inspiring stories. There was lots of food wine, grape juice and those whom attended contributed to this special evening. At one point during the evening Adina went to another room with the children and when they returned they sang to us and looked so happy. 
Mah nishtana was delivered in 6 languages.  Rabbi Shuly is the brother in law from Toronto and is married to Adina's sister Soochie. Their young son Yisroel Sroly recited the four questions in Yiddish. Rabbi Shmuly and Adina's kids were here of course too; JJ, Mussie and Sroly. (These are their endearing names. Their names given at birth are Chav Mushka, Yaakov Yehuda and baby Yisroel.)
 
 
After the Seder Service including the Haggadah journey telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt and Hashem protecting the Jewish people including the four cups of wine, and onward, we settled in to a delicious meal cooked by the new chef at the JLC  David who originally comes from Montreal. Kudos to Chef David. A ***** star review.  This meal would have made my Baba and Mom's mouth salivate may they rest in peace.  The slow cooked chicken simply doesn’t get better and the Knishes and vegetable dish was yummy.
 
The inexpensive cost per ticket to the Seder of $12. per person was made possible by the generous support of the following; Larry & Tova Vickar, Joel & Sharron Dudeck, The Asper Foundation, Mitch & Marsh Cosman and Len & Ruth Carol Podheiser. Yasher Koash to all of you thoughtful human beings. Lots of people made positive comments and gave nice feedback. People had an amazing experience and there is according to Rabbi Shmuly and Adina a growing need for an affordable community Seder on the first night of Pesach for people like myself who had no were else to go or for those with no family present.
 
But let me add next year I want to send this message out to the entire Jewish Community and this is delivered from my heart, soul and intellect. This would be a wonderful first Passover for all of you to experience. If anyone reading this wants to book next years first Seder at the JLC I would do it now? Well if those of you whom commit like I believe you will, we will be required to build on to the existing JLC--at least another 10,000 square feet.
 
Conspicuously missing and truly missed were Rabbi Avrohom and Brocha Altein. They were in New York celebrating Pesach with Rabbi Avrohoms' parents who are ageing. What a Mitzvah and more so--a warm loving time--I am certain they enjoyed together.
 
Wishing the entire Jewish Community the best year ahead ever. One last thought I desire to share with you from my personal involvement with Chabad-- They do not judge anyone.They state clearly every Jew no matter their affiliation creates the Jewish Soul. NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM
 
 [One of my favorite wise sayings is from Hillel, who was born in 111BCE: "If I am not for myself who will be? And if I am only for myself who am I? And if not now, when?"]

 
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