By Amy Sorter
Preparing a Passover Seder for friends and family could be considered a labor of love — sometimes, with emphasis on “labor.” The celebration itself is important and moving. However, a great deal of preparation goes into that celebration, such as getting the house ready.
Then there is the Seder meal and accoutrements to think of, not to mention seating arrangements for anywhere from four to 40 people. Along with the preparation is ensuring enough glasses for wine, enough matzo balls prepared and enough Haggadot for all.
Now, multiply those attending to 300, place the Seder in the Amon G. Carter Jr. Exhibit Hall at the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, and you’ll likely have a better appreciation about the “labor of love.” From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday, March 26, Rabbi Andrew Bloom will lead that pre-Passover event or, as he calls it: “A mock Seder that is going to cover all of the bases.”
The spiritual head of Fort Worth’s Congregation Ahavath Sholom said the event is geared toward municipal leaders — Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price will be present — religious organization leaders and those who head up community organizations and businesses. The invitees are, in turn, asked to bring 10 people from their staffs and organizations.
“This year, it’s invitation only,” Bloom said. “We wanted to start small.” Anyone who thinks 300 people is “small” should consider Ahavath Sholom and B’nai Brith Isadore Garsek Lodge lay leader Rich Hollander’s comments.
“If it works this year,” Hollander said, “we’ll conduct one next year for 500 people. Then the year after that, 1,000 people. We believe this type of event could have national implications.”
The first Fort Worth Passover City Seder, as it’s being called, was Hollander’s idea, steeped in a solemn premise. “I’m very concerned that we don’t know enough about each other,” he said. “If we have a country where we don’t know about each other, what happened in Europe could happen here.” The situation he referred to was the rise of Nazism in the 1930s. “I didn’t want to be the guy sitting here, 20 years from now, and say I saw it coming, and didn’t do anything about it,” Hollander added.
When Hollander brought the idea of a communal event with Jewish roots to Bloom, “the rabbi said, ‘Let’s have a Seder,’” he said. Bloom, himself a staunch advocate of community outreach, was immediately on board. “This is right up my alley,” Bloom commented.
The event will consist of an hourlong Seder and prayers, led by Bloom from a specially prepared Haggadah. Bloom said the plan is for 30 tables of 10 people each, with each table having a Jewish community member to explain the event. During the second hour, participants will dine on a traditional Passover meal. The food is being prepared by, and will be served by, volunteers from Ahavath Sholom, B’nai Brith and Arlington-based Congregation Beth Shalom. Parts of the meal have already been pre-made: “We’ve already made 650 matzo balls,” Hollander said, with a laugh.
The enthusiastic response to the Seder from community, municipal and other leaders comes as no surprise to Hollander and Bloom. Bloom spends time on cross-city relationships and outreach, noting that “one of the great things about Fort Worth is the relationships between the religious institutions, city leaders and different organizations.”
Added Hollander: “Fort Worth is a unique community, because it’s welcoming. Thanks to our mayor and Jewish community leaders here who have reached out to other parts of the community, this has become a wonderful place to live.”
As a result, both men have high hopes for the outcome of this citywide labor of love. “I believe those participating will come away from this, knowing more about each other, and having a little more love, and understanding,” Hollander said.
Bloom, meanwhile, envisions the Seder leading to more such communitywide events that could build better understanding between different groups.
“First,” Bloom said, “this is the coming-together of the city to learn from one another.” Second, he went on to say, such an event underlines the importance of equity and freedom between people of different backgrounds. “One way to go about bringing this to fruition is to learn from one another,” Bloom said. “I can’t think of a better way to learn about others, than through the Festival of Freedom.”