Interfaith Seder: Breaking matzo together
Photo: Courtesy Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas
“Since Oct. 7 (2023) we’ve had an increased sense of loneliness. Events like this remind us we have allies who are ready at our side. We are not alone,” said Rabbi Mordechai Harris.

By Deb Silverthorn

The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas will present its 10th Interfaith Seder Wednesday, April 17, at Congregation Shearith Israel. The celebration of community outreach will welcome guest leaders Bishop Edward J. Burns, Almas Muscatwalla and Rabbi David Stern and will feature Cantor Vicky Glikin. Opening festivities begin at 5:45 p.m. with a performance by the Project Unity Choir. The event is open to the public; registration is required by April 12.

“Sharing our common values and humanity is always important. Right now we have this very special opportunity to come together as one and do just that,” said Cyd Friedman, chair of the community relations and public affairs division of the Federation, formerly known as the Jewish Community Relations Council. “For the first time in this event’s history, when many are experiencing pain, loss and challenges to intergroup relationships, we have included representation of the three Abrahamic faiths to lead the program.”

The Interfaith Seder, which follows a Haggadah created especially for the occasion, brings together community members and leaders of varying faiths and diverse backgrounds with the intention of inspiring positive change and relationship-building.

Event Co-chairs Farzana Jiwani, Lynn Rossol and Rachelle Weiss-Crane, along with Federation staffers, have created an evening of the unifying power of music and a reaffirmation of shared humanity  with the intention to inspire hope and action toward creating a stronger and more vibrant community.

Temple Emanu-El’s Rabbi David Stern led the Interfaith Seder in 2016 with the now retired Reverend Jan DeVries. Rabbi Stern serves on the board of governors and the President’s Rabbinic Council of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. At Temple Emanu-El for nearly 35 years, he is a social justice advocate on local, national and international issues.

“The Interfaith Seder is a powerful opportunity to gather together around fundamental shared themes of the Abrahamic faiths: the inherent dignity of every human being, the essential human striving for freedom from oppression,” said Stern, “and the ever-present possibility of G-d’s redemption.”

Most Rev. Edward J. Burns has served as bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas since 2016. He is also chancellor of the University of Dallas as well as a member of the board of trustees of the Papal Foundation, the board of directors of the National Catholic Bioethics Committee and the board of Catholic Relief Services.

“We are all created in the image and likeness of God and it is our goal to bring about his love, peace and mercy in this world. Fostering interfaith dialogue and collaboration is a fundamental aspect of my commitment to building a stronger, more vibrant and peaceful community. I am deeply honored and grateful to stand alongside Rabbi Stern and Almas Muscatwalla to come together in fellowship and celebration,” Burns said.

“Events such as the Seder underscore the importance of solidarity and mutual understanding among different faith traditions. Our connection to the Jewish community is one rooted in respect, friendship and a deep appreciation for our shared heritage,” added Burns.

Almas Muscatwalla, a Shi’a Muslim, comes to the Interfaith Seder representing the values of her Ismaili tradition.

Muscatwalla says her relationship with the divine is best expressed through her relationship with the communities of peoples, cultures and faiths and that her dream life is to learn and to serve.

“I’ve only missed one Interfaith Seder. It’s something that is so meaningful and important. I encourage anyone to join us. This program contextualizes and contemporizes history to our present time. That’s the only way for us to create a new future,” said Muscatwalla.

She is engaged with organizations including the Compassionate DFW, DFW Muslim Jewish Advisory Council, Islamic Art Revival Series, Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation and the United Nations Association Dallas Chapter and is a board member of the Thanks-Giving Foundation, chair of the Interfaith Council and founder of Faith Forward Dallas.

“The Seder is a symbol of our togetherness. As I choose to stand alongside Rabbi Stern and Bishop Burns, I am proud of our bringing our diversity of faith and traditions to one room,” she continued. “They are men who live their faith in an exemplifying manner. This is a real honor.”

Project Unity Choir was founded by Pastor Richie Butler and directed by maestro Clark Joseph. Program Manager Toska Lee says that “music is the messaging force that unites us all. It is what we need in this time. We are intentional with how we bring people together through music.

“Everything in the world seems amplified to divide us but it costs nothing for us to be one,” said Lee. “Food, song and sports bring us together. We are grateful to be a part of the Interfaith Seder bringing all faiths together. Love, hope and unity are what we subscribe to.”

The evening, to allow one and all to be included, will be alcohol-free and catered by Dallas Kosher-supervised A Taste of the World. For safety and security, no entry will be allowed after 7 p.m.; no weapons of any kind and no large handbags will be allowed; and security detectors will be in place.

“The Interfaith Seder is about leading in this moment,” said Michelle Golan Friedman, director of the Federation’s community relations and public affairs division. “It’s an evening to celebrate heritage, to realize our common ground and to move forward together.”

Seder attendees will share in Haggadah readings and interactive discussion. The tables are arranged with diverse guest groupings so that Jewish community members are able, during the Seder meal, to share stories of their own experiences and home Passover celebrations.

“Having these relationships matters; it helps to de-otherize us all,” said Rabbi Mordechai Harris, the Dallas Federation’s chief impact officer. “They remind us we have allies who are ready at our side. We are not alone.

“We come together, not in advocacy but in relationship-building with those in a sea of shared values,” Harris added. “This is a chance for us to project ourselves and feel and understand a stronger sense of who we are.”

For more details and registration, visit tinyurl.com/JFGD-Interfaith-Seder-24.

  • Post category:News
  • Post comments:0 Comments

Leave a Reply