KINGSTON — In one way, it was a celebration of thousands of years worth of tradition.
In another way, as people gathered at the new Jewish Community Center in Kingston for its first Passover Seder, a new tradition was born on Friday.
The Jewish holiday of Passover has been celebrated for over 3,000 years, with Jews worldwide remembering the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery by God under the leadership of Moses, as told in the Book of Exodus.
This year, the multi-day holiday began on Friday night, and continues until sundown on April 27.
Dr. Seth Kauffer, a board member for the Jewish Community Association of Northeastern Pennsylvania, spoke on the dual meaning of the holiday for the local Jewish community this year.
“It’s a very special time of year, celebrating the rebirth of the Jews as they were freed from Egypt,” Kauffer said.
Additionally, though, it was the first Seder meal to be celebrated in the new JCC, located on Third Avenue in Kingston, which was first opened earlier this year.
Kauffer said the attendance of the Seder meal was record-breaking — all 200 tickets were sold for the meal, double what was sold last year.
David Lantz, the JCA’s board president, was thrilled to have the Seder in the new building.
“Exciting; I don’t have another word available,” Lantz said with a beaming smile.
In the dining room, Rabbi Larry Kaplan led the faithful through the meal. Each piece of food on the table has some symbolic value — a lamb shank represents the lamb Jews in Egypt ate while the Angel of Death visited Egyptians; matzah bread recalls the unleavened bread made while the Jewish slaves were quickly preparing for their Exodus.
What’s more, the food needs to be eaten in a particular order; the word “Seder” means “order” in Hebrew, Kaplan said.
Kaplan said that the Passover meal is about more than just remembering the past; as it reminds the faithful that there are still metaphorical Egypts to escape from to bring everyone closer to God.
“Why do we do this every single year if not to think about what’s wrong and to make things better?” Kaplan asked.
“We need to find out what we can do to make things better so no one has to suffer.”
Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan