April 18, 2022

The Boston Globe attended our Passover Seder to see why it was so special. Here is the story:

A day for prayer and reflection

Jews celebrate the beginning of Passover, as Christians mark Good Friday.

Read this story by Rose Pecci in The Boston Globe.

April 15 was a holy day for two faiths: it was Good Friday, among the holiest days for Christians, and it marked the beginning of Passover, a major Jewish holiday. Both celebrations have a common theme of togetherness.

On Friday, Annisquam Village Church in Gloucester held a prayer walk for peace in Ukraine. Members of the church and the Cape Ann community met at the Fisherman’s Memorial to participate in the 1-mile walk. A fund-raiser connected to the event was set up through World Central Kitchen.

“We look on in horror at what is happening in Ukraine and wonder what we can do,” said the Rev. Sue Koehler-Arsenault. “There’s power in coming together as a community, especially on a day when Christians throughout the centuries remember the cruel way in which Jesus died, to recognize that what is happening in Ukraine is a modern-day crucifixion. So for us to gather and reflect on what’s happening in Ukraine, to be able to pray for peace and to also take action by supporting World Central Kitchen, I just can’t imagine doing anything more meaningful on this Good Friday.”

Koehler-Arsenault was inspired by an article she read that linked the Stations of the Cross, a series of 14 images that depict Jesus Christ on the day of his crucifixion, with the tragedy in Ukraine. In the article, Jim McDermott connects each image with stories of Ukrainian people suffering from the violence in their country, which were collected by Ukrainian-American artist and photojournalist Tatyana Borodina.

After reading the article, Koehler-Arsenault wanted to include something similar in the prayer walk. Along the way, community members paused to listen to short stories from the people of Ukraine and to offer brief prayers.

“I think Christianity at its best is when we are paying attention to the injustice and the cruelty of the world, and we try to find a way to show up and we try to find a way to express our care and our concern,” said Koehler-Arsenault. “I think what we’re trying to do, from thousands of miles away, is to say we’re showing up and we care.”

Meanwhile, Chelsea Jewish Lifecare hosted Passover Seder, a ritual feast that marks the beginning of Passover, at Cohen Florence Levine Estates, an assisted living facility. The celebration featured songs, prayers, and a festive meal. Cantor Ellen Farber led the Seder, and residents enjoyed matzah and wine and read the Haggadah, the story of the Jewish exodus from Egypt.

It was the first time Chelsea Jewish Lifecare was able to host a Passover Seder since the pandemic began, and Jewish and non-Jewish residents came together to celebrate.

“It’s so good to be able to have this in-house and celebrate again,” said Michele Honohan, activities director at Chelsea Jewish Lifecare. “It’s healthy for them to know that things are getting back to normal after going through this pandemic.”

The staff prepared extensively for the event, Honohan said. The kitchen and dietary staff deep-cleaned the kitchen areas and disposed of anything that wasn’t Kosher, foods that don’t conform to the dietary regulations observed in Judaism during Passover. Because Jewish and non-Jewish residents attended the large event, the dining hall had to be prepared and decorated accordingly.

Residents and staff were grateful for the ability to host a celebration that brought everyone together.

“It’s been difficult to get people together so this is so meaningful to so many people,” said Adam Berman, CEO of Chelsea Jewish Lifecare. “It’s a nice mixture of both the spiritual fulfillment that people are looking for as well as the togetherness and the opportunity to reflect and think about our past and what all of that means to us moving forward.”

Rose Pecci can be reached at rose.pecci@globe.com.