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Catholic kids learn about Easter by learning about Passover

Islip Terrace, N.Y. (The Long Island Catholic) - The tables were filled with matzoh and bitter herbs, and the rabbi prayed in Hebrew and Aramaic, but the participants in the demonstration Seder on March 9 were not Jewish; they were Catholic sixth-graders in the religious education program at St. Peter the Apostle Church here, learning about the Christian holy days of Easter and the Last Supper by learning about the Jewish holy day of Passover.

“Passover and Easter are obviously related to each other,” explained Rabbi Steven Moss, who came from B’nai Israel Reform Temple in Oakdale to teach the students from St. Peter’s about the Jewish feast, the first night of which falls on April 12 this year, the night before Holy Thursday. “The Last Supper was a Passover celebration because Jesus was Jewish. He was born Jewish, lived a Jewish life, was a Jewish teacher and also died a Jew. And so the Passover celebration is not only important to the Jewish community, but also very much a part of your tradition and your history as well.” “The word Seder means order or arrangement,” because everything that is done is just as when it was first passed down by the rabbis 2,000 years ago, said Rabbi Moss. During the Seder, which is celebrated on the first night of Passover, “what we’re going to be doing is the retelling of the exodus from Egypt by the Hebrew slaves as told to us by the second book of the Bible,” noted Rabbi Moss, “the story of Moses and how he and his brother Aaron went to the Pharaoh, king of Egypt, to demand the freedom of the Hebrew slaves. We learn about this, we sing songs, we celebrate this with prayer and readings and this book which is called the Haggadah.” “The word Passover refers to two things,” he said. “One is the passing over of the angel of death of the homes of the Israelites, the Jewish people, and only entering into the homes of the Egyptians to take the lives of their first-born in order to shake Pharaoh up and convince him to let the slaves go free. But also the word Passover refers to the Pascal Lamb, the springtime lamb that was offered to God in ancient times as a way of thanking God for the beautiful season of spring. And so Passover celebrates two things - one is freedom and the other is life.” The religious education program at St. Peter the Apostle has been demonstrating the Seder to the children for more than 40 years. The sixth-grade students participate in the Seder because their classes cover the Old Testament, where they learn about the Last Supper and Passover, explained Eileen Will, director of religious education. “It’s a very good eye-opener,” she said, a hands-on way for the children to realize that “this is what Christ did, how much the Catholic Church is built on the Jewish faith.” Jeannie Goercke, sixth-grade coordinator of religious education, who has been running the Seder at St. Peter the Apostle for 28 years, said she still meets students who remember participating in the Seder. She said she hopes the kids make that connection between the Seder feast and the Last Supper, that Judaism is a part of Christian history. Because the rabbi mentioned God’s promise to Isaac and Abraham, Goercke hopes the teachers emphasize in their classes the enthusiasm the Jewish people have for their ancient leaders. “That’s the kind of respect we have to have for Jesus,” she noted.

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This story was made available to Catholic Online by permission of The Long Island Catholic(www.licatholic.org), official newspaper of the Diocese of Rockville Centre on Long Island, N.Y.

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1 - 3 of 3 Comments

  1. June Jansen
    3 years ago

    During Easter one of the homilies mentioned the' four cups' and as I am in the process of writing a collection of poetry, essays and short stories on the Passion have been researching the Passover Seder and the 15 steps as set out in the Haggadah, so this information is very interesting and more than welcome. Our Parish priest, Father Jonathan Vermaak, has asked me to put something together to present to our Rosary group and this piece will be included. Many thanks, and God Bless you all on the other side of the rather large and stormy Atlantic pond.
    June Jansen.

  2. Luci Glisar
    5 years ago

    I have two children that attend a Catholic School and I attended a Catholic grade school growing up as well. I personally feel that this education should be incorporated into the current education for our children. Thank you to the Long Island Catholic school for incorporating this important history that ties with the Jewish community.

  3. michelle
    5 years ago

    i really wanted to know more on the passover. It should have more info on it

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