Diplomatic Seder an International Hit
By Henry Levy
Passover is a holiday steeped in tradition. The American Jewish Committee has a tradition as well. Every other year they organize a Diplomats Seder which brings together members of NY's diplomatic and Jewish communities to celebrate, reflect and discuss the universal story of freedom and redemption - a story that connects people of all nationalities, religions and ethnicities.
This Seder, which took four months to plan, was held at Bnai Jeshurun (BJ) on 88th Street near Broadway. As the second oldest synagogue in the City, founded in 1825, it was a splendid venue for such an event. BJ's spiritual leader, Rabbi Jose Rolando Matalon ("Roly") presided over the ceremony. Roly is originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina and was excellent in guiding everyone through the seder.
As all the guests seated themselves around their tables which were beautifully decorated, Roly described how the meal they were about to eat prepared the Jewish people to leave Egypt and journey towards freedom. He explained the symbolism of the special foods and the underlying meaning of the Haggadah, the story of Passover. He said the reason for the seder is to remember the Exodus and to make those of us present a witness to what happened, as though we were there. Roly assured the diplomats that although we retell this story each year, the Jewish people do not have a problem with the land of Egypt per se, especially since Sadat's gesture of peace years ago. But rather, Mitzrayim (Egypt) is an idea, not a physical place and it represents every place, physically and psychologically, where there is oppression and a people's desire for freedom from such oppression. It is a universal concept which provided the diplomatic corps with an understanding and appreciation of the overall theme of Passover.
Among the 55 nations represented were Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Republic of Korea, Lithuania, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Mexico, The Federated States of Micronesia, Mongolia, Montenegro, New Zealand, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Saint Lucia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovak Republic,Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Ukraine and the United States.