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Eight days of Passover mark exodus and liberation

SHANGHAI'S Jewish community celebrated one of the most significant festivals on the Jewish calendar last week, the Passover Seder.

The Passover ritual feast dates back to the time of Moses and the freeing of the Jews from slavery under the Pharaohs of Egypt.

Jewish Communities in the city's Pudong and Puxi held Seders last Wednesday to mark the start of the eight-day festival to remember the exodus and the importance of freedom.

Rabbi Avraham Greenberg of the Chabad Jewish Center in Pudong says the Passover meal is intended to pass on to the next generation the Haggadah, the story of the Israelites' exodus from Egypt.

According to the story, the Jewish nation had been enslaved for 210 years. Moses returned to Egypt to free his fellow Hebrews. When the Pharaoh refused Moses' request to free his people, it is believed that God blighted Egypt with 10 plagues.

The final plague was said to have taken the first born of every household that did not paint its door with the blood of a sacrificed animal - only Jews painted their doors. The Passover also commemorates the passing of the plague over Jewish households.

Unlike other Jewish holidays that revolve around the synagogue, the Seder is an inter-generational family ritual commonly conducted in the home.

"There is a joke among Jews about the source of our festivals. It goes 'They wanted to kill us, we survived, now let's go eat'," says Rabbi Greenburg. "Passover Seder is one of the holiest days of the Jewish tradition and it is designed to raise the children to come up with questions so the Passover story can be told."

The Pudong community held their event at the Renaissance Shanghai Pudong Hotel, where they enjoyed a specially prepared meal that incorporates symbolic elements of the Passover story.

There are about 100 families in the Pudong community and many attended the event. Around 400 members of the Puxi community attended a Seder at the Millennium Hotel in Puxi last Wednesday.

The ritual meal including drinking four glasses of wine, and washing of the hands, eating unleavened bread, bitter herbs, and various symbolic foods.

Rabbi Greenburg says different families unveiled pictures outlining the different stages of the Seder throughout the event.

Matzah, an unleavened bread, is eaten to commemorate the hurried departure of the Jews from Egypt. They had no time let the bread rise before baking, so they prepared unleavened bread for the long journey ahead.

As part of this observance, Jewish households remove all chametz (leavened foods) from their homes. This includes anything made from the five major grains - wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt.

Rabbi Greenburg explains this takes a lot of effort, and some families remove all regular cutlery and cookware. For the eight days, they are replaced with new items that have never touched grain.

The act has a symbolic significance, reminding Jews to remove "puffiness" or arrogance and pride from their souls, puffiness referring to the leavened bread.


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