Taking the Seder to church

By Ivor Millman

The north London Branch of the Council of Christians and Jews is small in terms of numbers of paid-up members but we have an active committee of members of both faiths, both clergy and laity.

We hold three public events each year, a demonstrated Seder, an AGM with outside speakers and an Advent/Chanukah event and social.

The objective of the demonstrated Seder is for a rabbi to take a largely churchgoing audience through the individual elements that make up the Seder, their meaning and significance, and where appropriate with references to The Last Supper. As chair of the committee and a longstanding member of CCJ it seems to me that whatever may have been the driving force behind the establishment of CCJ in 1943, a prime aim in 2015 is to bring to churchgoers some understanding of what Jews do. Ours is an area (Hackney and Haringey) with a substantial Jewish – mainly charedi – population. So the sight of Jews is familiar to the audience but nothing more.

For the second year running Rabbi Natan Levy, inter-faith officer for the Board of Deputies agreed to lead the event. We were hosted by the Roman Catholic church of St Francis de Sales in Tottenham. Ahead of the event my colleagues on the committee and I had bought or prepared as appropriate the items needed – such
as matzah, wine and fruit juice, lettuce, boiled eggs, haroseth and maror and laid out the hall with tables, chairs and places settings for our visitors. We  also needed to check that we were not clashing with anything at Spurs that evening since  we were opposite White Hart Lane.

It is impossible to know how many people will come though we had publicised the event with a number of local churches. This year as last we were blessed with a good turnout and some 70 people came, participated and, from their responses, enjoyed the informative and entertaining way that Rabbi Levy led the event. Afterwards a queue developed of people wanting to follow-up and have a further conversation with the Rabbi. Since the queue was there and I was close by, some people chose to speak with me. It was not only about Pesach. One man who had seen all the charedi children in their fancy dress in the streets recently wanted to know all about Purim.’

Ivor Millman is chairman of the north London branch of the Council of Christians and Jews

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