Holon Seder for 1,300 Ethiopian olim shoots for record

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April 14, 2011 01:14

Immigrant Absorption Ministry spokesman tells 'Post' that event will be first mass Seder to be recorded by Guinness.

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Rabbi Yehuda Sahala

Ethiopian Seder 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The Immigrant Absorption Ministry will try to set a Guinness World Record on Monday night by organizing – together with charity Aviv Hatorah – the world’s largest Pessah Seder for some 1,300 recently arrived Ethiopian immigrants living in Tel Aviv.

While not the largest Pessah Seder ever organized – last year more than 6,000 people waiting in the northern Ethiopian province of Gondar to immigrate to Israel gathered for a communal Seder and festive meal – Immigrant Absorption Ministry spokesman told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that if all goes according to plan, next week’s will be the first mass Seder to be recorded by Guinness.

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Information shared by the ministry and Aviv Hatorah, which runs a wide range of programs to help Ethiopian immigrants in the Tel Aviv-Jaffa area integrate into society, highlighted that more than 130 kilograms of matza, 3,000 hard-boiled eggs, 100 kilograms of haroset and 2,000 balls of gefilte fish had been purchased for the Seder, which will be led by the community’s Rabbi Yehuda Sahala and will include explanations in Amharic.

Yeshiva students, who actively volunteer with Aviv Hatorah, will be present to help make sure the event runs smoothly.

Moshe Shimon, director of Aviv Hatorah, said that while being recognized as setting a Guinness World Record would certainly help the organization in fundraising efforts, the main goal of the mass Seder was to help the new immigrants understand the festival’s cultural and traditional significance, as well as to learn how to run a Seder.

“Almost everyone in Israel, whether they are religious or not, holds a Seder, and it’s an important time to be with family or friends,” Shimon said. “This is one of the main ways for new immigrants to connect to the Land of Israel and the Israeli people. If the parents do not understand or participate in these Jewish traditions then it will be very difficult for their children to fit in here.”

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He added that despite organizing mock Seders ahead of last year’s Pessah holiday, the organization noticed that many members of the Ethiopian community spent Seder night alone or wandering the streets because “they do not know how to run a Seder themselves.”

The most recent group of immigrants from Ethiopia are from a community known as Falash Mura, whose Jewish ancestors converted to Christianity more than 150 years ago. Upon immigration into Israel they must undergo a conversion to Judaism, and even though they learn the rudimentary elements of the religion, running a Seder is a complicated business.

Shimon said this year’s event would cost about NIS 230,000 and would take place at the Gallery Palace hall in Holon, roughly 2.5 km. by foot from south Tel Aviv where many of the 400 families live and the only place big enough to house all 1,300 community members.

Asmare Akalie, director of the Immigrant Absorption Ministry’s hot line for Ethiopian Immigrants in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, said that even though many of the immigrants had participated in Seders in the past, they did not know how to organize one in their own home and that this event was an important way for them to connect with society.

A poll published this week by the Bina Center for Jewish Identity and Hebrew Culture found that one in five new immigrants would not attend a Pessah Seder next week.

“Celebrating the Seder is one of the most important experiences for a new immigrant to Israel,” the Immigrant Absorption Ministry said in a statement.

A spokesman said that together with the Jewish Agency, 16 communal Seders for new immigrants would be held countrywide.


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