The Door Opened…and Tradition Was Shared

Written By: Kevin Barrett

Mrs. Green’s is a great place for lunch: home-cooked, organic and healthy.
The chef celebrates diversity too. For Passover, he cooked Tzimmis, Kogel and some other dishes that are traditional for the Seder. I have never heard of these dishes because I have never been to a Seder. It’s shameful. I attended a Jewish nursery school, grew up in Sullivan County, NY and have countless Jewish business associates and friends. Yet, I have never been invited to a Seder.
A Jewish lady next to me at the food counter explained the dishes.
“I’ll try it. I might like it…its Passover.” I said it with enough of a Yiddish accent to make her chuckle. I know, I know, making up accents can get one in trouble. But you gotta laugh sometimes.
So I told this dear lady of my plight.
So she says to me: Never been to a Seder? You gotta get invited. It’s wonderful!
At this point, I wanted to say I would be over at 5 for her family’s Seder, but my mom taught me to never invite myself to people’s houses. And besides, I didn’t even know the lady.
For 5,000 years, the once enslaved Jewish people have been celebrating their freedom from bondage and the blessing that the One True God of Abraham had bestowed upon them. We have seen the Passover depicted in movies from the time we were children. Who can forget Charlton Heston as Moses leading his people out of bondage with the help of a shepherd’s staff which produced the miracles of God. They were commanded to put lamb’s blood on their door to survive the last plague that killed the sons of Egypt.
I watched the cartoon version with my daughter called The Prince of Egypt with its emotive music and amazing scenes of the Red Sea opening to deliver the Israelites into the land of Canaan.
Truly, it is an amazing story of freedom and faith. It is a story which all Americans can relate too; but especially African-Americans.

Go Down, Moses.
Way Down in Egypt Land
Tell ole Pharoah.

The Jewish nursery school my sister and I attended raised enough money to build a large Synagogue on Highland Avenue in Middletown, NY. I donned a yarmulke and marched in procession with the sacred scrolls hidden from the sun under an elaborate canopy. I kept that thin yellow yarmulke in my dresser into my adulthood.
Steve Mayo is new found friend of mine here in New Rochelle. We were discussing politics one morning and I mentioned to him that I had never been to a Seder. It was a brief mention.
Several days later I get a call from Steve asking me to come over for their family Seder that afternoon. After I hung up the phone I cried. Yes, it was very emotional to me. And still is. It was a profound invitation that said we want to include you. It touched me mostly because I recently met Steve.
I sat at the Seder table with his wife Joan and daughter Allysa, now donning a blue yarmulke, learning and participating in this ancient rite: The Four Questions, the significance of the egg, the purging of yeast and bread from the household, Manoshevitz, matzoth, freedom and tradition. And of course, Elijah; the prophet whose return they await. The door is opened to symbolically welcome Elijah during Passover. I was kind of like their Elijah: an anticipated guest. I waited a long time for that door to open. And I am grateful for the kindness and warm hospitality of the Mayo family.
If all the religions of the world opened their doors to each other, we would have a better and more understanding world. Amen.