twist of faiths
A Catholic man and a Jewish
woman learn about each other's
religions in preparation
Passover begins this weekBy Mary Adamski
THE class was billed as "the real Prince of Egypt."
The students sang along: a list of ritual steps memorized to the tune of "It's a Small World," a capsule history lesson set to the folk song "Clementine," and the Negro spiritual "Let My People Go."
The subject was Pesach, or Passover, the annual celebration of Jewish liberation from slavery - commemorated with a feast of symbolic foods and a centuries-old program of retold history and familiar prayers.
The light touch in song emanating from the Temple Emanu-El classroom Wednesday was not to trivialize the holy day. The point was to "keep your kids interested," said Rabbi Sean Gorman. "Keep the kids involved."
He said Jews are instructed in the Bible to teach their children the story of how God freed their ancestors from slavery. In most Passover celebrations, the task of asking traditional questions beginning with "Why is this night different from all others?" is delegated to a small child.
And although it was 3,300 years ago that Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, "you have to believe it just happened," said Gorman, a Navy chaplain. "In every generation, every person must think of himself as personally liberated from slavery."
Daniel Batz and Erika Osheroff, who've been taking Basic Judaism classes together since February, joined in the songs and paid close attention to the ritual to be observed when Passover begins Wednesday. For Hawaii-born Batz, who was raised Roman Catholic, the story is familiar from childhood catechism and Scriptural readings at Mass. But everything else - the myriad laws, details, interpretations in Judaism - is new and somewhat mind-boggling. "I don't understand some of the food aspects, such as separate dishes, no shellfish," he said.
For Osheroff, who grew up in a California Jewish family, it's a return to her roots but also a learning experience. "We're both baby-stepping. I'm learning things my family didn't do."
The classes are in preparation for their marriage in August, which will be a Reform Jewish ceremony. They said the rabbi would not marry them without their promise to raise their children as Jewish. But they plan to teach the kids about Dad's faith, too.
"The more we're learning about each other, the more we can teach to our family," said Batz, 30. "It's not like there's a total 360-degree difference. There's a common mesh between the two. There's one God. Jew or Christian, you are going to the same place by different routes."
Osheroff, 31, said: "I want to give our children the best of both worlds. We'll have Hanukkah and we'll have Christmas. We'll celebrate Passover and Easter."
She said others in her family celebrate "Hallmark holidays with Easter bunny and Santa ... but with Dan's family and background, I would like my children to know the religious holidays."
Their vow of shared holidays has already led to their "Chrismukkah" tree, the December pine tree decorated with the star of David and other Hanukkah symbols as well as Christmas ornaments. "I have to have a tree, I can't lose that tradition," Batz said.
He bought his fiancee a menorah, the seven-branched candlestick that is the focus of the celebration of Hanukkah, and he did the readings during the December celebration of the Jewish "festival of light."
The couple, who met three years ago through their jobs with General Nutrition Center, went to midnight Mass together at St. Augustine's Church.
"I cried," the Jewish woman said. "It was very emotional for me. I'm sentimental to unity and here were all these people there to do one thing together."
Osheroff remembers that "my mother always used to cry during the Seder. She gets very emotional about history. She's living in the present, feeling their pain.
"She was striving to keep the knowledge alive in her children. She did what I'm doing."
Passover beginsBy Mary Adamski
Wednesday marks the beginning of the Passover holiday, commemorating the Israelites' liberation from captivity in Egypt more than 3,000 years ago.
Local Jewish organizations will begin the eight-day celebration with services and a traditional Seder meal.
Chabad of Hawaii will sponsor a community Seder at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Ilikai Hotel. The cost for visitors is $70 for adults and $40 for children ages 2 to 12; for kamaaina, $60 and $35. Reservations: 735-8161.
Kehilat haMelech Messianic Congregation will hold its Seder at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Hilton Hawaiian Village South Pacific Ballroom IV. Tickets are $30 for adults and $15 for children under 12. For reservations call 236-0440.
Temple Emanu-El will hold joint Reform and Traditional services at 10 a.m. Thursday, Traditional services at 10 a.m. Friday, and Reform services at 8 p.m. Friday.
The temple's Seder will begin at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Hawaii Prince Hotel Hawaii. Reservations are closed.
The members of Temple Bet Shalom will gather for a Seder meal at the home of Rabbi Stephan Barack Friday. Reservations are closed.