On Monday evening, Jewish people all over the world will begin the eight-day celebration of Passover.
“There’s something very special about this holiday,” Rabbi Yossi Lerman said.
Lerman and his wife, Esther Lerman, have run the Chabad Enrichment Center in Norcross since 2011. He said the center strives to do good in the community year round, but in the spring, it takes on a special project — making sure each Gwinnettian begins Passover with the perfect Seders.
Passover commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. The celebration kicks off each year with two Seders, which are fifteen-step traditional meals packed with rituals that kick off Passover.
Lerman said the meals are a time for Jewish people to gather with their families and meditate on how the story of Passover pertains to their own lives.
“Every single one of us has our own Egypt, our own pharaoh and our own exile,” he said. “You’re not (at a Seder) to get information. It’s not even about being spiritual. It’s about kind of like opening yourself up and making yourself aware.”
Seders are considered the highlight of Passover, so the Lermans work hard to make sure people can enjoy the meals in whichever way is best for them.
This year, the first Seder will begin at sundown Monday. The second will take place at the same time Tuesday. Like it has for the past 16 years, the Chabad Enrichment Center opens its doors at about 8 p.m. for a communal Seder. Everybody’s invited to the meal — even people outside the faith.
“We’re not exclusive, and we don’t have an exclusive right to God,” Lerman said.
He said about 50 people are expected to attend the communal Seders, which wrap up at about 11 p.m.
Since Seders are family-oriented meals, Lerman said the center’s Seders typically attract single people or people without Jewish family nearby. But communal Seders aren’t the only option for Gwinnett residents looking for a temporary “Seder family.”
“It’s not like they have to come to me,” Lerman said. “That’s not how we do it here.”
Each year, the center also pairs up people looking for Seder companionship with Jewish families who don’t mind hosting a guest at their traditional meal. Lerman said the center places dozens of guests in households each year.
“It’s interesting that over the years we’ve matched people up and then after that they’ve become a regular guest at (each others) homes,” he said.
Both communal and guest-placement Seders have become popular among people the center has served, but Lerman said he’s come to understand that most would rather celebrate the beginning of Passover in their own homes.
“They actually like doing it at home,” he said. “And we encourage them to do it at home with their own kids and their own family.”
The Chabad Enrichment Center provides the “parts and pieces” to families hoping to host their own Seders, Lerman said. That includes homemade matzo, the unleavened bread eaten throughout Passover.
The center tends to provide Seder necessities to hundreds of local families each year.
Gwinnett and Hall County residents can check out all the Passover services the center provides at www.jewishgwinnett.com.
“Either come to us and we’ll do (Seder) together, do it at home or do it at somebody else’s house,” Lerman said.
He said it’s all about what makes the meal most special for everybody involved.
“Many who have been to a Seder, they’ll tell you they have fond memories,” he said.