Seder raises child nutrition and hunger awareness

Rabbi Stephen Landau washes his hands in a seder ceremony in Hartford/Tracy Simmons - CreedibleHARTFORD – It’s estimated that one out of every six people in the world will go hungry this year.

Connecticut’s Jewish community, though, is working hard to change that statistic and on Wednesday held an interfaith seder at the state capital to raise child nutrition and hunger awareness.

Jewish organizations from Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport helped arrange the event as part of a national effort piloted by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. The seders, which are taking place across the country, highlight one of the most evocative lines from the traditional Passover Seder, “Let all who are hungry come and eat.”

“It’s such an easy connection for this holiday and that’s one of the lessons of the exodus of Passover for Jewish people,” said Gary D. Jones, chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford. “Even though it’s a joyous event for Jewish people, the middle of the seder reminds us that we can’t be totally happy when we realize the suffering of others.” Rabbi Stephen Landau of Tikvoh Chadoshoh Synagogue explained that although Passover tells the story of the Jewish people’s exodus from Egypt, the holiday can take on a new meaning for today’s society.

“This Passover, we will tell the modern-day story of liberating American children from the hardship of hunger,” he said.

The seder, which was lead by Landau and Rev. Puck Purnell of Old St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, was a symbolic reminder that millions of children worldwide go hungry each year.

About 40 people, including government officials, Jews, Christians and community leaders, sat around seder plates and learned what each of the items on the plate represented.

–       Celery, a green vegetable to recognize the bounty of fruits and vegetables that come during springtime.

–       Broken matzah, to symbolize the brokenness in our world.

–       Bitter herbs, to awaken people to the bitterness of hunger suffered by others.

–       Hillel sandwich (matzah with bitter maror and sweet haroset in between) to show that those who suffer from hunger can experience sweet relief in the future.

Leaders of the event urged guests write letters to their representatives in support of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act, which would increase funding levels and expand access for American children living in poverty.

Laura Zimmerman, executive director of the Connecticut Jewish Community Relations Council, said people can help fight hunger by supporting Jewish Family Services, Foodshare, End Hunger Connecticut!, and Mazon, a national organization devoted to ending hunger.

For information on other Jewish efforts to fight hunger, visit www.jewishpublicaffairs.org/CNS.

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