Music helps mark Passover at Modesto synagogue

Close-up of the Seder plate during a Passover celebration at Congregation Beth Shalom in Modesto.
Close-up of the Seder plate during a Passover celebration at Congregation Beth Shalom in Modesto. Modesto Bee file

Music will be part of the most observed Jewish holiday at Congregation Beth Shalom this year, where Passover Seders are set for April 22 and 23.

Passover, the ancient Jewish holiday of freedom, begins Friday night and ends April 30. The celebration dates back more 3,500 years and celebrates the birthday of the Hebrew tribe – the date when they were transformed from slaves to a free nation, according to a news release from Congregation Beth Shalom. The holiday also marks a celebration of rebirth after winter and a time of new beginnings.

Passover’s main ritual – the Seder – is a meal eaten with family, friends and neighbors. This year, the congregation will host not just its traditional Seder on Friday, but also a shorter musical Seder on Saturday. Both are open to the public and to all ages.

Rabbi Shalom Bochner will lead the musical observance, joined by the congregation’s choir with singalongs in English.

Both Seders will include catered five-course kosher meat meals, with vegetarian and gluten-free options. While the traditional Friday night event is scheduled to end just before midnight, the special Saturday night observance will conclude around 9:30 p.m.

In opening up the events to the public, the congregation is looking to share more about the holiday with both Jews and non-Jews, according to the news release.

The celebration is held on the anniversary of the exodus from Egypt, the full moon of the Hebrew month of Nissan, Bochner said in the release. The ritual holds 15 activities, including the meal. Among the other rituals are eating a bitter herb as a reminder of the bitterness of slavery, eating matzah (unleavened bread) to recall the haste to be free, singing celebratory Psalms and discussion of the exodus story.

Games, questions, visual aids, other symbolic foods and eating while reclining to symbolize the joy of freedom add to the meaning of the ritual. According to Bochner: “The Seder is a journey; we travel from slavery to freedom, and commit ourselves to being truly free in this season of rebirth and new opportunities.”

Passover Seders

When: Traditional Seder, 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 22; musical Seder, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 23

Where: Congregation Beth Shalom, 1705 Sherwood Ave., Modesto

Tickets: $22 children, $40 adults for congregation members; $24 children, $46 adults for nonmembers. RSVP at 209-571-6060 or