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March 21, 2013 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-03-21

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Steve Klaper of Oak Park with the Song and

Spirit Institute For Peace leads songs during the

special seder in Detroit's Brightmoor community.

Congregation Shir Tikvah hosts seder:
"From Slavery to Freedom: Two Journeys, One Destiny."

Judy Greenwald

Special to the Jewish News


e know the words said every
Passover: "Let all who are
hungry come and eat" as
we display the matzah. This year, as part
of Troy-based Congregation Shir Tikvah's
(CST) commitment to tikkun olam, the
synagogue reached out to a less fortunate
community to truly fulfill the seder ritual of
feeding those who are needy.
In partnership with City Covenant
Church, Song and Spirit Institute for Peace,
MercyWorks, Stand Out Live Original
(SOLO), the Berman Jewish Family
Education Foundation and many donors,
CST and the other organizations sponsored
a Mitzvah Seder in Detroit's Brightmoor
community on Sunday, March 10, at
Gompers Elementary School.
More than 300 people of all ages attended
and were inspired by the words of the pro-
gram's message, "From Slavery to Freedom:
Two Journeys, One Destiny" highlight-
ing both the Exodus from Egypt, and the
African American experience of oppression
and slavery in this country.
Explaining why the synagogue began this
project, CST's Rabbi Arnie Sleutelberg, who
is celebrating his 25th year as the congrega-
tion's spiritual leader, said, "When brain-
storming how to turn my anniversary of
association with Shir Tikvah into a tikkun
olam project, we looked at the calendar, and
saw that it's spring, when we have Pesach.
We proclaim at our seders that all who are
hungry should come and eat, and no one
comes in the door. If we mean to take that
commandment seriously, we should bring
Pesach to the hungry, not expect them to
come to us"
Sleutelberg added that with all the sup-
port from the partnering organizations
and the many volunteers, "the project grew
because it wasn't only geared to feeding
the hungry, but providing a program that
would be enriching not only for the Jews,


March 21 • 2013

but the African Americans, too:'
The Mitzvah Seder was spearheaded and
organized by longtime congregant Wren
Beaulieu-Hack, CST's director of lifelong
learning, who said event planning began
last fall.

Mixing Two Cultures

The program included traditional seder
components, such as blessing and eating
the matzah, bitter herbs, charoses and
eggs, and singing "Dayenu," and many
African traditions, including pouring of
libations, dipping greens into a liquid
known as pot liquor to represent the tears
of slavery, and songs, including one of the
most well-known, "Go Down, Moses" a
musical homage to the Jewish persecution
under Pharaoh, which so closely mirrored
the African American suffering during the
period of slavery.
"I've always known there's a parallel
between the Jewish community and the
African American community: our strug-
gles and our liberation" said City Covenant
Church's Pastor Semmeal Thomas. "I and
the church strive to have relationships with
like-minded folks, and when I met with
Rabbi Arnie and Wren, and saw how this
was moving them, it was a no-brainer. I was
excited because the rabbi was so willing to
reach out, and to come to Brightmoor and
have fellowship with us. When we exam-
ine our commonalities it makes for more
understanding between us:'
Brother Al Mascia, representing the Song
and Spirit Institute, said the mission of the
Institute is to engage in ecumenical and
interreligious dialogue, bridge-building and
reconciliation through art, music, commu-
nity service, and observance of shared and
diverse ritual practices.
Steve Klaper, also of the Song and Spirit
Institute, noted, "We have an opportunity
to take our Passover experience and com-
pare and contrast and put it in relationship
to the African American experience in

Joining in the singing: Kimberly Buffington of Mercyworks.org ., Semmeal Thomas,
senior pastor at City Covenant Church in Detroit, Rabbi Arnie Sleutelberg of
Congregation Shir Tikvah and Steve Klaper of Oak Park.

The volunteers from SOLO, young men
and women in their 20s, participated in
the event as part of the company's credo to
do good deeds.
"Stand Out Live Original means
to be yourself and help out" noted
Andrew DeSloover. He, Jacob Leider,
Ben Workman and Andrew Nalian were
among the members attending, all wearing
T-shirts with the SOLO logo.
SOLO is a new Detroit-influenced cloth-
ing company that creates and distributes
innovative urban street wear. SOLO was
founded by brothers Zack and Jake Silver,
and Leider, all of whom were born and
raised in the Detroit area.
Theretha Dixon, Brightmoor district
resident and a member of City Covenant
Church, said, "I wanted to be part of this to
support my church and to meet my Jewish
brothers and sisters. I also wanted to expe-
rience the food of our ancestors!"
City Covenant Minister Roslyn Bouier of
Detroit called it a blessing to be involved in
the project. "I'm always interested in gain-
ing knowledge she said, "and this was a
wonderful chance to meet new people and
learn about their traditions"
Shir Tikvah member Eileen Isenberg of
Southfield said, "This is something very
close to my heart. Any kind of interfaith or
interracial events are priorities in my life:'

Ben Enmeth, 15, of Berkely holds up
charoset, a symbolic Passover food.

At the event's close, Beaulieu-Hack
remarked how rewarding the effort of put-
ting together such a program was to her.
"It's so important to build different com-
munities" she said. "The room was over-
flowing with joy and unity:'
Sleutelberg echoed her feelings. "This far
surpassed my most ambitious hopes. The
whole program was deeply moving, spiri-
tual and meaningful."
Pastor Thomas also reflected on the
event's impact: "It was beyond anything I
imagined. Black and white, Jew and gen-
tile, all coming together under God was
really a moving experience:'

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