Passover & Easter & the Interfaith Family

The two holidays will happen together this year. Here’s how to handle this.

By Maayan Hoffman
eJewish Philanthropy

Passover and Easter collide this year, with Passover beginning at sundown on Friday and Eastern taking place on April 21. For Jewish-Christian interfaith families, this is a challenge and an opportunity, said Jodi Bromberg, chief executive officer of InterfaithFamily.

eJewish Philanthropy sat down with Bromberg ahead of the holidays to gather insight that could help families navigate this holiday period.

Passover and Easter: Compare and contrast

Bromberg said that Passover and Easter are both family occasions about “coming together, being together, eating yummy food, communicating culture and values to our children and young family members.”

In addition, both holidays center on freedom and rebirth.

“On the face of it, the two holidays can look really different but actually there is a lot of commonality between them,” she said.

But they are not exactly the same. For example, Passover is rooted in the Torah, while Easter is in the New Testament or Christian bible. Passover, she said, is usually a home-based holiday, while Easter rituals center more on mass.

“InterfaithFamily has done a number of surveys around Passover and Easter and have found that for those couples raising their families with some Judaism or exclusively Judaism, almost all of them celebrate Passover, but only about half celebrate Easter,” Bromberg explained, noting that additionally those that celebrate Easter tend to celebrate the cultural aspects more than the religious aspects.

What are the most likely challenges for Jews at an Easter dinner and how would you solve them?

Bromberg said that Easter dinner during Passover can be challenging because of Passover food restrictions.

“This is one place where the Christian spouse can advocate for you and say my spouse keep kosher for Passover and can you make some things they can eat,” Bromberg recommended. “In this day and age, with all the different dietary restrictions that come up – vegetarian, vegan, gluten free – it is an easier conversation than it was 10 years ago.”

But she said that one should be aware of family dynamics and work with them. If need be, the interfaith family could attend an earlier part of the Easter celebration and leave before dinner.

And what about for the nonJewish spouse at a sederchallenges and solutions?

Here, Bromberg said a seder is about communication and spouses should communicate, too. Together the Jewish and non-Jewish spouse should discuss goals for the seder and what would make everyone feel comfortable.

“For most interfaith family members who are not Jewish, I think often understanding what is going to happen beforehand and explaining what the seder will look like, is a great start,” she said.

Bromberg also recommended using one of the more inclusive Haggadot – there are many beautiful ones today – or even making your own.

Are there any Passover themes that speak specifically to interfaith families?

“Freedom,” said Bromberg, focusing on gender, racial and other forms of equality.

She said some interfaith families put an artichoke on their seder plates to represent the Jewish people with its many petals, thistle and heart.

“We are first of all, very diverse in our petals,” writes Rabbi Geela Rayzel Raphael in an article that can be found on the InterfaithFamily website. “We call people Jews who are everything from very traditional Orthodox Hasidim, to very liberal secular. We are Reform, Reconstructionist, Orthodox, traditional, Modern Orthodox, Conservative, Renewal, and, of course, post-denominational. We are social justice activists and soldiers; we are Israelis and Jews of the Diaspora. We are young, old, single, married. Many are vegetarian, while others swear by Hebrew National. Our skin can be white as Scandinavian, dark black as Ethiopian, and we now welcome many Chinese and Latin American adoptees. Lately we add another category, that of interfaith.

“Like the artichoke, which has thistles protecting its heart, the Jewish people have been thorny about this question of interfaith marriage,” the rabbi continues. “Let this artichoke on the seder plate tonight stand for the wisdom of God’s creation in making the Jewish people a population able to absorb many elements and cultures throughout the centuries – yet still remain Jewish. Let the thistles protecting our hearts soften so that we may notice the petals around us.”

Any final advice now that we are down to the wire?

“Take a deep breath,” said Bromberg. She recommended using InterfaithFamily resources, communicating with each other and loving each other.

“Ask questions – a lot of questions,” she continued. “Check in with each other frequently and afterwards debrief to see what went well and what you could do differently next year.”

She said that when Jewish and Christian holidays fall around the same time, although it can be challenging on interfaith families, it is also an excellent opportunity to share.