Religion

Passover reconnects Jews to family, traditions

EAST MANATEE

Yoshi and Anita Fukunaka, of Sarapalms off Lockwood Ridge Road, aren’t sure where they will go for their Passover Seder beginning at sunset Monday.

A lavish seder, or ritual dinner, marks the start of the week-long Jewish holiday of Passover.

This is just one of those unusual years when the Fukunakas’ synagogue, Chabad of Lakewood Ranch and Bradenton, isn’t having a Passover Seder.

Rabbi Mendy Bukiet of Chabad of Lakewood Ranch and Bradenton will be out of town with his wife and children, celebrating the birth of a new baby boy with his own family.

In another quirk of fate, the Fukunaka family is all spread out this year, leaving the Fukunakas on their own.

The point of all this is that Anita Fukunaka is now convinced that Passover is the year’s most important time for reestablishing the connection between family and tradition because she is feeling a loss.

“It sort of bothers me, it really does,” Fukunaka said. “This is the first time I can remember when we don’t have an exact plan.”

Passover begins at sunset Monday and continues until April 5.

The holiday honors the time when the Jews finally were freed from Egypt by Pharaoh Ramses II. According to the Bible, it took God befalling Egypt with 10 plagues to persuade Pharaoh to let the Jews go.

The story of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt is told verbally and symbolically during the Passover Seder, which is a great feast typically held at the home of a grandparent or elder of the family.

Large dishes are used that can contain food that tells the Passover story.

The seder runs in a certain order. In fact, the word seder is Hebrew for order.

When Chabad members hear that the Fukunakas are seder-less for Passover, they will probably tender a slew of offers to the couple.

And when they do, the couple will once again link into a great web of Jewish connectivity dating back thousands of years.

“There are thousands of seders going on all over the world,” said Bukiet, whose family is in California.

“You might find a Passover Seder in the Himalaya Mountains. Wherever Jews are, you will find the rituals being repeated.”

“I am very big on rituals,” said Anita Fukunaka. “I like being with family. That makes me feel good.”

Fukunaka, whose husband is Japanese and converted to Judaism, recalls how, when she was a child, she learned that each food item in the large Passover Seder dish means something, from bitterness of slavery to the sweetness of freedom.

Although she probably won’t cook a seder at their house, Fukunaka got out the embroidered matzoh cover that her mother made her for a wedding gift.

“Every stitch was important to her,” Fukunaka said.

Matzoh is the unleavened bread the Jews were left with when they walked into the desert after the pharaoh set them free, leaving them without the time or equipment to bake.

Jews eat matzoh on Passover to honor that memory.

“I come from a traditionally Orthodox family and I remember changing dishes and pots for Passover,” said Fukunaka, who grew up in Brooklyn, near Coney Island. “I love all of these rituals.”

Hopefully, she will get the chance to renew them Monday.

Other synagogues are having Passover celebrations.

Temple Beth El, at 4200 32nd St. W., Bradenton, is hosting a catered Passover Seder beginning 6 p.m. Monday. For details, call 755-4900.

Congregation Ner Tamid, at Lakeside South Clubhouse, 3817 40th Ave. W., Bradenton, is hosting a Passover Seder beginning 5:30 p.m. Monday. For details, call 755-1231.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.east

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