Forty-two Christian thelogical seminarians and faculty members from the Washington Theological Consortium attended Passover seder meals in Jewish homes Wednesday.
"We thought one way for the students to get a fuller sense of the Old and New Testaments would be to experience more of the old Testament, including Passover," said the Rev. Lawrence Boadt, professor of scripture at Washington Theological Union.
Robert Adams, a senior at the Lutheran House of Studies, attended his first Passover seder at the home of an Israeli Embassy official. "It's more than a curiosity. I've always been interested in the ecumenical effort, expecially the Jewish experience, which bumps up against us all the time," he said.
"Judaism has in some ways fed our own traditions," said Adams, 27. "In a way [the seder experience] helps me get down to the roots of our own faith.
"After all," Adams said, "as far as I'm concerned, it (the seder) is the last meal Jesus celebrated with the apostles. We can't deny that."
A Catholic seminarian, Donald Tologruto, said he was "looking forward to seeing the parallels between the Jewish seder and our own eucharist. It will be helpful in my own faith," he said.
"The whole Catholic faith is based on the Jewish religion," said Tologruto, 24. "It's good to be in touch with that history and be aware that it is present today."
Rabbi Robert Baruch of Temple Micah helped find Jewish families willing to share their Passover seders with Christians. "The experience of having sat through a home seder will make their (the theological students) studies much more meaningful," he said.
"Passover is significant to Christians because the Last Supper would have been a seder meal, Baruch added, although that interpretation is contested by Christians and Jews.
"But Jews and Christians sharing at Passover is not unusual," he said. "All through my rabbinate I would conduct model seders and lecture about Passover to Christians."
Susan Friedman of Congregation Beth El said she decided to share her seder because "my husband and I were just married last year so this is our first Passover together. It's our home and our sharing."
Boadt said he was overwhelmed at the response to the note he attached to the department bulletin board asking seminarians to join in the seder. I wasn't expecting nearly as many to be interested," he said. "They were all very enthusiastic. I even began to get a little nervous early this week because I thought there wouldn't be enough Jewish families willing to take them in."
But, according to Boadt, 20 Jewish families volunteered soon after Brandt Coopersmith of the American Jewish Committee became involved along with the Washington Hebrew Congregation, Temple Micah and Temple Sinai.
"If you think about it, it's very generous of [the Jewish families]," said Adams. "When you celebrate Christmas you're not likely to invite outsiders to come and sit at your table . . ."