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Appeal of Seder crosses boundaries

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Passover is one of the most important holidays for Jews, but it's becoming increasingly popular among Christians.

A number of local churches and Messianic Jewish groups are holding Passover Seders this year, including Grace Church on Dorr Street, St. Mark's Episcopal Church in the Old West End, Faith United Methodist Church in Oregon, and Toledo's Adat Adonai Messianic Jewish Synagogue.

"There are a few reasons why Christians should celebrate Passover," said Chris Baker of Grace Church. "The Lord celebrated Passover [at the Last Supper] the night before his death. He felt it was very important for him and his disciples to be together for the Passover meal. If it's the last few hours of your life on Earth, you want to spend that with family and close friends. You want to show them the love that you have for them. That's what we're doing with Passover."

Rabbi Kirt Schneider of Adat Adonai said Passover is "one of the entry points" for Christians to explore their Jewish roots.

"We always have thought of Passover as a Jewish holiday but we are finding more and more believers in Jesus are celebrating Passover because he is identified in the New Testament as the fulfillment of Passover," Rabbi Schneider said, citing a reference in I Corinthians 5:7 that says Jesus is "Christ, our Passover lamb."

Both Mr. Baker and Rabbi Schneider pointed out links between Judaism and Christianity that are found in Passover. Among them, Jesus introduced the Lord's Supper, or Holy Communion, at the Passover meal, with unleavened bread representing his body and wine symbolizing his blood.

Jesus was crucified on Passover, buried on the Jewish feast day of unleavened bread, and rose on the day of first fruits, Rabbi Schneider said.

"He could have been crucified any day of the year, but God had a specific timetable for him," he said.

Jolene Miller said the St. Mark's Episcopal Church's Seder is meant to bring better understanding of Jewish culture.

"Some churches have sort of a 'Christianized' Seder, it takes on more of a Last Supper feel," Ms. Miller said. "That's not what we do. For us, it's a traditional Seder, retelling the story of God bringing the Israelites out of Egypt. For me, it's meaningful because I don't think God ever stops bringing people out of bondage."

Ira Steingroot, a former Toledoan and author of Keeping Passover, collected the world's largest collection of Passover haggadot when he worked at a California bookstore.

He said it troubles him when Christians try to use the Passover to evangelize Jews.

"I had haggadot for Christians who wanted to re-enact the Seder, which I sold and had no problem with," Mr. Steingroot said. "The only ones I wouldn't carry were the ones that proselytized Christianity to Jews, the ones by Jews for Jesus. I felt that I shouldn't be beaten around the head by my own holiday by someone else. It's an unfair approach to Judaism and the Seder."

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