Jews and Christians honor their traditions—and those of the other—best when we recognize that those traditions cannot be turned into something that they are not. We honor and respect each other when we do not trespass on the other’s most sacred ground, violating the very respect that love for neighbor requires. In our view, in the understandable Christian rush to embrace certain elements of the Jewish tradition, Christians far too often forget that rituals of any faith community are its most precious possession and that these rituals emerge from a unique set of beliefs, faith affirmations, and historical experiences.
Should a Christian want to know something of a Passover Seder, there is many a readily available Jewish host who would set a fine table for his or her Christian friends and neighbors. We have often welcomed non-Jewish visitors to our Shabbat dinner tables, our Passover meals, weddings, bar or bat mitzvah ceremonies, and the like. In these settings, it is clear that the ritual is a wholly authentic Jewish experience. There is a world of difference between being a guest in someone else’s home or house of worship, and the expropriation of another’s ritual for one’s own religious purposes.
The Seder is uniquely Jewish, born of the Jewish reading of the Torah, shaped by the architecture of our magisterial Perushim-Pharisees and their rabbis, and given artistry and beauty through 2,000 years of Jewish experience. Christians best honor their Jewish neighbors, to whom they wish to express the love of Christ, by recognizing that the Seder meal is the unique spiritual heritage of the Jewish people and respecting it as such.
Rabbi Yehiel Poupko is rabbinic scholar at the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.
Rabbi David Sandmel is director of interreligious engagement for the Anti-Defamation League.