Many of us have fond Passover memories. I know I do. Maybe you think about finding the afikomen and going person to person for a reward, or seders that lasted late into the night. Sadly, not everyone has warm memories of this very meaningful holiday. An email from several years ago was the catalyst to bring Passover seders to one such group of women.

In 2016, we were contacted by Ohio Jewish Communities (OJC) with a request for Federations to provide seder plates for inmates at the prisons within their catchment areas. I immediately contacted the Dayton Correctional Institution (DCI) and their chaplain to discuss the request. I explained that the seder plate is not an item that stands alone; the items on the seder plate are symbols of our past. We remember the meaning of the items during the Passover seder. I then volunteered to go to DCI to lead two seders so that the inmates could celebrate Passover appropriately. It has been such an important and enriching experience that I have returned each year since.

It [the seder] feels like home.

~ Seder participant
Dayton Correctional Institution

It [the seder] feels like home.

~ Seder participant
Dayton Correctional Institution

It [the seder] feels like home.

~ Seder participant
Dayton Correctional Institution

This year, I asked the three Jewish inmates who participated in the seders what this Passover meant to them. I was so inspired by the responses. One woman who is Jewish by choice expressed that the seders made her feel closer to Judaism. “This validates my choice,” she said, “It feels like home.”

The women come from different backgrounds. One of the women grew up in a traditional Jewish home. The seders helped her feel connected to her heritage, childhood and family. Another woman had only recently learned her grandfather was Jewish and wanted to learn more about her heritage. The seders allowed her to experience something new. She hopes to share Judaism with her son.

This has been an amazing program for Jewish Family Services. Within the scope of our mission to provide individuals and families within the Miami Valley with the tools and services to lead a happy and healthy life, JFS strives to keep those who may be isolated connected to the Jewish community.

If you would like more information about JFS resources, please contact Tara Feiner, JFS Director at (937) 401-1546 or tfeiner@jfgd.net.

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