Lynn Schroder attended her first Seder Sunday to learn more about Jewish culture.
The St. Charles woman was one of several newcomers to the tradition Sunday as Fox Valley Jewish Neighbors in Geneva held the "model Seder" to teach the different parts of the Passover feast to kids and adults regardless of their religion.
Most of those who attended will participate in Seders Friday and Saturday on the first and second nights of Passover. A few, like Schroder, are not Jewish but were interested in learning more about the traditional 14-step ritual.
"I always wanted to see a Seder," said Schroder, whose interest was prompted by her niece's engagement to a Jewish man.
Rachel Yackley led a shortened version of the ceremony complete with prayers, songs and symbolic food. Through songs and stories, it detailed Jewish history from the time the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt to their trip to freedom across the Red Sea.
A traditional Seder can last several hours but Sunday's program wrapped up in less than an hour.
A core component of the Seder is being grateful for God's help in escaping slavery but compassion for those who were hurt during the 10 plagues sent to Egypt before the Israelites escaped.
"We are celebrating our freedom. We are not celebrating that the people who were mean to us got hurt," Yackley said to the group of mostly children. "No one should get hurt."
Part of the ritual includes commemorating the suffering of the Egyptians.
Yackley said Fox Valley Jewish Neighbors provides a welcoming environment that lets people learn about Jewish culture in more informal settings. Many of the families in the group are interfaith.
"We're not a synagogue, we're a community group," Yackley said. "For a lot of us it's not so much the religious part but keeping these traditions and teaching them to our children."
Tammie Weinberger, president of the FVJN board of directors, attended the Seder with her three children Sunday. Matthew, 6, has been practicing the Seder songs in his Jewish school classes in preparation for the upcoming celebration so he was especially ready to chime in Sunday.
Passover starts Friday and lasts eight days.