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Hamashi Passover Seder

The Anusim Crypto-Jewish  Secret Seder – Seder Hamishi 2019

Continuing the tradition of the anusim “secret seder,” Sinagoga Ner Tamid del Sud in Calabria, Italy hosted 22 members and friends at a Passover seder experience that honors the traditions of Italian Jews who, during Inquisition times, were forced to relinquish their Jewish traditions. Many Jewish families continued their Jewish observance in secret – and one of those secret services was the Passover Seder Hamishi.

Continuando la tradizione degli anusim “seder segreti”, Sinagoga Ner Tamid del Sud ha fatto di Seder di Pesach che onora le tradizioni degli ebrei italiani che, durante il periodo dell’Inquisizione, furono costretti a rinunciare alle loro tradizioni ebraiche. Molte famiglie ebree continuarono la loro osservanza ebraica in segreto – e uno di quei servizi segreti era il Seder Hamishi.

As the guests gathered they had the opportunity to view a display of seder plates and copies of Haggadot – ritual items and publications that, for many anusim, have not been a part of their Jewish family traditions for centuries. 


Thanks to the artistry of synagogue board members Angela Amato and Alessandro Parfitt, as guests gathered they enjoyed selections of Sephardic Ladino music. Especially touching was “Kuando el rey Nimrod,” a Judeo-Spanish tune that tells the story of the birth of Abraham along with “Adio querida”, a melody that is suspiciously like Verdi’s aria “Addio del passata” from La Traviata. Did Verdi learn the song from the Jews?

The traditional Pesach Seder plate features symbolic food in the Sephardi tradition. Romaine lettuce is our bitter herb and the “zeroah,” is a cucumber spear because “zeroah” means “outstretched arm.”

Thanks to the courage of Christian neighbors who, at great personal peril, opened their homes to their Jewish friends, Jews were able to celebrate the festival of Passover in relative safety and the Seder Hamishi was born.

Grazie al coraggio dei vicini cristiani che, con grande pericolo personale, hanno aperto le loro case ai loro amici ebrei, gli ebrei sono stati in grado di celebrare la festa della Pasqua in relativa sicurezza – è nato il Seder Hamishi.

The sound of the shofar signals the beginning of the Hamishi Seder. Animals such as the stambecco or ibex provide the horn for the Sephardic shofar.

Rabbi Barbara makes the blessing of the water held in “Miriam’s Cup.”

Opening rituals include the blessing of the children and the symbolic washing of hands.

As we recall slavery’s bitter tears, for Ashkenazi Jews it’s parsley and salt water. For Italian Sephardim it’s celery dipped in vinegar.​ Sephardi Passover traditions  the singing of “Halachma Anya” where we recall the heavy burdens of slavery by holding the wrapped matzah on our shoulders. We then pass the matzah shoulder to shoulder around the table to remind ourselves that with freedom comes the weight of personal responsibility.​

For 13 years Rabbi Barbara has continued the “Seder Hamishi” tradition  by offering Jews and Christians an opportunity to celebrate Passover together, with a traditional Passover meal, story, blessings and songs.

Rav Barbara ha continuato per 13 anni, la tradizione di “Seder Hamishi” offrendo agli ebrei e ai cristiani l’opportunità di celebrare Pesach insieme, con un pasto Pesach tradizionale, storie, benedizioni e canti.

Additional Italian Sephardi traditions include long stem green onions to provide the sound of the slavemaster’s whip during the “Dayenu” chorus​ and a dramatization of the Exodus story where guests play the roles of Moses, Miriam, Yocheved, Batya, Aaron, Pharaoh and a chorus of sheep, too!