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Pesach in St. Petersburg

Pesach in St. Petersburg – Another day, another Seder

When I left you yesterday we had just completed two sedarim at the Shorashim school (we’re still on Wednesday), and I was exhausted! So for a final chametz meal before the start of Pesach, Rabbi Michael, Josh, Julia, David, Zina and myself went to the sushi restaurant next to the hotel. It was just what the doctor ordered (although I didn’t need the waitress to spill soya sauce all over my shirt, I only have three smart ones with me).

After this we moved on to the new JDC building in the city, a fantastic new Jewish community centre, and the location for the Shaarei Shalom communal seder. It was interesting to see the other side of Rabbinic work, which involves schlepping tables and chairs to make sure that everything was ready for when the community arrived. We all lent a hand, and I definitely think that a course on maximising space when setting up a room would be a welcome addition to the College curriculum.

The room gradually filled until 80 people had come to join in the seder celebrations. So many of them wanted to say hello, and in a combination of broken English, very very bad Russian (mine) and hand gestures we communicated a little bit. Some even came back for a second conversation.

Rabbi Michael ran a fantastic seder, and we were able to lend a hand with the Maggid section, and a very interactive 10 plagues experience. My seder at home will definitely be more lively after this year’s experience.

It was an excellent day, so much so that when I returned to the hotel, in the time between being asked to turn out the light (the switch is by my bed), and turning it out, I actually fell fast asleep.

Thursday began with Shacharit at the Synagogue, which was a really lovely service, and it was nice to begin to recognise a few of the people. This was followed by an excellent lunch at Rabbi Michael and Olgas’ home. The whole community, with them in particular, have been so welcoming that I have been really touched by how nice everyone has been.

In the evening it was time for the English language communal seder (there is a quite significant community of expatriates in the city). It made a change to be able to understand everything that was going on. I was pleased to be able to support Rabbi Michael at the seder, and I had a great time playing with the children, and they in turn did a great job afflicting everyone with plagues, I don’t think anyone escaped without receiving a couple of boils.

And now it’s Friday morning, and I’m preparing a sermon for tonight, a Torah reading for tomorrow, a Netzer activity for tomorrow evening and a Netzer seder for Sunday night – at least I’m not too busy.

Oh, and I almost forgot to tell you, I also learnt that I even need a translation to understand animals. In Russian a dog doesn’t “woof” or “bark” it goes: “gav, gav” (it’s amazing what you can learn during Chad Gadya).

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach

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