By BART JONES firstname.lastname@example.org
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Two dozen tables were laden with traditional Passover food: the mixture of apples, walnuts and wine called charoset symbolizing the mortar Hebrew slaves used to build pyramids in Egypt, and the saltwater representing the bound ones' tears.
But the setting Wednesday night was not a synagogue, temple or Jewish home. About 150 Jews, Christians and Muslims gathered at a Catholic church in Wyandanch for the ritual seder -- two days before the start of Passover and Good Friday -- in celebration of their beliefs' common ground.
The commemorations, which this year fall on the same day, "should be bringing us together, helping us to be more understanding of different traditions," said the Rev. William Brisotti, administrator of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Catholic Church, where the dinner was held.
"There is so much division and hostility in the world based on religious groups," he said. "We're trying to come in from a whole different angle. We're all ultimately children of the same God."
The interfaith seder also drew congregants from the Dix Hills Jewish Center, Temple Beth Torah in Melville and the Turkish Cultural Center of Long Island, a mosque in Deer Park. The supper included food prepared by members of the temple, as well as kosher-style Hispanic, African-American, Haitian and European foods. A "Noah's pudding" dessert was provided by the Turkish center.
"I think it is wonderful they are honoring the Passover seder and the fact Jesus' last supper was a seder," said Judy Roth, a member of Temple Beth Torah.
Those at the gathering ate as leaders recounted -- in Hebrew, Spanish, Haitian Creole and English -- the story of Passover and the Hebrews' historic exodus out of slavery in Egypt 3,300 years ago, led by Moses. The Hebrews were instructed to place the blood of a slaughtered lamb above their doorways so that a plague sent by God to punish the Egyptians would "pass over" their homes and spare their firstborn sons.
Ray Russo, 76, of Dix Hills, a parishioner at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, said he came because he wanted "to deepen the relationship between us and the Jewish community, and to break barriers."
Diana Weaver, a middle school computer teacher in Brentwood, said she was attending her first seder.
"I'm interested in learning something new," said Weaver, who belongs to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Huntington.
Her husband, Roger Weaver, who described himself as a nondenominational Christian, said, "It's good to get out and see the way other people do things. Otherwise, you get too insular."
Many Christians believe Jesus' last supper with his disciples, on what now is known as Holy Thursday, was a seder. Jesus, who was Jewish, most likely "went to the seder many times in his short life," said Rabbi Charles Klein, head of the Merrick Jewish Centre and a past president of the New York Board of Rabbis.
Good Friday commemorates the day 2,000 years ago that Jesus was crucified by the Romans. Christians believe he rose from the dead three days later, the Resurrection celebrated annually on Easter Sunday.
For many people, Klein said, Passover and Good Friday share the commonality of making the seemingly impossible a reality: the Hebrews escaping from slavery in ancient Egypt, then the most powerful nation on Earth, and Jesus' Resurrection.
"Both religions are saying what might seem to be impossible is not, so long as God plays a role in our lives," he said.
Of Long Island's nearly 2.9 million residents, about half identify themselves as Catholic and about one-quarter as Protestant, said the Rev. Thomas Goodhue, executive director of the Long Island Council of Churches. Those of other faiths, including Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs, make up the remainder.
A growing number of Christian churches are holding "model" seders on Holy Thursday to help instruct the faithful about Passover and Christianity's common roots with Judaism, he said.
It is not highly unusual for the two holidays to fall on the same day, because they generally occur around the same time each year, Goodhue said. The last time Passover and Good Friday coincided was in 2012.
Rabbi Steven Moss, president of the Suffolk County Board of Rabbis, noted the coincident dates offer the opportunity for "communities coming together and sharing their culture and traditions."
"It's nice when these things happen," Moss said. "They don't happen enough in our world."