Congregation Beth El Begins Passover Celebration at South Orange Fire House

by The Village Green
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The following is from Congregation Beth El:

Many members of Congregation Beth El and the Jewish community gathered this morning at the South Orange Fire House on Sloan Street for a pre-Passover ritual. “We are taught to rid ourselves of leavened products during the Passover holiday,” said Rabbi Jesse Olitzky of Congregation Beth El. “These leavened products, or chametz in Hebrew, represents that which puffs us up – our ego. We rid ourselves of this by symbolically selling our leavened products and ritually burning leavened products as well,” he added.

It is customary to sell one’s leavened products to someone who does not celebrate the holiday of Passover. This individual temporarily takes ownership of the products. This morning, South Orange Village President Sheena Collum participated in this ritual and symbolically bought Congregation Beth El’s chametz for the entirety of the Passover holiday. Afterwards, leavened products were ritually burned at the Fire House.

“The ritual of burning leavened products, or biur chametz in Hebrew, is an odd and unfamiliar ritual,” said Rabbi Olitzky. “As a member congregation of Big Tent Judaism, we believe in the importance of Big Tent Judaism’s practice of Public Space Judaism. Bringing this ritual to Sloan Street and downtown South Orange turned an otherwise challenging and inaccessible ritual into a fun and meaningful community activity.”

After the ritual burning of leavened products, children and adults learned about fire safety from members of the South Orange Fire Department. Kids were then able to take turns spraying the hose, petting the Dalmatian, and going into the fire truck.

On behalf of Congregation Beth El’s Thelma K Reisman Preschool, Rabbi Olitzky also presented the Fire Department with a donation as a thank you for always keeping our children and our community safe.

The holiday of Passover begins at sundown this evening, Friday, April 22nd and concludes on Saturday night, April 30th. A full schedule of Passover programming and services at Congregation Beth El can be found at

Photos are courtesy of Rabbi Olitzky and VP Collum.

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