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Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
Seven-year-old Joseph Hofheins reacts to eating matzah with horseradish during the bitter herbs part of the Passover ceremony, which also included music and dancing.

PROVO — It looked like a traditional celebration of the Jewish Passover on Friday evening at the Scenic View Academy, complete with men wearing yamalkas.

But most of the 200 people at this Passover dinner were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"A Seder for Judah and Joseph" was held as a means for attendees to "learn about the Jewish Passover and its rich symbolism from an LDS perspective," according to the event's sponsor, the Isaiah Institute.

"One of the things that we're trying to do is build those bridges so that both Judah, as well as LDS, and others of different faiths, can come together and begin to really understand that they have a common heritage," said Robert Kay, who co-narrated the program along with Avraham Gileadi.

Gileadi is a Hebrew scholar who attended rabbinical school in Israel, obtained his Ph.D. in ancient studies from Brigham Young University and then devoted his life to the study of the biblical prophet Isaiah.

For this celebration, Gileadi combined elements of the LDS faith with the customs of a Seder — a special meal filled with rituals that is meant to serve as a reminder of the significance of the Passover holiday.

"It's an interesting experience," said Linda Hunter Adams, who attended the Seder with her son. "It makes the Easter season more meaningful."

The evening began with a narrated program featuring several rituals that engaged the dinner guests in Jewish tradition. The program was followed up with a traditional Passover meal of kosher chicken and accompaniments. The meal was prepared at the academy and served by its adult students, who suffer from learning disabilities, as a way for them to learn social skills.

"While we all have our differences, the truth is, we all have a lot in common," Kay said. "In a world where we're going through so much challenge and change, we need to focus on those commonalities rather than the differences."

Music and dance, a common thread among most religions and societies, brought laughter and smiles as a traditional dance involved all of the women in the room, shaking tambourines and dancing around in a massive circle, at the end of the evening.

"It was more personal than I thought a Passover would be," Adams said.

According to Isaiah Institute representatives, there was so much interest this year that some people had to be turned away. Next year, the institute is considering two celebrations, one in Provo and another in the Salt Lake area.

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