NORTH FORK — Call it Passover in the pines.
For two nights next week, Rabbi Shlomo Menkes and his wife Aliza plan to preside over public Passover seders at their 92-acre retreat in North Fork.
“These will be the first public seders in our area in at least 10 or 15 years,” Menkes says. “They could be the first ever.”
The Menkeses, owners of the Siderman Family Camp and Conference Center in North Fork, will host the seders on Friday and Saturday, April 19 and 20.
“A public seder, with all the trimmings, is not so available on the mountain these days,” says Rabbi Menkes.
Menkes and his wife established their nonprofit camp and conference center with the goal, according to the rabbi, of creating a hub for area Jews.
Their property features rustic cabins and outdoor recreational facilities set on an idyllic, forested parcel overlooking Manzanita Lake.
Menkes, 60, is a rabbi in the Chabad-Lubavitch branch of Judaism, an orthodox, Hasidic sect that follows the teachings of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.
One of the largest Jewish organizations in the world, the Chabad-Lubavitch sect is well known for its outreach activities.
Menkes, who had been associate rabbi at the Chabad House in Santa Monica, said he still splits his time between “the mountains” and SoCal. But in recent years, he and his wife have been concentrating on expanding the North Fork center.
The Menkeses bought the camp property in 2014 and during the summer months, host Jewish children at the facility.
“The rest of the year, we’re trying to create a community space where people can come and enjoy nature,” the rabbi says.
The public seder, he says, will create the kind of atmosphere where “people can enjoy their Jewishness.”
Siderman Family Camp is located at 56887 Shinn Cabin Lane in North Fork. The seder will be held in the camp’s central meeting hall.
“The seder will allow people to participate in the ritual, with all of the miracles involved, and also to see how the [Passover] experience prepared us for nationhood,” the rabbi says.
Menkes’ mother is a Holocaust survivor and he recently wrote about her and his family’s history in a This is Us feature in Sierra News Online.
The Passover seder focuses on the story of the Jews’ exodus from slavery in Egypt more than 3,000 years ago. Per Biblical command, the seder is held after nightfall on the first night of Passover, and also on the second night for Jews living outside of Israel.
The highly choreographed ritual centers around eating a special seder meal including unleavened bread — “matzah” — bitter herbs, and reading from the Haggadah – the Jewish text that dictates the order of the Passover seder.
Menkes says most seders typically last about two hours.
“We have everybody participate,” the rabbi says. “We read the Haggadah step by step.”
The April 19 and 20 seders will both begin at 8 p.m. On April 19 before the traditional seder, a “Mincha” — or afternoon prayer service — will be held starting at 7:25 p.m.
Menkes says there is a “suggested” donation of $20 for adults and $10 for children but that everyone is welcome regardless of their ability to pay. Those who cannot attend and would like to create their own seder or purchase the traditional hand-baked matzah can contact Rabbi Menkes at 310-567-9912.
“We’re trying to create a welcoming environment where people don’t feel obligated to do anything but come and enjoy,” the rabbi says.
To attend, please RSVP by April 12 to Mrs. Batsheva Williamson/ Administrator at email@example.com or text to 310-403-1821.