Prager, a La Cañada resident, discussed what the Passover holiday means to him in a phone interview while on his way to a Seder Tuesday evening.
The week-long celebration of the Jewish people’s liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,000 years ago began on Tuesday with the Seder, a ritual meal that marks the beginning of the holiday, and ends after April 25. Prager said it’s become the most widely celebrated Jewish holiday as Judaism has become more secularized because themes of liberation and freedom are applicable to everyone.
“Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur carry the most weight [religiously], but as Jews have become somewhat more secularized, [Passover has] overtaken as the most widely celebrated Jewish holiday for perhaps the first time ever,” Prager said.
Passover, like any Jewish holiday, is a time to spend with family, said Prager, who’s spending part of the holiday in Cancun, Mexico with his two sons and grandchildren who reside in Miami.
“Jews, I think, are known for a fairly strong family life, and the holidays and the Sabbath are the secret,” Prager said. “The holidays don’t revolve around the synagogue, they revolve around the home — Judaism is a house-based religion.”
Each Passover season Prager changes his diet and doesn’t eat anything that’s been fermented. In doing so, he substitutes matzo, a flatbread made without yeast, for bread, which serves as a constant reminder of his childhood and preparing for the holiday as a boy.
Prager said there’s an overwhelming sense of pride and connection to his ancestors that’s stirred up in him and the entire Jewish people in general during Passover.
“It’s an unbelievable thing, we act as if and talk as if we were liberated from Egypt,” Prager said. “It’s always ‘we got out of Egypt,’ not ‘they got out Egypt.’ It bonds you over the generations in an extraordinary way and is the secret to Jewish survival because there is no broken memory. It’s as relevant to us today as if we were the ones that got out of Egypt.”