Travel

Seder in Lima

Alibi’s Ilene Style reports from her volunteer mission in South America

On Tuesday I attended a Passover Seder in Peru. It was held at the conservative synagogue in Lima, Asociacion Judia de Beneficencia y Culto de 1870. The seder was led by Rabbi (Rabino) Guillermo Bronstein, the same rabbi quoted in my update on anti-Semitism in the country. I was assigned to sit at his table. Rabino Bronstein has a brother who is the rabbi of a synagogue on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. Both rabbis were born in Argentina.

Another man at my table, whose impeccable Spanish convinced me he was Peruvian, was actually from Queens, N.Y. He moved here 12 years ago because he "needed to get away." He never went back. He didn't speak a word of Spanish when he moved to Peru and learned it without ever taking a class. (There is hope for me yet!) He was there with his wife from Bolivia, who doesn't speak a word of English.

At another table was a British couple from London who was passing through Lima on their way to the Amazon rain forest. At yet another table there was a group of folks from Argentina. There were 120 people in all. Few spoke English. It was the most international Seder I have ever attended.

The prayers and songs during the service preceding dinner were all in Hebrew, as they are at every Seder everywhere in the world. During this wonderful service there were no language, social or cultural barriers. There was nothing about the meal afterward that indicated I was even away from home. The seder plate, matzoh, gefilte fish, matzoh ball soup, roast chicken, fruit compote and flourless cake were all present and accounted for, as was the traditional kosher sweet red wine, although it wasn't Manischewitz. It was the most food I've eaten since I've been in Peru.

After the Seder was over, the rabbi and his family insisted on walking me to an area where I could get a "safe" cab home. (Taxis are sometimes a bit sketchy in Lima.) They told me to please call them if I needed anything during my stay. I think I have a new family here.