SuperTalk Mississippi

Passover in Mississippi: The Jewish Tradition from a Southern Perspective

JACKSON, Miss.–During the week Christians celebrate Easter and the death and resurrection of Christ, there’s a much smaller population in Mississippi celebrating the Exodus from Egypt. News Mississippi spoke with Rabbi Valerie Cohen about the celebration of Passover in Mississippi.

“It’s the celebration of the Exodus, of freedom from slavery,” she said. “We tell the story though a Passover seder, which is a ritual meal. The service happens over the dinner table, so to speak. It mostly happens in the home.”

Unlike the Christian tradition, where Holy Week is central, Passover week may not be the most important of the Jewish holidays.

“If you were to ask the average Jew what’s the most important holiday, they may say Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, which are what we call the ‘high holidays’, but they’ll say also, I always go home for Passover.”

Passover, in the Jewish tradition, originated when God killed the first-born of every Egyptian household as part of the Ten Plagues described in Exodus, to convince Pharaoh to let the Israelites out of their captivity. Moses was instructed to tell the people to put the blood of a lamb over their door so their children would be spared, or passed over.

As far as the number of people who celebrate Passover in Mississippi, compared to other states, “It’s particularly small,” said Cohen.

She said Jewish people are counted by families in their congregations. Cohen said there is one synagogue in Jackson, Beth-Israel, but there are several others throughout the state, which are much smaller.

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