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Dealing with loss marks Passover; Support: This year's service, set for Wednesday in Columbia, will again pair psychological healing with the spiritual.


As the Jewish holiday Passover approaches, those who have experienced the loss of a loved one may feel deep sadness and remembrance.

It is also a time of celebration and family gatherings. Beginning the evening of April 19, Passover commemorates the flight of the Jewish people from Egypt.

"This holiday is centered in the home," says Rabbi Mark Panoff of Temple Isaiah in Columbia. "Absence of a significant family member or friend is felt especially keenly.

When children cook grandmother's recipe for a Passover treat or remember how grandparents used to conduct the Seder with their families, it's quite stark when that person is gone."

Before the holidays, congregants often visit their rabbis, needing to talk about their losses. Rabbi Susan Grossman of Columbia's Beth Shalom Congregation and Jessica Rowe, a Jewish Family Services of Central Maryland social worker, perceived this need in January of last year. After consulting with the Howard County Board of Rabbis, they held the first "Evening of Support and Healing from Loss" before the Jewish High Holy Days in September.

"About 50 people from the Jewish community in Howard County and surrounding areas attended," says Rowe, "and many said it was a helpful evening."

Like the first, this year's Evening of Support and Healing -- scheduled for Wednesday -- will pair psychological healing with the spiritual.

Rowe will open the service with an informal session that resembles a loss workshop, addressing the psychological well-being of those left behind after a death. Then, a cantor and rabbis from three Howard County Jewish congregations will present a memorial and healing service with prayer and song.

"Grieving has a spiritual side as well as an emotional side, and this format allows the expression of both," Rowe says.

"Remembrance is integral to the Jewish tradition. This service will speak to those who have recent or recurring remembrance of their loved ones."

Passover is a holiday of history and remembrance.

"During the liturgy, we'll take a moment to reflect on the meaning of our loved ones' lives, and to affirm how they guided us, touched us, nurtured us," Panoff says.

"Loss is a part of the natural rhythm of life, but now, with the coming of spring, we can celebrate a rejuvenation of spirit which helps us to carry on."

The Evening of Support and Healing from Loss begins at 8 o'clock at Beth Shalom Congregation, 8070 Harriet Tubman Lane in Columbia.

Clergy will include Rabbi George Driesen and Cantor Jan Morrison, both of the Columbia Jewish Congregation, Grossman and Panoff.

Sponsoring organizations include Jewish Federation of Howard County, Jewish Family Services of Central Maryland and the three congregations. The event is free and open to all.

A loss support group is also being planned.

Information: Bonnie Hockstein, 410-730-4976, Ext. 21.

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