Maryland lawmakers, lobbyists and General Assembly staff took a break from the action of the final day of the annual session to observe the first night of Passover.
The Baltimore Jewish Council organized a Seder for those in Annapolis who couldn't make it home to their families to celebrate the holiday, which honors the Israelites' exodus from slavery in Egypt. The House of Delegates and Senate planned their floor sessions around the Seder so lawmakers could participate.
"It's very special in the middle of a stressful time to disengage and gather to observe a holiday that celebrates freedom," said Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Montgomery County Democrat who reserved a room for the Seder in the Miller Senate Office Building.
The Seder involved a short version of the ceremony and all of the traditional foods that symbolize facets of the holiday, including the matzoh unleavened bread.
Howard Libit, director of the Baltimore Jewish Council and a veteran of Maryland politics, said the last time the first night of Passover fell on the last day of the legislative session was 1990. Usually, Passover begins before the end of the session, so the legislature's committees end early in the evening so Jewish members can get home to their families.
But that's not possible on the final day of the 90-day session, a round-the-clock marathon of legislative action concluding at midnight. So the Seder was brought to Annapolis.
"People wanted to both be able to celebrate their faith and fulfill their obligations," Libit said.
Some lawmakers were joined by their families, who came to Annapolis to celebrate. Lawmakers who are not Jewish attended alongside their Jewish colleagues.
Kagan looked out over the celebration and noted the diversity.
"They are of all faiths, from around the state and we are breaking bread — or breaking matzoh — together," she said.