Thursday night was certainly different from all other nights at The Olympic Collection Banquet Hall & Conference Center in West Los Angeles. On this particular night, the hall was reserved for the Universal Freedom Seder, an interfaith dinner attended by nearly 250 people to commemorate Passover, Easter, the Quranic story of Moses and the Arabic Spring movements currently roiling the Middle East. The Seder even included a helping of music, including a three-song set by Israeli alt-rocker Idan Raichel of the Idan Raichel Project.
Ruth Broyde Sharone, the event’s primary organizer and a filmmaker who documents interfaith gatherings, announced, “We have more than 12 faiths represented here tonight.” Sharone was flanked at the head table by Rabbi Mordecai Finley of the Ohr HaTorah Congregation, a professor at the Academy of Jewish Religion; Imam Jihad Turk, religious director of the Islamic Center of Southern California; and the Reverend Gwynne Guibord, an Episcopalian priest.
Sharone’s inspiration for the Seder, she said, had been the overturning of the Mubarak regime by the Egyptian people, who’d brandished signs demanding the downfall of their “Pharaoh.” Searching the crowd for Egyptians, I spotted Mohamed Samir Helmy, Los Angeles’s Egyptian consul general.