CHICAGO —  The eight-day festival of Passover begins at sundown Friday and kicks off with a Seder dinner.  WGN News spoke with a local rabbi encouraging the community to open their hearts and tables this year. 

“We’re preparing for record numbers at our own seder after two years of lockdown. Many people are coming out for the first time, and it’s very special to them,” Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe Director of Development Rabbi Levi Notik said.

Since 1973, F.R.E.E has helped Jewish people acclimate and settle in Chicago. 

They plan to host 450 people at a Seder dinner on Friday night. This year they will also be thinking of those suffering abroad. 

“The rabbis of Ukraine have asked us to stand in solidarity with them because so many of the Jews in Ukraine will not be at a Seder because they’re in war under bombardment,” Notik said. “They ask we fill an extra seat at the Seder.”  

It’s a concept rabbi Levi Notik is asking all Jewish people to embrace, inviting family, neighbors and co-workers to their table, reflecting on the Ukrainian people who are displaced, have fled, and may not be able to celebrate. 

“Our hearts go out to them,” Notik said. “We realize we’re connected. Passover reminds us just like God helped us then, he’s going to help us now.”

A hope for peace and an end to the war. 

“Our message of Passover is hope, kindness, and love,” Notik said. “If we can reach out to our fellows, to invite them to Seder, be kind, caring, giving to someone else, we’ll make a real difference. It will make the world a better place.”

Local community members have also contributed to the Ukraine Jewish relief fund. Readers can do so by clicking here.

There are an estimated 350,000 Jewish people in Ukraine.