An early-October fire forced a Colorado Springs Orthodox Jewish community to meet in homes and hotels for months - but their new center was ready just in time for Passover.
Passover is a time of "thanking for where we are" while reflecting on difficulty and looking forward to freedom and joy, said Rabbi Moshe Liberow, with Chabad Lubavitch of Southern Colorado. He spoke with The Gazette before the beginning of the eight-day festival, which commemorates the Israelites' liberation from slavery in Egypt. Chabad Lubavitch is just one of several Jewish communities in Colorado Springs.
"I do feel very uplifted, and the community is thanking God, because we don't take the credit for ourselves," he said about finding and renovating the new location, which was completed less than three weeks before Passover.
Weeks of cleaning and days of cooking led up to the first night of Passover - this year, on Monday - when dozens were expected to attend a Seder at the new center, 6616A Delmonico Drive.
Just a few blocks away, Liberow's family prepared food in their home accordance with Jewish law. Early on Monday afternoon. From a young age, Liberow said, "everybody's on board." He supervised the work while wearing a tie patterned to look like matzo, unleavened bread eaten during Passover.
The kitchen had to be cleaned in advance because its surfaces had been in contact with food that's kosher year-round, but not in accordance with Passover regulations. Much of the kitchen was covered in aluminum foil, part of an additional effort to separate food prepared for Passover from surfaces that had been in contact non-Passover cooking.
Some of the food, like the meat, wine and matzo, was imported.
Liberow said that each year, his children are essential to ensuring the process goes smoothly.
On Monday afternoon, 14-year-old Zalman Liberow meticulously washed the lettuce and examined each leaf for bugs.
"You can be transgressing many prohibitions just by eating one little bug, so it's very important that we get rid of all the bugs ... and lettuce, many times, has bugs," Zalman said. "We soak it in the water, we check it by the light, and we dry it."
Sadya Liberow, 16, said he's been helping cook for Passover for about 10 years.
"The Seder, when everyone's together - the community all together, celebrating - it's very special," he said, while standing in the new center with his father.
Each part of a Seder, including each food and the singing and readings, is symbolic and done with intention, said Rabbi Liberow. Monday's event was a 15-step process.
The teaching of Passover is universal, he said.
"The message is that no matter what, when we have obstacles in our life, if we tap into that inner serenity of ours, we can experience true freedom," he said.
At a Passover Seder, children learn through "the oral transmission of teaching, parent to child, and the continuous linking chain of our unbreakable legacy," Liberow said.
"It's not a blind faith education - it's, 'Let them ask,'" he said.
Contact Ellie Mulder: 636-0198