Professor of religion attracts community with Pass

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    By STEPHANIE HALFORD

    What started as an evening to help Old Testament students better understand a Jewish holiday has evolved into a four-week event.

    More than 20 years ago, BYU professor of ancient scripture Victor L. Ludlow wanted to help his students better understand the Passover service they were studying in Exodus. To do this he held a special service for them to participate in. He said he didn’t expect it to be so popular.

    “The Passover service was something I planned on doing for my students, but they kept wanting to bring roommates or family members. Then former students wanted to come back and bring somebody else and then those people came back the next year with still others,” Ludlow said.

    “It has expanded to where, on a typical night, the majority of the participants are non-students, and it has been fun to see it evolve over the years,” Ludlow said.

    Ludlow’s Passover celebration includes the unleavened bread, bitter herbs and other Passover traditions. As a specialist in Jewish studies, Ludlow also teaches the participants about the symbolism of the Passover.

    “I hope is’s an educational experience. That’s why I keep doing it. It’s just a great opportunity. I want them to have a cultural experience. I want them to be able to identify more with the scriptures, particularly the Old and New Testament. The Passover comes to play quite a bit in both works of scripture,” Ludlow said.

    Ludlow begins holding his service at the end of March and it continues into mid-April. The number of participants average 200 people per evening. The crowd is diverse and comes for different reasons.

    “I grew up in New York and had friends of various religions from all over the world. We used to go out to dinner with some Jewish friends and they had certain customs and we just came to familiarize ourselves more with Jewish traditions,” said Catherine Johnson, a Passover participant.

    Every year there are members from the local Jewish community who also attend Ludlow’s service.

    “I am of Jewish descent and I like the traditions. I have a lot of interest in Jewish background and history. The Passover celebration is related to the scriptures and this helps me learn a little bit more about the Old Testament and what the Jews went through at that time,” said Carlos Pereira, a Passover participant.

    A Jewish woman, Elul, who lives in Lehi, says she supports non-Jewish people holding a Passover service.

    “If there are people who want to celebrate a holiday like Passover, and they enjoy it, I don’t have a problem with it. It’s important for people to know what their neighbors celebrate, so there will be more ties and more understanding between people,” Elul said.

    This perspective is shared by another participant, Anne Pierce. “I want to learn more about Passover. We celebrate Easter every year and hear about Passover, but I’ve never really known what they do. I came to find out.”

    Ludlow said he plans to continue this annual tradition for years to come and says he hopes it will continue long after he is gone as well.

    Ludlow earned his Ph.D. at Brandeis University in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies. He has been teaching at BYU since 1972 and is currently the coordinator for Near Eastern Studies at BYU.

    Tonight is the last night for this year’s Passover service. Because this event is so popular and sells out early, Ludlow said it is important to get tickets early. Tickets usually go on sale in Febraury.

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