The Star Democrat: Bishop and Rabbi Share Passover Tradition

Apr 14, 2017

PHOTO BY CONNIE CONNOLLYBishop Joel Johnson, Rabbi Peter Hyman and Temple B’nai Israel President Frank Menditch sign an authorization to sell Chametz.  The Passover ritual temporarily transfers ownership of leavened food to a Gentile.

EASTON — In an age-old ritual, Rabbi Peter Hyman on Thursday, April 13, sold chametz, food not acceptable during Passover, to Bishop Joel Marcus Johnson for $1 until the holiday ends.

Although Passover began at sundown Monday, April 10, and ends the evening of Tuesday, April 18, the transfer is “symbolic, but it has great importance,” Johnson said.

It’s a beautiful and honorable thing for a Gentile to get to do,” Johnson said. “It demonstrates solidarity with the Jewish community and in helping the community fulfill a sacred obligation of ridding the homes of all leavening.”

”Chametz refers to food containing any amount of wheat, barley, rye, oats, and spelt, that has leavened, or ‘puffed up,’” according to

Hyman, who leads Temple B’nai Israel in Easton, where the symbolic transfer took place, and Johnson, retired Anglican Bishop of the Chesapeake, signed an “Authorization to Sell Chametz Passover 5777 (2017).” The president of the synagogue, Frank Menditch, also signed.

According to the authorization, which had the serious wording and tone of a legal contract, the chametz is sold to a non-Jew.

The “valid and legal transfer of ownership, known as mechirat hametz, is accomplished by appointing an agent, usually the rabbi, to handle the sale. It is a valid and legal transfer of ownership. At the end of the holiday, the agent arranges for the reversion of ownership of the now-permitted chametz.”

The legal language is “taken right out of the classical texts — the Talmud and rabbinical texts,” Hyman said.

The rabbi, on behalf of the congregation was authorized by the contract “to sell all chametz owned and possessed by us, knowingly or unknowingly, as stated in the Torah and defined by the sages of Israel.”

This is the eighth year the clergymen have participated in the Passover tradition together. Though it was a legal transfer, the two friends were lighthearted as they signed the papers.

“I made sure I ironed this dollar bill,” Johnson said.

“You know how the food you eat can sometimes trigger memories?” asks. “Jewish tradition knows this too, and a kosher for Passover diet is a yearly reminder of the Jewish people’s distant past as slaves in Egypt.”

“During Passover we eat matzah, or unleavened bread, and avoid eating chametz, to remember our past and celebrate our freedom,” the website states.