ESCANABA - In anticipation of the time of year when both the Christian religion and Jewish faith are steeped in religious tradition, Lorrayne Krans of Escanaba and Zubenelyamaly "Yamaly" Aznar, a Messianic Jew, are preparing to share their beliefs together as they celebrate both Easter and Passover.
Yamaly, an exchange student from Mexico, has been making her home with host mom, Lorrayne, since the start of the 2012-13 school year.
Passover (Feast of Unleavened Bread) will take place in late March, just prior to the Easter celebration. It celebrates the deliverance of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. Lorrayne said she plans to help Yamaly celebrate the occasion and is prepared to provide unleavened bread during the feast.
Lorrayne Krans, left, and Zubenelyamaly “Yamaly” Aznar
In turn, Yamaly will be attending Easter service with her host mother and will even help with the Easter egg hunt the church is preparing for the youngsters. Passover will end on Tuesday, the 2nd of April.
Passover and Easter won't be the first religious holidays that Yamaly and Lorrayne will share. They joined in the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah (celebrated on Dec. 8-16, 2012) and the Christian celebration of Christmas
Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights and Feast of Dedication, is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the second century BCE. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days. The festival is observed by the kindling of the lights of a unique candelabrum, the nine-branched Menorah or Hanukiah, one additional light on each night of the holiday, progressing to eight on the final night.
"When we were getting ready to celebrate Christmas, I checked with Yamaly's mom and she told me she wants her to know and respect the faith and traditions of others," said Lorrayne. "When the seven-day week of Hanukkah came, Yamaly read the traditional prayers in Hebrew and we lit a candle for each day. We sure went through a lot of candles! It's tradition that a gift is received each night during Hanukkah and I'm not sure if Yamaly expected one, but I told her there would be plenty of gifts for her on Christmas."
And it's obvious from the smile on Yamaly's face when she spoke of her first Christmas celebration that she enjoyed it very much.
"Christmas was so much fun," she said. "Here it's a huge deal."
"This is my first time as host," Lorrayne said. "When I was considering it, I had the opportunity of looking over the bios of all the students who were looking for host families on the Internet and had the privilege of choose a student."
While reading about Yamaly, Lorrayne said she learned that the teen and her family were not Hasidic Jews (a sect which is extremely orthodox, requiring people to adhere to every basic doctrine and principle in traditional Jewish belief and practice), but were instead Messianic Jews (which attempts to blend belief in Jesus (Yeshua) as savior with a traditional Jewish lifestyle).
"That totally intrigued me," said Lorrayne. "My church supports a Jewish group in Israel and I felt it would be a good way to learn more about Judaism. I couldn't have picked a better student than Yamaly."
When they register for the Youth for Understanding program, students are allowed to choose whether they will attend worship services with their host family.
"They are not required to," said Lorrayne. "Some say they would rather not, others say they will sometimes attend, and others say they will attend every Sunday. Yamaly said she would be willing to attend."
Lorrayne said Yamaly has been watching the television series, "The Bible," that's being shown on the History Channel and the teen has been greatly interested in the segments in the Old Testament that deal with the history of the Jews.
Lorrayne said she was very touched when Yamaly learned that her host mom would be commemorating the fifth anniversary of the death of her late husband, Byron, on March 17 and offered to read a Jewish prayer to mark the occasion.
Sharing her home with an exchange student, particularly one with a different religious background, has been very beneficial to Lorrayne.
"It's been a very good experience for me," she said. "And I would highly recommend it to anyone who has a spare bedroom and is open to a new experience."