Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Originally published in The Huffington Post.
Every Passover, we gather with family and friends around the Seder table to read the inspiring foundational story of our people’s liberation from slavery in Egypt. We tell and retell this story every year, and millennia later it informs who we are. There are many ways in which Judaism speaks so strongly to the themes of service and justice, but to me, there is none stronger than our own experience: Once we were slaves in Egypt, and now we are free. Distilled in this line, the sentiment is clear. Our tradition and history compel us to give back to our society, make the world a better place, and ensure freedom for all.
This intimate connection between Judaism and social justice is why throughout American history the Jewish community—our community—has been a vocal advocate for the values of freedom and equality that make the United States the great country that it is. As a Jewish woman and a member of the U.S. Congress, I strive to bring that connection to bear on my work every day. We are all obligated to make those connections in our own way.
Originally posted on The Jew and the Carrot.
With Passover around the corner, many of us are poised to recite the words, “Let all who are hungry come and eat.” But when nearly 1 billion people around the world are hungry or malnourished, these words become acutely daunting—particularly for communities recovering from disasters.
More than three years after a major earthquake ravaged Haiti, the country is still struggling to recover. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of problems: homelessness, violence, political corruption and, perhaps most severe, a shortage of food—resulting in hunger. In November 2012, these crises were further exacerbated by Hurricane Sandy, which ripped through Haiti before wreaking havoc in New York and New Jersey. Read More
A weekend of Good Friday, two Seders, the beginning of another Passover season and Easter Sunday certainly offer moments for each of us to take a deep breath. Take several. Reflect on all that is good and rewarding in our own lives, on the ways in which we usually manage to cope well with the vagaries and crises in our lives; partly because we know how comparatively lucky we are and partly because we have each other—colleagues, family, friends—to share a shoulder with, to learn from, to help and be helped by. Read More
If we were to try to summarize the purpose of the Seder ritual in one sentence, we could find that sentence in the Haggadah itself: “Bechol dor vador, chayav adam lir’ot et atzmo k’ilu hu yatza miMitzrayim—In every generation, each of us must see ourselves as if we, ourselves, went out from Egypt.” The foods we eat and dip, the prayers we say and sing, the telling of the story—all these are designed to enable us to relive the experience of the Exodus.
It is not a story of some other people long ago; it is OUR story. We were there. We were slaves, who tasted bitterness and wept salty tears and made mortar for bricks and baked flat bread. And we were liberated, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with signs and wonders. We, ourselves, experienced these things and, each year, we re-enact them out of our primal memory. We raise our cups and remember both our oppression and our freedom—together.
Adrienne Rich in 1987
The decision to feed the world
is the real decision. No revolution
has chosen it. For that choice requires
that women shall be free.
—Adrienne Rich, “Hunger”
When I learned last week that Adrienne Rich had passed away, I immediately pulled two of her books off my shelf and re-read my favorite poems: Integrity, Ballad of the Poverties, Hunger, What is Possible, What Kind of Times Are These? Then I read tributes to her life and legacy, posted by friends, colleagues and strangers, along with hundreds of comments on her obituary in The New York Times.
Originally posted by Pursue: Action for a Just World.
I felt more God in me during my exodus than I ever did in mass.” A couple of months ago, I heard a wonderful, radical nun speak about her conception of the divine. She was a badass organizer and a powerhouse grassroots theologian from Nueva Esperanza, a base ecclesiastical community in El Salvador. As she spoke about the history of the community, its ties to Exodus became obvious. Members of the cooperative had been refugees during the El Salvadoran civil war, fleeing to Nicaragua and returning a decade later, determined to take their country back from the military dictatorship and rebuild their agricultural collective. In their community Bible studies, the Passover story was the liberatory paradigm that they cast their struggle onto, over and over again. In the tradition of Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman, and so many others, they claimed Exodus as their narrative. And in the same campesino communities, this pattern continues today as poor peoples paint scriptures in terms of their current political and economic realities: In biblical scholar Jorge Pixley’s terms, they “readily identify their oppressor as Neoliberalism or globalization. Those are today’s names for Pharaoh as the peasants read Exodus in the context of their cultural situation.” (Global Bible Commentary, p. 186) Read More
I learned a bit about water at my seder. Turns out water is a big deal– for better and for worse.
Which, of course, we already know. The Nile plays a huge role in the Passover story —the death of Israelite boys; the rescue of baby Moses; the meetings with Pharaoh by the river. Water-based plagues are inflicted upon Egypt; frogs emerge from the Nile; fire-breathing hailstones fall from the sky; and of course the water supply of Egypt turns entirely to blood. Upon leaving Egypt, the Israelites immediately complain about lack of water, a complaint that 40 years later causes Moses’ ultimate downfall. And of course, the splitting of the Red Sea remains arguably the most dramatic event in the Bible. Read More
What’s food got to do with the Festival of Freedom? Well, everything. You may have already downloaded AJWS’s Passover resources, but here are some other great resources about food justice and liberation:
No matter what you have on your Seder plate, wishing you and yours a reflective, meaningful, liberating and just Passover.