Live from the Lilith Blog 1 of 2
April 15, 2017 by Erika Davis
This year the Jewish Multiracial Network collaborated with Repair the World to create a Passover haggadah supplement focused on racial justice. While there is a myriad of haggadot to choose from, we wanted to take a fresh look at the Four Sons by viewing them the modern-day struggle for racial equality. One of the most widely celebrated Jewish holidays; Jews are moved to celebrate Passover for a variety of reasons; whether we believe it’s a mitzvah we are commanded to perform, it’s a cherished family tradition, or a way to engage in social justice conversation in our home and communities. Seders are as diverse as the Jews who participate in them and while the format of the haggadot differ from family to family, and seder to seder at their core, the time-honored themes of redemption and communal and personal liberation weave throughout them all. In my own personal Passover celebration, as we read about the Jewish redemption from Pharaoh, I always try to bring in current day parallels and hope my guests take some morsel of the seder into their lives and into the world.
From the “Freedom Seders” that grew out of the American Civil Rights Movement to oranges on seder plates, Black Lives Matter supplements, seders have often changed over time. Recently, I’ve realized that I’m less concerned about what Jews read during Passover and more concerned with what we do collectively and individually after the seder ends. Too many of us get up from the table and tuck away the story until the next Passover. I’m asking us to consider holding on to the story and its lessons for a bit longer.
Are we intimidated by the idea of redemption? At present, it’s often hard for us to relate to the huge personal and communal change was required to go from a nation of slaves to a free people headed to the land of milk and honey. In that long trek through the desert, there was questioning of purpose, questioning of leadership, questioning of self. We sometimes strayed from our mission and our guiding principles, and few who started the struggle lived to see the redemption, but still we persevered. I wonder which of those morsels from the seder and Passover we can work on in our busy lives? Through the Four People in our haggadah supplement we address the complexity of engaging in racial justice work and the necessity of not letting doubts and fears prevent us from actively taking part in the movement working to challenge systematic racial inequalities head on. The questions cannot simply rest in the ether, we have a responsibility as Jews to first answer them for ourselves and second to address them as a community. More than a supplement, the Four People is tool that can and should be used after Passover to build a dialogue around Jewish engagement in racial justice work both internal and external to the Jewish community.
Particularly, in this moment when agents of division are looking to sow discord and separation, we have an opportunity to reach out, accept and love ALL of those who are among us as well as build a global community where everyone is equally valued and honored.