Passover: the freedom to question and to re-tell our stories
Read Passover message from Rabbi Margaret Holub, and gather additional readings to bring to your Seder Table!
I just got back from South Africa, where I was interviewing Dutch Reformed Church leaders about apartheid. In those conversations, I heard a lot of recitations of Afrikaner history, about fleeing the oppressive British, fighting the local African tribes in the interior until the rivers ran red with blood, settling the land, “miraculously” gaining control of the government (in 1948!) and immediately setting about establishing separate bantustans where those natives could rule themselves by being removed from their homes and neighborhoods, not being allowed to vote and being repressed by massive state brutality.
My take-home: how you tell your people’s story depends on how you understand your people’s place in the world. If you think that you are unique and that only your fate matters, then you can justify doing terrible things to another people. If on the other hand you see your own tribe as one player in a world craving peace and wholeness for every person, then you will move quite differently in our hurting world.
With Passover coming in a few days, I look forward to eating and drinking with my friends and family and telling the story of our liberation from oppression. And at the same time I know we will be confronting the ways in which today we play the role of the Pharaoh in the ancient story, cruelly oppressing another people. An important part of my freedom as a Jew is the freedom to bring new questions to the old story. One small example: this year I wonder what we could learn from the ten plagues about Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) and about imposing deprivation on others for the sake of liberation?
Like all of you, I could be active in any number of groups seeking justice for the people of Palestine. But I have chosen to put my energy into JVP because it is a Jewish voice for peace, and that means a lot to me. Not everyone in JVP is religious, as I am. Not everyone in JVP is even Jewish. But we share a commitment to giving voice to a Judaism which moves the world -- and us -- towards justice. I look at JVP as the Passover table where I can be proudly and joyfully Jewish and at the very same time -- in fact, out of that same wellspring -- question everything, especially a view of history which says that only Jewish life and Jewish fate matter. I am grateful to every one of you for setting that table and joining me there.
For your seder table -- or wherever you will be thinking and talking about liberation this season -- we offer you a meditation by Rabbi Brant Rosen on the four children of the seder, which explores the various ways we respond to the painful news that too regularly comes out of Israel/Palestine.
Here are additional readings as well:
Here's also a Jewish Voice for Peace Haggadah we prepared last year.
And for the long haul, we offer you Breaking Through -- the JVP National Members Meeting, April 19-21 in Berkeley, CA, where you can meet hundreds of other activists and be inspired by leaders from our own and connected movements.
Wishing you a joyous and satisfying Pesach -- and wishing the world, and especially the people of Israel and Palestine, greater justice on account of our celebration -- bimheyrah b’yameinu -- quickly, this year, right now!
Rabbi Margaret Holub