Shep Englander — Federation Journal
Passover Traditions Can Heal Us During Traumatic Times
How is this Passover different than other Passovers? For me, sadly, it stands out as the Passover after the first time in history that American Jews were gunned down, while they prayed, just for being Jewish. This violence grew out of these times of growing extremism and hateful rhetoric on both sides of the political spectrum, across our country and our world.
This attack has wounded my own sense of safety. So, I will use this Passover Seder to heal. I will remember why our people have clung to our traditions and identity for thousands of years, even amidst threats to our lives.
For thousands of years, the Passover Seder has been a vessel of our tradition, our values, and our peoplehood. We are commanded to relive the Exodus story personally. This is a story of a people collectively drawing the faith and courage needed to stand up to hate, threats, and injustice. We must remember that the Passover story has renewed our commitment and our hope during times much darker and more hopeless than today’s.
Today, for many families, Passover is what connects us most closely to our Jewish identity. Some families who observe few other Jewish traditions, find Passover foods, rituals, and even the restrictions, important. It’s hard to think of anything that connects us better as a people. The Seder is also a model of inclusivity—all are welcome. And the unfortunate feelings of inadequacy, of being a “bad Jew” that discourage participation in other Jewish rituals, don’t seem to undermine participation in the Passover Seder. This night is different because everyone can be a full participant.
At a time when so many forces are separating us, the Passover Seder connects Jewish people across continents and throughout history. Every family has its own unique Passover, with its traditions passed down through generations. Yet the Jewish people have one Passover. We all sit down and ask, “Why is this night different?” and dip the bitter herb.
In the midst of the volatility and alarming changes in our world and in our lives, Passover is healing because it contains our people’s memory, tradition, and wisdom.
Thank you for your commitment to Jewish tradition, the Jewish people, and to our Cincinnati Jewish community. I wish you and your family a loving, meaningful, and healing Passover.