Tag Archives: Passover

Four Questions, Four Actions

Click here to download our Seder Supplement for 2017/5777, featuring action items and Boston-specific stories about immigrants and refugees.


With Passover just over a week away, and many of us already deep into preparations, I ask you to pause with me for just a moment, as we acknowledge some remarkable community-wide efforts addressing issues deeply resonant of themes of the Festival of Freedom.

As you may have read in today’s Boston Globe, CJP - Combined Jewish Philanthropies is teaming up with Catholic Charities of Boston to fund legal services for immigrants in a powerful display of interfaith cooperation in this challenging time. I’m particularly proud that JCRC Board President Adam Suttin is taking the lead amongst donors to the fund. As Adam says in this Boston Globe piece today: "He sees aiding today’s newcomers as a matter of “basic human rights, civil rights, and Jewish values.”

“We were once strangers in this land,” he said. “We have to remember that and provide opportunities for others to enjoy the benefits of this country.”

This new fund is the latest action step in a multi-pronged collective agenda in which our local Jewish community is standing in solidarity with immigrants and refugees. I’m delighted to share more about our actions – those we’ve taken so far, and those we invite you to join us on in the future – which are featured in JCRC’s Seder Supplement for 2017/5777: Standing with Immigrants and Refugees (PDF).

We are very proud to be distributing this in partnership with ADL New England, JALSA, Jewish Family Service and JVS.

But how is this Seder Supplement different from all others, you may ask?

This one is specifically about – and for – Boston’s Jewish community.

  • You will read stories that should be roundly and proudly shared, of the actions that Jewish organizations and synagogues members are taking to support and act in solidarity with our foreign born neighbors.
  • You will also read about the profound way in which these issues resonate with our own experience and history as Jews, including the seldom told story of how many of our people found safety in this country, even without legal access or documentation.
  • Finally, and most important, you will learn how you can take critical action now, to breathe new life into our age old commitment to freedom for all people.

Wishing you a joyous and meaningful Passover!

Shabbat Shalom,


The Four Questions I’ll Be Asking Myself

Like most of you I have been to more than a few seders in my time, and each year I find myself asking:  How will this seder renew my connection to Jewish values and thereby inspire my actions in the coming year?

On Passover, we are collectively reminded of our connection to history and our shared experience as a people. And, every year we have an opportunity to tell our story and use it to inform our understanding of modern day afflictions. This is where renewed connections are made for me.

I am fortunate to have this platform to share my thoughts with you each week about how Jewish values and our shared experiences as a people inform communal actions in the public square. As we sit at our Passover seder tables, we all have a platform to share key lessons. I invite you to join me in using Passover as an opportunity to share your thoughts: What value or theme do I most identify with, right now, from the Haggadah?

For you it may be that freedom from oppression comes with responsibility to community, and thus we teach our children that volunteering is part of a Jewish practice. Or, you may choose to underscore our dreams and aspirations - carried through thousands of years of waiting - for a place again in the Jewish homeland, and how awesome and fragile our Jewish state is today. And, you may wish to share that because we as a people remember what it is like to be the excluded stranger we work for policies of inclusion and equity.

As you immerse yourself in the story, I hope you will embrace – and even lead – conversations about the parallels between the Exodus experience and today’s challenges; to note, after reciting the ten plagues, those modern day afflictions that plague our world - people who are not free, those who are wandering as refugees and who need our compassion. Or, to discuss how a deeply divided people would have been less likely to survive 40 years of wandering in the Sinai. Take time to wonder aloud about what have we learned after all these years and in all these generations, and ask:  How can I use these lessons to make a difference?

After all, the seder certainly teaches us that it is crucial to ask challenging questions – ones without easy or obvious answers.

Passover reminds us of the importance of not only sharing our stories and asking questions, but of taking action to bring about redemption and liberation in our own time.  As we break our matzah we are reminded that our ancestors did not wait for conditions to be ideal before taking action, and neither should we.

As you prepare for your seder, I hope you ask yourself: What do I need to do to make a difference today?  Please take a moment to make a commitment to our collective work – to supporting volunteerism in our Greater Boston community; to advancing inclusion, equality, and safety net services; and, to advocating for a secure and democratic Jewish state.

Your tax-deductible donation can be made to JCRC here, or by sending a check to JCRC at 126 High St, Boston MA 02110.

Is This Seder Different from All Others?

Those of you who follow me on social media know that over the past week I had the pleasure of attending Passover sedarim hosted by three of our member organizations; AJC, ADL and the Jewish Labor Committee. I Facebooked, Instragrammed and Tweeted from each of them but since many folks aren’t on those platforms, I decided to write about the experience as well.

Here’s a taste of what I wrote:

Excerpted from TheJewishAdvocate.com

Each haggadah took the traditional 10 plagues and added a modern interpretation, whether ADL’s “prejudice, racism and homophobia,” JLC’s “teaching violence, neglect of human needs, and fomenting vice” or AJC’s “antidotes to plagues of our time” including “equality, coexistence and democracy.”

Each reading called upon personal testimony from participants to make the same essential point: that we honor the Passover experience by connecting ourselves to the struggles of our own time and that Jewish memory, rooted in Egypt and Exodus, binds us to all who are strangers, downtrodden, overlooked and ignored in our world today.

I hope you’ll take the time to read my entire column in this week’s The Jewish Advocate.

As most of us prepare to celebrate a seder of our own tonight – whether it’s your first of the season, your fourth, or something in between – I hope you’ll join me in considering a simple idea that sits at the center of JCRC’s work in the public square: that our Jewish experiences, along with our connection to communities around us, shapes our perceptions of the issues our world faces today and enables us to understand what we must do to meet those challenges.

Wishing you a joyous Passover and a meaningful Seder,