Passover 2018 Social Justice Resources

March 16, 2018

During Passover, Jews across the world celebrate and commemorate our ancestors’ historic journey from bondage to freedom. We retell the story of Exodus at seders, a ritual that calls us to consider our history in a tangible, physical sense, bringing the Biblical tale of the struggle for liberation into the present day. 

“Standing on the parted shores, we still believe what we were taught before ever we stood at Sinai’s foot; that wherever we go, it is eternally Egypt; that there is a better place, a promised land; that the winding way to that promise passes through the wilderness. That there is no way to get from here to there except by joining hands, marching together.”
Michael Walzer, Exodus and Revolution as featured in the Mishkan Tefila

Our world today in many ways still resembles the Egypt of old. From systemic racism that blocks people of color from opportunities and endangers their very lives, to restrictive immigration policies that threaten to tear DREAMers from the country they call home, to the shameful plague of gun violence that has turned schools, churches and theaters across the country into graveyards -- we are still marching toward collective liberation, and there is so much work to do. 

This Pesach 5778, incorporate social justice into your seder:

Moral Resistance and Spiritual Authority: The Obligations of Our Exodus
In this excerpt from the upcoming book from CCAR Press, Rabbi Jonah Pesner discusses participating in civil disobedience at the United States Capitol to demand Congress protect DREAMers from deportation and how this act of moral resistance relates to the story of Exodus. 

Dayenu, When Will Enough Be Enough?
If our leaders offer thoughts and prayers, but not action, lo dayeinu…it will not be enough. If our lawmakers outlaw bump stocks but not the sale of military grade weapons, lo dayeinu…it will not be enough. If our elected officials raise the age for gun purchases but do not close the background check loopholes, lo dayeinu…it will not be enough. If millions of citizens march for an end to gun violence but fail to vote to assure real change…lo dayeinu. It will not be enough.

Let My People Stay: discussion questions about immigration for your seder table
In the Passover Haggadah, we read “in every generation, a person is obligated to see themselves as though they came forth from Egypt.” Maimonides, the 12th century Jewish philosopher, encourages us to read it as “a person is obligated to show themselves as though they came forth from Egypt” (Hilchot Chametz U’Matzah 7:6). Let My People Stay is the Reform Movement’s endeavor to show ourselves. When we stand with DREAMers, with recipients of Temporary Protected Status, and with all immigrants in search of a better life, we honor our own history and fulfill the legacy of the Passover seder. 

Pesach Sheni and Second Chances: a reading on voter disenfrachisement for your seder
Let us think of those who are in need of a second chance - of those who, perhaps, have strayed from the path, who have been incarcerated. Let us turn our minds to those who are asking to participate in one of the fundamental rights of American society - the right to vote. This Passover Sheni, let's hear the call for justice for those who have served their debt to society and are in need of a second chance. 

Dayenu: a responsive reading on systemic racism, poverty and inequality
Join us as we continue our 3,000-year old march from slavery to freedom for all people. The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival will follow the lead of those most directly affected by the evils of systemic racism, poverty, militarism, ecological devastation and the nation’s distorted morality. Rooted in our enduring Jewish values and in deep relationship across lines of difference, we will take moral action in Washington, DC, state capitals around the country and beyond from May 14 to June 23, 2018. We invite you to add this call to action for the Poor People’s Campaign to your Passover Seder. This responsive reading links the song Dayenu (“it would have been enough”) to portions of Rev. William Barber, II’s address to the 2017 URJ Biennial calling upon our community to join the Poor People’s Campaign. 

Opening Our Doors: a reflection on the intersection of Passover and the Transgender Day of Visibility
This year, International Transgender Day of Visibility is the first day of Passover, a meaningful coincidence.  Passover similarly celebrates the freedom of our ancestors (and our freedom) to live openly and authentically, free from oppression (and servitude in ancient Egypt/Mitzrayim).  There are many people in our world—including friends and members of our families—unable to live openly and authentically, forced to use a bathroom that does not correspond to their gender.  In celebrating our freedom during Passover, we should also recognize that there are many who still experience harassment, oppression, and fear.

An Unwanted Exodus: a reflection on African asylum seekers in Israel
Because we were strangers in the land of Egypt and because we no longer are, we urge the Israeli government to pursue alternative means to respond to the African migrants who seek refuge within its borders. Because pretending that narrow places ended when we walked across the Red Sea is not good enough, we speak out against the deportation of these vulnerable people and call it what it is—an unacceptable, disappointing and deeply concerning proposal. Because we, as Jews, know all too well the price paid when people do not act to protect the victims of discrimination, persecution and crimes against humanity, we will not stay silent on an issue that will challenge the very soul of Eretz Yisrael as a place of refuge.

The Feminist Seder in the Time of #MeToo: a reflection for Passover
“Our beasts don’t always prowl in public; they attack in private, in the caves of our lives – on dark streets, in parked cars, in offices after hours, in shuttered bedrooms. Our beasts are men who abuse and violate women, physically, emotionally, and sexually. Men who rape and say “she wanted it.” Or, “She wore a short skirt.” Men who attack their wives and children behind closed doors, some with mezuzot on the doorposts. A plague on them.”

Dayenu: a Passover reading for the United States of America
Had our ancestors only made the voyage to America, Dayenu. Had they only endured hardships and made a new life for themselves and their descendants, Dayenu. Had our country only offered us, a storm-tossed people, a respite and a haven, Dayenu. Had the United States only have been the first country in history to give Jews citizenship, Dayenu.

The Passover Pine Cone: putting criminal justice reform on the seder plate 
We add a pine cone to our seder plate as a reminder of mass incarceration and the work it will take to repair this injustice. This Passover, we refuse to pass over the pine cone because we know that hidden inside is something precious. We refuse to pass over our prisons because we know that inside is God’s most precious fruit of all: the human soul.

A Banana on your Seder Plate: reflecting on the global refugee crisis
We place a banana on our seder table and tell this story to remind us of Aylan, the little boy whose body lay lifeless amidst the gentle surf of a Turkish beach. That devastating image still haunts us today. This Passover, we remember children everywhere who are caught up in this modern day exodus. May they be guarded and protected along their journey to safety, shielded by the love of their parents, watched over by God full of mercy and compassion.

Stay tuned - more Passover 2018 social justice resources to come! For additional resources on incorporating social justice themes into your seder, visit

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