Passover is pretty much the only Jewish holiday I can wrap my head around participating in at the moment.
For six years I was a professional Jewish educator. I worked in Jewish communities steeped in text, relationships, and commitment to learning. It was both the simplest and the most difficult professional phase of my life; it made sense that I was a Jewish educator, thanks to years of youth group and camp and Hebrew school teaching. I loved teens and engaging with families and it just felt natural. It was difficult because as a staff member, you see the underbelly of organizations and institutions that you can’t unsee; you know how the sausage gets made and more often than not, it ain’t pretty. And sometimes, that big mouth your Jewish leadership training gives you can get you into trouble.
So I ran. Far away. Sure, I still do some teaching here and there, but my six years on the job have pushed me further from institutional Jewish life, and made my desire to engage with Judaism tepid at best.
It’s sad to me sometimes, because I wonder what I’m missing. Some of it is community. Some of it is learning. Most of it just stems from guilt related to feeling like I am not honoring my family and history.
But Passover feels different. It sort of always has; as a child I sat at Rabbi Larry Kushner’s seder, coloring and singing and yawning as we debated and discussed the Haggadah. I learned life lessons from Noa and Lev and Zack (like how to properly drink Slivovitz, and how to sing “Who Knows One?” as fast as possible). As a young adult I compiled a Hagaddah with a friend for a seder on the floor in his Chapel Hill apartment. And now, my parents host first night and I lead the seder. I create our booklet (shout out to haggadot.com) and we stumble through prayers, recite poetry, sing through a wine-y haze.
Passover is about liberation from slavery and redemption and rebellion against an evil dictator. It is without a doubt our most political holiday; then, I guess, it is no wonder it feels safe to me. This is the holiday when we are forced to look our history in the face, to remember the pain of oppression and then turn our gaze outward at what in the world needs to be remedied. This has been going on for decades; colleagues recalled being invited to a black/Jewish seder in Newton three decades ago and the emotion they felt participating in a ritual with such a beautiful narrative.
So, it’s not a surprise this is the one holiday I dive deeply into. Where my Judaism may in many ways feel removed and make me sad, this holiday reminds me of who we are, and who we can be; a people committed to justice for all of humanity, a people who fight for equity and liberation, and a people who want more than just “enough.”
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