Every year I get to see my cousin Harvey at our family’s passover seder, but I didn’t get to introduce myself until I was old enough to write my own name. Until then, my parents or my uncle Beryl—Harvey’s brother—would introduce me. Dad walked me over to Harvey, picked up his hand, and used his index finger to trace letters in his palm. Then he told me to go ahead and write my name. I wrote “DAVID” in all capital letters in his right hand, and he nodded and smiled. It felt like a great responsibility to write my name out for him for the first time! Since Harvey doesn’t communicate orally, is blind and is deaf, our family relies on palm-writing.
In Malden, Mass., Triangle Inc. is a major business that employs over 100 people with diverse physical and mental abilities. Their employees are assembling JewishBoston.com’s Seder in a Box project at a warehouse where they earn a living wage. I visited early on a Tuesday morning, walking among people getting ready for their work day, and amid boxes of kiddush cups and matzoh ball soup. My mind traveled back to those early Passover memories at my aunt and uncle’s house on Long Island.
These are my earliest Passover memories. As I caught up with aunts, uncles, cousins and my grandparents, I would pass by the photographs of the family and craft projects hanging on the walls. Among these, there was an Israeli flag woven from yarns, which Harvey had made. Beryl and Harvey had created a system that allowed him to weave decorative rugs using only his sense of touch.
The Passover Haggadah records our story of winning freedom, the freedom to determine what we make of our lives. It’s not just about slavery, it’s about the right to live a life that is productive and rich with meaning. In those childhood days, our Haggadah wasn’t just a book. It was the whole house, and the chapter of Jewish history that my aunt and uncle were writing with us.
This year, JewishBoston.com’s Seder in a Box kit is designed so that each recipient can create a seder that speaks to them, and it also celebrates the idea that all people should have the opportunity to earn their own living with their own labor. We’ve included a “seder slate” from North American rock hand-cut in Virginia, and a chalk marker to create your own design. It comes with sustainably harvested bamboo dishes for the traditional seder plate items, and an extra one for the contemporary symbol of each person’s choice. And Triangle Inc. is partnering with us to put the whole kit together, celebrating Passover and working for the values it represents.