In 1971, I was 16 years old. Like many American Jewish families, my family included a symbolic ritual during our Passover seder—the addition of a fourth piece of matzah. This fragile piece of matzah served as a connection to the three million Jewish people living in the Soviet Union unable to practice their faith.

The 1960s American Soviet Jewry movement, with the rallying cry from the Passover story of “Let my people go!” had raised the consciousness of many in the American Jewish community, including me, to the struggles facing the Jewish community living behind the iron curtain.

So how does this connect to our work at JF&CS?

The Haggadah, which means “telling” in Hebrew, is the indispensable guidebook that tells the story of the Jewish people on their journey from slavery to freedom. At our annual Friendly Visitor Passover Seder, now in its 11th year, many in attendance immigrated to America as older adults from the former Soviet Union. Now in their 80s and 90s, these individuals had been unable to practice their faith in freedom for many years and many had been victims of Nazi persecution.

We want everyone at our Seder, including these immigrants from the former Soviet Union whose primary language is Russian, to participate. We searched for a Hebrew/English/Russian Haggadah without luck. I decided we needed to create this resource ourselves. created a wonderful Hebrew/English Haggadah several years ago. Following their path, I worked with an amazing team of dedicated JF&CS Russian-speaking staff to translate the Haggadah into Russian. We are excited to use this Hebrew/English/Russian Haggadah at this year’s Friendly Visitor Passover Seder on Sunday, April 17. We are honored to include guests from the Friendly Visitor Program, Schechter Holocaust Services, and many other JF&CS programs in this important Jewish ritual.

Working with my colleagues to create this resource was a profoundly spiritual experience that connected us to each other, our ancestors, and memories of our own family stories. My great-grandparents, Manya and Dov-Ber, left tsarist Russia in the late 19th century. It is because of them that I was born in America and have the privilege—in freedom, in Hebrew, in English, and in Russian—to tell the unique story about the creation of this Haggadah.

The 11th-annual Friendly Visitor Passover Seder is made possible through the generosity of the George and Beatrice Sherman Family Charitable Trust.

You are welcome use our Hebrew/English/Russian Haggadah at your Passover seder this year and share it with others.

Marjorie U. Sokoll, MEd, is the Director of Spirituality and Aging. She is also the founder and Director of JF&CS Jewish Healing Connections (JHC), which began in 1998 to help people feel a sense of connection when facing the challenges of illness, loss, or isolation by offering spiritual and communal supports to foster hope, comfort, and wholeness guided by Jewish tradition. Marjie also provides spiritual support for Parkinson’s Family Support and oversight for Alzheimer’s/Related Disorders Family Support. She received degrees from Boston University, Tel Aviv University School of Social Work, Northeastern University, holds a certificate of thanatology from the National Center for Death Education, is a partner at the Kalsman Institute for Judaism and Health, and integrates music into her work.
Originally published on the JF&CS blog.

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