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Recommitting to Palestinian rights this Passover

April 22, 2024

Tonight marks the first night of Passover – a celebration of the Biblical exodus of the Jewish people out of slavery and into the Promised Land. 

Passover happens to be my favorite Jewish holiday, as I have always found strong connections between the exodus of the ancient Israelites and the forced flight of so many modern-day migrants. To me, this is the ultimate purpose of religion – to make meaning from age-old lessons so the mistakes of history aren’t repeated. It is with this goal in mind that my husband and I have hosted a social justice Passover seder for our community in Colorado for nearly a decade. 

This year’s seder feels especially meaningful. As a progressive Jewish humanitarian and activist, I have reflected on my Judaism over the past six months more than ever. While much of the world has finally recognized the genocide against Palestinians unfolding before our eyes, calling out Israeli war crimes days after the Hamas attack on Israel wasn’t popular among many in my community. In early October, when I first started speaking out publicly, I received a wave of responses – positive and negative – reflecting the vast array of emotions, intergenerational trauma, religiousness, and political understanding of my Jewish community. My outspokenness prompted difficult but meaningful conversations. It also caused deep pain. Over the past months I’ve been called antisemitic. I’ve been disrespected in conservative Jewish spaces. I’ve become estranged from family members. 

In the end, though, this isn’t about me. This is about the thousands of Gazan children who have been traumatized, orphaned, and killed. It is about the 50,000 pregnant women going without food and water and then giving birth to babies in nightmarish conditions without the ability to clothe, feed, or protect them. It is about an entire population of over two million people facing famine and dehydration because of the denial of aid. It is about the Israeli hostages who have been wholly abandoned by their government. 

My outspokenness is a duty I bear for holding even the remotest of ties to the state of Israel. Just as I feel it is my burden as an American to speak out loudly against the policies of U.S. administrations with whom I disagree, I know I must speak out against a government that claims to represent me as a Jew. 

So this Passover, more than ever, I am recommitting myself to Jewish activism. I am speaking out, in my community and beyond, for the Gazan people who have been made nearly voiceless. 

In a seder, it is taught that “the more one expands upon the telling of the story of the exodus from Egypt, the more praiseworthy that person.” One interpretation of this teaching is that the more we broaden our understanding of who “we” are in this story, the more relevant the story can become. This Passover, as we have every year, my partner and I will recount the oppression of the Palestinian people since the founding of the Israeli state. Prior to enjoying the Passover meal, we will ask our community to consider this:

Are we willing, as Jews, to acknowledge that in this Exodus telling, Israel has become Pharaoh?

Are we ready, as Jews, to open our hearts to the cry of the Palestinian people as God did to the ancient Israelites in Egypt?

Are we ready, as Jews, to do what we must so that the Palestinian people may realize their rights to safety, health, and freedom?

If we are not, our final prayer – L’shanah haba’ah b’shalom! Next year, may we all live in a world of peace! – cannot be attained.