New Passover haggadot promote social action to end global injustice

The initiative is designed to show the immediate relevance of the Passover story.

April 19, 2016 21:34
2 minute read.
Passover seder

Passover seder (illustrative). (photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)


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Five partners of the OLAM coalition of Jewish aid and development organizations have created a range of haggadot and haggadah supplements which positions the holiday of Passover and the Exodus from Egypt within the context of modern-day global injustices.

The initiative is designed to show the immediate relevance of the Passover story, which OLAM, comprising 43 organizations worldwide, says should serve as a springboard for promoting social action.

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The hagaddah of the American Jewish World Service spotlights several of its aid projects around the world, such as ending child marriage in India, as well as earthquake relief in Haiti and Nepal, juxtaposed with new interpretations of some of the classic passages from the traditional haggadah.

The questions asked by the four different children are therefore changed, with the AJWS having activist, skeptical, indifferent, and uninformed children asking questions about global responsibility.

To the classic four questions of Ma Nishtana is added a fifth question, not of how is this night different from other nights but “How can we make this year different from all other years?”, while Next Year in Jerusalem becomes Next Year in a More Just World. Similarly, HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, published an online supplement of four ways participants can help refugees, using the symbology of the four cups of wine traditionally drunk at the Passover Seder.

“At the Passover Seder, we drink four cups of wine to remember the four expressions of God’s redemption of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt,” the HIAS supplement states.

“We also pour but do not drink a fifth cup of wine, Elijah’s cup, to symbolize that, though we were freed from slavery, redemption is not complete so long as others are still enslaved,” it continues while advocating for aid to “the 60 million displaced people around the world fleeing violence and persecution.”

Jewish World Watch published a companion for the Passover Seder Plate dedicated to victims and survivors of the genocide and mass atrocities in Darfur, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, while Stand Up, an Australian Jewish organization which promotes social justice projects, produced a haggadah with commentaries by Australian Jewish writers, doctors, teachers, students, rabbis, lawyers, artists and activists.

And Tzedek, based in the UK produced, along with JCORE, Rene Cassin, JSAF, and JHUB, a Seder companion which calls on participants to take a stand against modern slavery, and which “encourages discussion of the plight of millions of people the ongoing struggle for freedom and justice.”

Dyonna Ginsburg, Executive Director of OLAM, welcomed the haggadot as an important way of making the Passover story relevant and encouraging Jews to become involved in global Jewish service and social action.

“The traditional Haggadah encourages its readers to feel the pain and suffering of slavery and oppression, and there is no better way to meet this requirement than to become informed about and involved in modern and current forms of injustice,” said Ginsburg.

“These innovative Haggadot bring the age-old story of moving from slavery to freedom into our lives in a meaningful and practical way, and we are proud to be involved in these initiatives.”

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