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More than Historical Remembrance, Passover is a Call to Action

Photo: A family at Seder. Credit: Jessica Z.C./Flickr.


This Jewish holiday that commemorates the Exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. It is celebrated for seven or eight days and is rich with themes of social justice, human rights, and empowerment.

New York, N.Y. Passover, or Pesach, is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the Exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. It is celebrated for eight days (seven in Israel and among Reform Jews) and is rich with themes of social justice, human rights, and empowerment. Here are some ways these themes are emphasized during Passover:

Liberation and Freedom

  • Historical Context: Passover marks the liberation of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, symbolizing the universal quest for freedom and dignity.
  • Modern Parallels: The story of Passover is often linked to contemporary struggles for freedom and justice, such as civil rights movements, anti-slavery efforts, and campaigns for the rights of oppressed groups around the world.

Social Justice

  • Seders and Social Issues: The Seder meal, which is central to Passover celebrations, includes discussions about current social justice issues. Many families and communities use this time to reflect on ongoing injustices and to commit to action.
  • Inclusivity: Passover Seders often include elements that highlight solidarity with marginalized groups. For instance, an orange on the Seder plate has become a symbol of inclusion, particularly of LGBTQ+ individuals within the Jewish community.

Human Rights

  • Universal Message: The message of Passover transcends Jewish history and speaks to universal human rights. It calls for the recognition and respect of the inherent dignity and rights of every person.
  • Awareness and Activism: Many use Passover as a platform to raise awareness about human trafficking, refugees, and other human rights abuses. It serves as a reminder of the importance of protecting the freedoms of all people.

Minority Empowerment

  • Empowerment Through Memory: Remembering the plight of the Israelites empowers modern Jews to stand against oppression. It is a reminder that minority communities can overcome great adversity.
  • Solidarity with Others: Passover encourages solidarity with other minority groups facing discrimination and persecution. It fosters a sense of global community and shared responsibility.

Rituals and Symbols

  • Matzah: The unleavened bread, matzah, represents both the affliction of slavery and the hastiness of the Israelites’ departure from Egypt, symbolizing the transition from oppression to freedom.
  • Four Cups of Wine: These symbolize the four expressions of redemption promised by God. They remind participants of the importance of hope and perseverance in the face of oppression.

Educational Aspect

  • Telling the Story: The Haggadah, the text recited during the Seder, emphasizes the importance of retelling the story of the Exodus. This act of storytelling is a powerful tool for educating about justice, freedom, and human dignity.
  • Intergenerational Transmission: Passover is an opportunity to educate younger generations about their heritage and the values of justice and human rights, ensuring these lessons are passed down.

Passover is more than a historical remembrance; it is a call to action. It invites participants to reflect on their roles in advancing social justice and to be vigilant in the fight against oppression in all its forms.

More than Historical Remembrance, Passover is a Call to Action (June 21, 2023)

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