Passover, the festival of freedom, is approaching. We affirm the freedom of all people to be treated with respect and dignity. We also celebrate religious freedom and diversity. The Israelites left Egypt, with others joining them who experienced being slaves in Egypt, the exodus, and the parting of the Sea of Reeds to Mount Sinai with us.

While we recount the Exodus story at our seders and celebrate becoming free people, our joy is tempered with the knowledge that not all Jews are free. The war in Israel that began on October 7, a day on which over 240 Israelis were taken hostage and approximately 1,200 Israelis were killed, is an ever-present reminder that in every generation, Jews must do the work to ensure our safety and freedom, so we can work for the safety and freedom of all. This year, our hearts are grieving for the more than 600 Israeli soldiers who have been killed in action, for their families and friends, and for the entire country—to which we are intimately connected—that has been thrown into turmoil, terror, and sorrow. May their memories be a blessing. Our hearts are also heavy with thoughts of the innocent Palestinians who have died or are suffering in the continued fighting and those caught amid violence in Haiti, Sudan, Ukraine, and other places of unrest.

Many people’s lives have been upended throughout the world through violence, war, and oppression. In Israel, 200,000 to 250,000 people have been displaced following the October 7th Hamas attack and threats from Hezbollah and Iran. 130 thirty people are still being held hostage in Gaza after more than six months. Our prayers and actions to support their release and well-being continue. We also support the people in Israel in limbo, uncertain when they will be able to return to their communities and, in some cases, when those communities will be rebuilt. The dramatic rise in antisemitism throughout the world has led us to see our place in the world differently. We explore ways to build bridges, increase understanding, and be safe and secure. We come together for celebrations, learning, shared experiences, and community to support and lift one another.

Moses separate sea for passover holiday over nigt background, flat design. vector illustration

Passover begins Monday night, April 22nd. I am honored to lead our congregational Passover Seder with Cantor Rachelle Nelson to bring our community and others who join us to experience the warmth of our Passover Seder together. We are told in Jewish tradition that We Were There: we were slaves in Egypt, we were there when God led us out of Israel, when we crossed the Sea of Reeds, and when we accepted our covenant with God at Mount Sinai through receiving the Torah. We will also explore how we can apply this to our lives in our world today. We will sing our way through the seder with traditional and other songs to connect in fun ways. The Seder is a great example of experiential learning with the foods and rituals helping us connect to our slavery, redemption and path to being free people.

On the Second night of Passover, we start counting the Omer. We will count fifty days until Shavuot when we enter our covenant with God at Mount Sinai. We are challenged to make every day count.

I hope you have a meaningful Passover.