The Passover seder recognizes that our community is made up of many diverse individuals who approach the world through different lenses. It offers four prototypes of questioning children: the wise, the wicked, the simple, and the one who does not know how to ask. While acknowledging the diversity of opinions, this section also recognizes that we must each push ourselves to rise to a higher level and truly question our society as concerned, involved citizens.
In tonight’s seder, the four questioning children represent four employer approaches to hiring applicants with criminal records. The difficulty of finding work after leaving the prison system is one of the greatest causes of recidivism, as individuals with criminal records are often forced by their limited employment prospects to reenter the underground economy as a means to support their families.
The Wise Child, according to the Hagadah, asks deep, probing questions that seek to understand the heart of the matter. The Wise Employer asks “How can I judge all applicants equally?” The Wise Employer understands that in many situations individuals with criminal records are no more likely to commit a crime than those without criminal records, and desires to hire employees based solely on their ability to perform the job well.
The Wicked Child asks questions that create a separation between him or herself and the community. The Wicked Employer does not see him or herself as part of a larger society, and is comfortable judging potential employees based on a past arrest or conviction, without any consideration of their employment merits. The Wicked Employer unilaterally denies employment to all applicants with a criminal record, and in doing so violates the Civil Rights Act and weakens his or her own community.
The Simple Child plainly asks “what is this?” The Simple Employer does not understand the intricacies of the employment situation for individuals with criminal records, and blindly follows the majority. The Simple Employer desperately needs specific legislation that protects the employment rights of individuals with criminal records, to provide guidance on how to create a more equal hiring environment.
The fourth child does not know how to ask. The Employer Who Does Not Know How To Ask does not even realize that this is an issue facing our society. For this Employer we must initiate the conversation and act as advocates for our community. Our knowledge of the situation does not allow us to remain silent and lays upon us the responsibility of convincing all employers to ask the questions that can lead to a more just hiring system.
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