At the beginning of the Passover Seder, we are commanded to consider ourselves as though we, too, had gone out from Egypt. At the end of the Seder (and once in the middle) – we say the words, “Next year in Jerusalem” to recognize that, just as redemption came for our ancestors, so, too, will redemption come for us in this generation. For those of us fortunate enough to have a roof over our heads, we may understand these words to mean that the parts of us that feel adrift will find steady footing. However, for the world’s 65 million displaced people and refugees, these words can be a literal message of hope that they will be able to rebuild their lives in a safe place.
After experiencing unimaginable trauma and often making harrowing journeys out of danger, refugees across the United States are finding liberation after oppression. For Mohammad Ay Toghlo and his wife, Eidah Al Suleiman, the dream of “Next year in Jerusalem” has become a reality in Buffalo, New York. After war came to their village outside Damascus, they witnessed the murder of their pregnant daughter and the kidnapping of their son. They sold their car to pay a large ransom and then ultimately escaped to Lebanon. After a lengthy vetting process, Mohammed, Eidah, and their youngest son, Najati, received word they would be resettled by HIAS through the Jewish Family Service of Buffalo. Mohammed says that, when he found out, he thought he was dreaming because “the United States is such a big thing for us that I don’t even see that in my dreams; I was so happy.” Najati is learning English and enrolled in school, and he says that, when he finds himself on the street on the way to school or to an appointment and he needs assistance, people go out of their way to communicate with him and help, even reading his body language to try to understand what he needs. While the family’s move is bittersweet because their oldest son, daughter-in- law, and grandchildren remain in Lebanon and they worry constantly about their safety, Najati says that, here, in the United States, “wherever we go, we nd helpful, loving people.” As he settles into his new life here, Najati made a drawing to express his gratitude for the opportunities that the Jewish Family Service of Buffalo and the United States government have provided him and his family. The drawing expresses thanks to the United States and features a large Jewish star, surrounded by the phrase “Thank you, Jewish Family” in Arabic. The family’s life in Buffalo is not free from di culty, but they are beginning to pick up the broken pieces of the trauma they have experienced to fulfill new hopes and new dreams here in America.
As we now end the Seder, let us pass around a 5th cup into which we will each pour a drop of wine as we express our prayers for the world’s refugees.
Pass an empty wine glass around the Seder table and have everyone add a drop of wine from their cup into this new cup. After everyone has added some wine to this 5th cup, read this blessing aloud together:
Tonight we honor the strength and resilience of refugees across the globe. We commit ourselves to ensuring that our country remains open to them, to supporting them as they rebuild their lives, and to championing their right for protection. Just as our own people now eat the bread of liberation, we pray that today’s refugees will fulfill their dreams of rebuilding their lives in safety and freedom in the year to come.
Blessed are all those who yearn to be free. Blessed are we who commit ourselves to their freedom. Blessed are You, Adonai Our God, source of strength and liberation.
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