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Source : RAC

Come, let us gather as one, bound together by love and the shared hope that all Jews, and all people, will one day live free and in peace. Together, let us recall the story of Passover, relived time and again by Jews throughout the world. As we move through the Seder, reaffirming our belief in a faith so rich in history and life, may we take into our hearts the memory of all who have and continue to enrich our lives and remember those who still suffer the pain of war, oppression, tyranny, and prejudice.

- The Chaikin Family

Source : Original

The Seder

This book is a Hagadah.which means “telling.” Tonight we will be having a seder, which means, “order”.Through this traditionally ordered ritual, we will retell the story of the Israelites’ journey out of Egypt, eat special foods that symbolize Pesach's many messages, and teach each other the traditions of Pesach, first celebrated more than 3,000 years ago.

An ancient rabbinic text instructs us, “Each person in every generation must regard himself or herself as having been personally freed from Egypt.” for the seder to be successful.

Tonight’s Seder is not just the retelling of an ancient story.Rather, we are asked to actually experience and acknowledge the bitterness of oppression and the sweetness of freedom so we may better understand the hope and courage of all men and women, of all generations, in their quest for liberty, security, and human rights. This haggadah attempts to incorporate the lives and work of each guest, and to relate the traditional story of passover to our personal experiences and to the modern world around us.

In the words of Audre Lorde: I cannot afford the luxury of fighting one form of oppression only. I cannot afford to believe that freedom from intolerance is the right of only one particular group. And I cannot afford to choose between the fronts upon which I must battle these forces of discrimination, .wherever they appear to destroy me. And when they appear to destroy me, it will not be long before they appear to destroy you.

The order of the seder:

Kadesh-the recitation of Kiddush.
Urchatz-washing the hands.
Karpas-eating a vegetable dipped in salt-water.
Yachatz-breaking of the middle matzo.
Maggid-the recitation of the Hagadah.
Rachtzah-washing of the hands a second time.
Motze-the recitation of the blessing hamotzi.
Matzah-the recitation of the blessing al Achilas matzo, eating the matzo.
Morror-eating the bitter herbs.
Korech-eating a sandwich of matzo and bitter herbs.
Shulchan Oruch-eating the festive meal.
Tzafun-eating the afikomen.
Bayrech-the recitation of grace.
Hallel-the recitation of Hallel psalms of praise

Nirtzah-our prayer that G-d accepts our service.

Source : Sue Swartz, compiled in Velveteen Rabbi's Haggadah by Rachel Barenblat

For the chief musician, on common instrument: a song of rebellion.

Praise rising up. Praise unlawful assembly.
Praise the road of excess and the palace of wisdom.
Praise glass houses. Praise the hand that cradles the stone.
Praise refusal of obedience. Praise the young on Raamses Street.
Praise Galileo. Praise acceleration.
Praise bombshells and en masse.
Praise sit-down strikes. Praise outside agitators.
Praise Red Emma. Praise her pistol and praise her restraint.
Praise living your life. Praise Joan of Arc.
Praise wayward daughters. Praise their wayward sons.
Praise the power of indulgence.
Praise Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses. Praise the nail
and the printing press. Praise the First Amendment.
Praise free verse. Praise yellow sunflowers.
Praise red wheelbarrows and transcendental leanings.
Praise illicit beauty. Praise the poets of Guantanamo.
Praise the poets of Burma. Praise the noisy streets.
Praise those who tear down walls and climb fences.
Praise Letters from Prison. Praise those who say yes.
Praise the bound notebook and what is within.
Praise Legal Aid attorneys. Praise kitchen-table conspiracies.
Praise insomnia. Praise our hunger. Praise days
we are the bread. Praise farmers’ markets.
Praise Al Gore and quantum physics.
Praise Schrödinger and his cat. Praise jumping in.
Praise talking snakes. Praise history & run-on sentences.
Praise what are the odds? Praise purposeful wandering.
Praise the best minds of any generation. Praise John Brown.
Praise Newt Gingrich. Praise enough is enough.
Praise Walt Whitman and the self. Praise the body’s
wild intelligence. Praise ACT UP and Vagina Monologues.
Praise getting satisfaction. Praise Gertrude Stein.
Praise cross-dressing. Praise untouchables,
partisans and riffraff. Praise slackers. Praise those
who talk back. Praise sympathy for the devil.
Praise the oldest profession. Praise mothers of the disappeared.
Praise mothers of the found. Praise mothers not yet mothers.
Praise not looking away. Praise realists and Cubists.
Praise prohibitionists & remorse. Praise hitting your head
against the wall. Praise giving peace a chance.
Praise Zionist conspiracies. Praise free elections.
Praise Selma, Alabama and early voting. Praise mutiny.
Praise backyard whiskey and those who cook with fire.
Praise Priscilla the Monkey Girl. Praise her admirers.
Praise Freud and Marx and Sinatra. Praise Earhardt.
Praise those who remember what they are told to forget.
Praise agnostics. Praise what we are not supposed to praise.
Praise the electrical storm and the still small voice.
Praise all the proverbs of hell. Praise those
who see it coming. Praise those who do it anyway.
Praise whatever happens next.

Source :

Human Trafficking Today

Human trafficking is the practice of modern day slavery, and is one of the largest criminal indus- tries in the world, generating an estimated $32 billion per year. Approximately 27 million people are enslaved today and 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year (this number does not include those trafficked within a country’s borders). Fifty percent of those victims are children, and 80% are women and girls. While human trafficking is often thought of as solely an international problem, it occurs on a local level as well. An estimated 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States each year and an even greater number of United States citizens are trafficked within the country.

The Torah says that each one of us, every individual, is created “b’tzelem elokim,” in the image of God. How can this godly quality within each of us inspire us in our actions? What is our responsibility and our power in- herent in that gift of divine capacity? How can we use this divine potentiality within ourselves to address contemporary slavery?

We each have the power and the obligation to free today’s slaves with a “strong hand and outstretched arm.” What does the Haggadah mean by “an outstretched arm?” We must reach beyond ourselves, beyond the usual extent of our gaze. Our realm of influence, our chance to exert that divine capacity, is not an opportunity lurking in the distance—it is right here, within reach, just beyond us.

In the Haggadah, we see what would have been the continued plight of our forefathers had God not acted to take them out of Egypt. The practi- cal implications of the Exodus are far-reaching even until our own generation. Slavery does not end through hope and passivity, but by powerful action. Our action to end slavery is not only important for our own time but also for its ef- fects on future generations. This is our chance to shape the future.


“Jose Antonio Martinez and Francisco Martinez got sick of working 10 hours to make $15 after being promised $150 per day. Almost all their money in early 1999 went to their labor contractors for rent, food and their $750

smuggling fees. After picking tomatoes all day, they weren’t allowed to leave the roach-infested trailer they shared with 22 other workers west of Immokalee.

“You were locked up... you couldn’t stick your head out,” Francisco said. The floor had holes through which they saw snakes, and their mattresses were on the floor.

-From a case uncovered and prosecuted in Florida in 2003 - ( on March 2, 2010


 “The Endangered Children of Northern Uganda” Ms. Grace Grall Akallo, spokesperson for World Vision, formerly abducted LRA child soldier testifying before the House International Relations, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Opera- tions

April 26, 2006

My Story In October 1996, the LRA attacked St. Mary’s College, a girls’ boarding school in Aboke Town, in

the Apac District, in northern Uganda. They abducted 139 girls--including myself. I was 15-years-old at the time...

I was forcibly marched into southern Sudan. We walked for four days and four nights. In southern Sudan, the LRA had bases that were run and protected by forces allied with the Sudanese government in Khartoum. I, and the other girls captured with me, were trained to assemble and disassemble, clean and use guns. We were used as slave labor by the LRA and Sudanese government soldiers. We were forcibly given to senior LRA commanders as so-called “wives.” For seven months, I was held in captivity by the LRA, always looking for an opportunity to escape. I con- stantly prayed that God would allow me to see my family once more before I died. I desperately wanted to finish my education, but hope seemed distant. I saw two other children who had tried, unsuccessfully, to escape. They were brutally murdered in front of me as a warning. One night, we were forced to raid a village, and I was directed to help steal food and water. I fainted from thirst. I woke up hours later, buried alive in a shallow grave. The Ugandan soldiers, along with the SPLA (Sudan People’s Liberation Army) attacked the base of the LRA, allowing me a chance to escape. I walked for three days, living on soil and leaves before I found another group of children who had also escaped. I persuaded eight of them to join me, and we eventually found a group of villagers who took care of us, before helping us connect with the Ugandan army to return home. I escaped, alive, from the LRA, but five of my classmates died in captivity. The others gradually managed to escape over the past ten years; some are infected with HIV/AIDS; many of them have children by the com- manders who abused them. Ten years later, two of my friends are still held hostage by the LRA.

So I thank God for allowing me to see my family again. I thank Him for allowing me to continue on with my education. I went back to St. Mary’s to finish high school, and then I began studying at Uganda Christian University, in southern Uganda near the capital city, Kampala. I have since transferred to Gordon College in Boston, where I am now working on my undergraduate degree in Communications. When I finish my education I would like to work for one year and then continue on to graduate school to study International Relations and Conflict Resolution. I want to be part of the people struggling day and

night to try to bring peace in the world.

Source : Pesach: A Season of Justice

Passover is rich in social justice themes. It is impossible to study the story of our redemption and not feel compelled to eradicate injustice in the world today. Among the primary social justice themes found in the Exodus story and in the Passover observance are hunger and homelessness and oppression and redemption. “This is the bread of affliction which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let all those who are hungry come and eat with us. Let all who are in want share the hope of Passover.” (Haggadah, “Ha Lachma Anya”) “Ha Lachma Anya” reminds us of a time when our diets were once restricted to matzah, considered the “bread of affliction.”
Due to our hasty retreat from Egypt, we were limited to the food carried on our backs – the unleavened bread that we were unable to thoroughly prepare. Our experience with hardship following the exodus from Egypt inspires us to consider those who eat the metaphorical “bread of affliction” in present times, and to let all those who are now hungry join us at our Passover tables.  “Even the poorest person in Israel may not eat until he reclines, and they must not give him less than four cups of wine.” (Babylonian Talmud, Pesachim 99b) 
The Babylonian Talmud reminds us that it is imperative for us to take care of all in our community, even the poorest person, during Passover and throughout the year.  Four cups of wine, quite a luxury for some, is seen as an integral part of the Passover observance. The requirement that even poor Jews be provided with ample wine, and presumably, with 
all the ritual foods and courses for the one night of the Seder, leads to the expectation that we should help the poor and the hungry year-round. “My Father was a wandering Aramean who went down to Egypt and dwelled 
there.” (Haggadah, “Maggid”) 
The painful reminder of our status as strangers in the land of Egypt and our subsequent 40 years of wandering in the wilderness without a home raises awareness of immigration and refugee concerns. The memory instills in us a desire to eradicate homelessness in the areas around us, and ultimately, the world.  “This year we are slaves. Next year, may we all be free” (Haggadah, “Ha Lachma Anya”) 
As we are commanded, we place ourselves directly into the story, remembering what it was like for us, the Children of Israel, to be slaves in the land of Egypt. This personal experience of slavery motivates us to examine the current international situation and wrestle with cases of injustice, oppression, and slavery today. Sadly, slavery did not end 
at that time, but persists even to this day. Pesach is an opportunity for us to raise awareness of contemporary examples of slavery and oppression throughout the world.  In our own nation, domestic violence traps victims within their homes, limiting their freedom as surely as if they were enslaved. 
When we recall our immense joy at being freed from slavery to worship and live according to the dictates of our faith, we are inspired to celebrate the great strides made by various contemporary groups, such as women and African Americans, which have fought for redemption from oppression and won, as our ancestors did. The observance of Passover presents a rich opportunity for interfaith sharing and celebration. 
Source : Love and Justice In Times of War Haggadah
Social Justice Blessing

Baruch Atah Adonai, eloheinu Melekh ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tsivanu lirdof tzedek

Brucha Yah Shechinah, eloheinu Malkat ha-olam, asher kid’shatnu b’mitzvotayha vitzivatnu lirdof tzedek

Blessed is the Source, who shows us paths to holiness, and commands us to pursue justice. 

Calligraphy by: Ruben Shimonov

by g
Source : webz

Why is this haggadah different from all others? Because it holds the true meaning of Passover—that the liberation of all oppressed and enslaved people is God's will—above all other theological and political concerns.

This isn't the haggadah for Jews or Goyim or atheists or Christians or Fascists or Communists—this is the one for you, you who demands real justice for yourself and all the world. This is the haggadah for the people, all of us, and it was made with the knowledge that so long as one of us is shackled, none of us are free.

by g
Source : Emory Douglas (text from Wikipedia)
Freedom - by Emory Douglas

Emory Douglas (born May 24, 1943) worked as the Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party from 1967 until the Party disbanded in the 1980s. His graphic art was featured in most issues of the newspaper The Black Panther (which had a peak circulation of 139,000 per week in 1970) As the art director, designer, and main illustrator for The Black Panther newspaper, he created images that became icons—representing black American struggles during the 1960s and 1970s.

Source : Abraham Joshua Heschel Quote, Design by
Heschel Quote

Source : Library of Congress; Photograph by Marion S. Trikosko,
March on Washington, 1963

Signs carried by many marchers, during the March on Washington, 1963
Source : Reproductive Justice Seder Insert

From Oppression to Liberation:
For the Pursuit of Reproductive Justice in this Generation

The four cups of wine we drink this evening are symbols of our freedom and God's presence in our lives. But, as the seder ritual reminds us, freedom is an ongoing journey. True freedom can only be enjoyed when all our sisters, brothers and others are freed of the many burdens that would delay or deny their inherent dignity. As women, we still know the shackles of oppression all too well. In modern society, we still experience the exploitation of women and girls in our workplaces, medical facilities, and even governing bodies. By allowing this oppression to continue, we fail to recognize the holiness and moral agency present in all of God’s children.

Tonight, we retell the story of the Exodus and consider how it applies to our lives today. We are reminded that there is still bitterness in the world and iniquity in our homes and communities: politicians seeking to control women's reproductive destinies; perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence seeking to control women’s bodies; and societal barriers seeking, perhaps inadvertently, to limit a woman’s ability to recognize her full potential. These examples and others are today’s plagues; they remind us of the constraints Pharaoh placed on our Israelite ancestors.

At tonight’s seder, instead of feeling despair, we envision - and commit to achieving - a society in which every person exerts full autonomy over their own reproductive and sexual life. At tonight’s seder, we celebrate the values that lead us to work toward reproductive justice. This expanded social justice framework acknowledges the different systems of oppression that impact our lives and impede our ability to truly make our own decisions about our reproductive and sexual health. We renew our commitment to not only safeguard our legal rights to access the care we need but to go further, ensuring every person’s ability to meaningfully do so regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, income and other unique life circumstances. We pledge to leave the next generation a society in which reproductive freedom has truly been reached.

The readings in this resource packet seek to inspire our commitment to reproductive justice. They are designed to be read before you drink each of the four cups of wine.

Let us tonight honor those who are working tirelessly to bring us out of this metaphoric Egypt and pledge to renew our own fight toward achieving justice and freedom for all.

Chag Sameach!

Coordinated by the following: Jewish Women International, National Council of Jewish Women, Religious Action Center
of Reform Judaism in association with Women of Reform Judaism, and Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

For more information on reproductive justice, please visit
For all Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism resources, please visit

Source : Religious Action Center: Pesach, A Season for Justice

While our tradition applies specific meaning to the four cups of wine found within the Passover seder, many modern Haggadot have begun to reinterpret the original four cups.

The four cups are derived from four expressions of redemption found in Exodus 6:6-7: “I will bring you out;” “I will deliver you;” “I will redeem you;” and “I will take you.” Due to the positive, redemptive focus of each phrase, each cup could come to represent current groups that need to be “brought out, delivered, redeemed, or taken out.” A short teaching can take place before each cup is blessed. Groups for consideration include: refugees and slaves, victims of domestic violence, victims of sexual trafficking, and the poor and impoverished.

Rabbis for Human Rights suggests the following four interpretations for the four cups:

The First Cup: Freedom in America

As we lift the first cup, we envision an America – the “land of the free” – where everyone has a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of him/herself and of his/her family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services (from Article 25 of the Declaration of Human Rights).

The Second Cup: Deliverance in Israel

As we lift the second cup, we envision a modern day Israel, that fosters the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants. We envision an Israel that is “based on freedom, justice, and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel,” an Israel that “will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants” (from the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel, 1948).

The Third Cup: Redemption from Overwork and Underwork

As we lift the third cup, we envision a world where everyone has work and, without any discrimination, receives equal pay for equal work. We envision a world where everyone also can enjoy rest and leisure, and periodic holidays with pay (adapted from Articles 23 and 24 of the Declaration of Human Rights).

The Fourth Cup: Liberation from Slavery All Over the World

As we lift the fourth cup, we envision a world where no one is held in slavery or servitude… a world without sweatshop laborers, where all workers are able to make a fair wage, regardless of which country they are born into. We envision a world where all products are fairly traded, and no one country or financial institution can dictate trade policies (adapted from Article 4 of the Declaration of Human Rights).

A Fifth Cup

Some Haggadot include a “fifth” cup in the Seder as an opportunity for additional readings or prayers. This tradition dates back to the early rabbis and commentators, including Alfasi and Maimonides, who discussed this possible addition to the Seder. A Fifth Cup enables us to call attention to a current social justice issue or recognize a recent victory with regards to a prior injustice. This fifth cup could be passed around the table and filled with coins to be donated to tzedakah. An additional reading with specific hopes or social action goals (like a renewed focus on the homeless or implementation of a new, long-term tzedakah project) for the coming months can be included at this point.

Discussion: As wine can serve as a symbol of abundance and luxury, the fifth cup is a perfect opportunity for a discussion on privilege and poverty: Some Jews experience a high degree of privilege. Others are less privileged. A recent study points to 100,000 Jews living below the poverty line in New York City. What are the sources of our privilege? Has your family’s economic status changed over the last few generations? In what ways? What does it mean to experience the Haggadah from a place of privilege? From a place of poverty? All are invited to tell a short story of an ancestor who faced economic hardship, or came up against an economic system that did not acknowledge their humanity.

Source :

A Prayer for Human Rights 

Rabbi Brant Rosen

Ruach Kol Chai - Spirit of All that Lives: Help us.

Help us to uphold the values that are so central to whom we are: human beings created B'tzelem Elohim- in the image of God. Help us to recognize that the inherent dignity of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. The inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family are the foundations of freedom, justice and peace in the world. May we find the strength to protect and plead the cause of the stranger among us, to ensure just treatment for all who dwell in our land.

Guide us.

Guide us toward one law. One justice. One human standard of behavior toward all. Move us away from the equivocation that honors the divine image in some but not in others. Let us forever affirm that the justice we purport to hold dear is nothing but a sham if it does not uphold the value of K'vod Habriot - basic human dignity for all who dwell in our midst.

Forgive us.

Forgive us for the inhumane manner in which we too often treat the other. We know, or should, that when it comes to crimes against humanity, some of us may be guilty, but all of us are responsible. Grant us kapparah - atonement for the misdeeds of exclusion we invariably commit against the most vulnerable members of society: the unwanted, the unhoused, the uninsured, the undocumented.

Strengthen us.

Strengthen us to find the wherewithal to shine your light into the dark places of our world. Give us ability to uncover those who are hidden from view, locked away, forgotten. Let us never forget that nothing is hidden and no one lost from before you. Embolden us in the knowledge that neshamot - human souls are neither disposable nor replaceable; that we can never, try as we might, lock away the humanity of another.

Remind us.

Remind us of our duty to create a just society right here, right now, in our day. Give us the vision of purpose to guard against the complacency of the comfortable - and the resolve in knowing that we cannot put off the cause of justice and freedom for another day. Remind us that the time is now. Now is the moment to create your kingdom here on earth.

Ken Yehi Ratzon. May it be your will. And may it be ours. And let us say, Amen.

Source :

Breaking the matzah

There are three pieces of matzah stacked on the table. We now break the middle matzah into two pieces. The host should wrap up the larger of the pieces and, at some point between now and the end of dinner, hide it. This piece is called the afikomen, literally "dessert." After dinner, the guests will have to hunt for the afikomen.

Reader 1: Ha lachma anya—this is the bread of affliction. At the seder we begin as slaves. We eat matzah, the bread of affliction, which leaves us hungry and longing for redemption. It reminds us of a time when we couldn’t control what food was available to us, but ate what we could out of necessity. The matzah enables us to taste slavery— to imagine what it means to be denied our right to live free and healthy lives.

But, while we will soon enjoy a large meal and end the seder night as free people, millions of people around the world can not leave the affliction of hunger behind. Let us awaken to their cries and declare:

Kol dichfin yeitei v’yeichol—let all who are hungry, come and eat. As we sit at our seder and contemplate our people’s transition from slavery to freedom, let us hope for a time when all who are hungry will eat as free people. Let us pray:

Let all people gain autonomy over their sources of sustenance.

Let local farms flourish and local economies strengthen.

Let exploitation of natural resources cease so that the land may nourish its inhabitants.

Let communities bolster themselves against the destruction wrought by flood and drought.

Let our world leaders recognize food as a basic human right and implement policies and programs that put an end to world hunger.

Hashata avdei—this year we are still slaves. Leshanah haba’ah b’nei chorin—next year we will be free people.

This year, hunger and malnutrition are still the greatest risks to good health around the world. Next year, may the bread of affliction be simply a symbol, and may all people enjoy the bread of plenty, the bread of freedom.

Source :

Ha lachma anya—this is the bread of affliction.

At the seder we begin as slaves. We eat matzah, the bread of affliction, which leaves us hungry and longing for redemption. It reminds us of a time when we couldn’t control what food was available to us, but ate what we could out of necessity. The matzah enables us to taste slavery— to imagine what it means to be denied our right to live free and healthy lives.

But, while we will soon enjoy a large meal and end the seder night as free people, 963 million people around the world can not leave the affliction of hunger behind. Each day, 25,000 adults and children die from hunger and malnutrition. In fact, a child dies every six seconds because he or she is starving.  Let us awaken to their cries and declare:

Kol dichfin yeitei v’yeichol—let all who are hungry, come and eat.

As we sit at our seder and contemplate our people’s transition from slavery to freedom, let us hope for a time when all who are hungry will eat as free people:

Let all people gain autonomy over their sources of sustenance.

Let local farms flourish and local economies strengthen.

Let exploitation of natural resources cease so that the land may nourish its inhabitants.

Let communities bolster themselves against the destruction wrought by flood and drought.

Let our world leaders recognize food as a basic human right and implement policies and programs that put an end to world hunger.

The Passover seder inspires us to take action and commit ourselves to working toward these and other sustainable changes. As the seder guides us from scarcity to plenty, let us empower others on their paths to sustenance.

Hashata avdei—this year we are still slaves.  Leshanah haba’ah b’nei chorin—next year we will be free people.

This year, hunger and malnutrition are still the greatest risks to good health around the world. Next year, may the bread of affliction be simply a symbol, and may all people enjoy the bread of plenty, the  bread of freedom.

Source : Rabbis for Human Rights Hagaddah Supplements--5773


Eloheinu v'Elohei Kadmoneinu (Avoteinu, Avoteinu vEmoteinu), our God and God of our ancestors, we are gathered around this seder table as b'nei khorin, free people commanded to remember our dark nights of oppression. Your Torah warns us never to become oppressors ourselves, reminding us, "For you were strangers in the land of Egypt." Yet, when we are honest with ourselves, we know that we have been Pharaoh to other peoples, and to the disadvantaged among our own people. Our awareness that "In every generation there are those who arise to destroy us" often causes us to harden our hearts, and perceive hatred where it does not exist.

  We therefore turn to You, as in days of old. Stand with us, so that our fears not rise up to be our taskmasters. Help us to banish Pharaoh from our hearts, and let others in.

 With Pharaoh at bay, we become more painfully aware of the desecration of Your Image found in every human being. As with the plagues of old, our joy is diminished when we hear of those whose lives remain embittered. "Hashata Avdei," "This year we remain slaves because of their oppression "  We remove additional drops of wine from our cup of celebration and renew our commitment to winning their freedom, thereby completing ours. We make room in our hearts and at our table for 

Gabriel Kuol fled for his life from South Sudan to Egypt.  Again feeling his life in danger, he tumbled over the border into Israel with an Egyptian bullet in his leg.  His love and gratitude to Israel faded as the situation deteriorated. First asylum seekers were forbidden to work, then they suffered beatings when they tried to renew their residency permits, which were eventually revoked.  Gabriel was detained and deported, leaving all of his possessions behind.  He nearly died of malaria back in South Sudan" The African asylum seekers remaining are demonized and our border is now closed.  The "anti infiltration law" allows them to be imprisoned for over three years, and  even those from countries so dangerous that the law prevents their deportation have been encouraged to "leave voluntarily"  As we open our doors to invite all who are hungry to come and eat, we remember the many doors closed to us over long   years of persecution. This Passover, may we open our hearts and our borders to those fleeing for their lives.  Like Gabriel, our ancestor was a wandering Aramean, and we were strangers in the land of Egypt.

   Sheikh Sayakh. The exhaustion shows on the Sheikh's face.  His tribe's homes in El-Arakib in the Negev have been reduced to pitiful lean–tos, and even these have been demolished over 40 times. RHR has helped to temporarily halt JNF forests closing, and thankfully the High Court has overruled the State and ordered the District Court to hear their ownership claims.  However, the judges warned that it would not be easy to explain why they didn't challenge the expropriation of their lands in 1953, an expropriation they claim they only discovered in 2000.  There is less certainty in Sheikh Sayakh's voice when he says that he is counting on us, and he no longer expresses faith in Israeli justice. Perhaps he has visions of the cemetery of his "unrecognized" Bedouin village in the middle of a JNF forest offering silent testimony that his tribe lived here for generations. The families of Al Arakib are but some of the thousands of Israeli Bedouin in danger of being forced from their homes if government plans are approved by the Knesset.  Celebrating the seder in the security of our homes, we commit ourselves this night to guaranteeing a home for all.  We must make sure that Sheikh Sayakh  has a place at our table, and must  work in the coming year so that our national home rests on a foundation of justice.

Nasser Nawaje. Nasser was a young boy in 1986 when he, his family and all the Palestinian villagers of  Susya in the South Hebron Hills were expelled because their home was declared an archaeological site.  They moved into nearby caves on their lands, only to see the army demolish their caves and try to expel them again. Israel's High Court returned them, but they were told that everything built to replace their caves was illegal. Nasser is known and hated by the area's settlers for his work documenting human rights abuses, helping RHR to prevent and even roll back land takeovers.   In response the settlers and  "Regavim" have gone to court demanding that the army demolish almost the village. Nasser told us, "When they came to demolish our homes in 1986, there was nothing we could do because we were all alone.  We are again in great danger, but we are not alone any more." As God has stood with our ancestors, we resolve this night to stand with Nasser.

Source : AJWS

Ha lachma anya—this is the bread of affliction. At the seder we begin as slaves. We eat matzah, the bread of affliction, which leaves us hungry and longing for redemption. It reminds us of a time when we couldn’t control what food was available to us, but ate what we could out of necessity. The matzah enables us to taste slavery— to imagine what it means to be denied our right to live free and healthy lives.

But, while we will soon enjoy a large meal and end the seder night as free people, 963 million people around the world can not leave the affliction of hunger behind. Each day, 25,000 adults and children die from hunger and malnutrition. In fact, a child dies every six seconds because he or she is starving.  Let us awaken to their cries and declare:

Kol dichfin yeitei v’yeichol—let all who are hungry, come and eat. As we sit at our seder and contemplate our people’s transition from slavery to freedom, let us hope for a time when all who are hungry will eat as free people.

Let local farms flourish and local economies strengthen.

Let exploitation of natural resources cease so that the land may nourish its inhabitants.

Let communities bolster themselves against the destruction wrought by flood and drought.

Let our world leaders recognize food as a basic human right and implement policies and programs that put an end to hunger. The Passover seder inspires us to take action and commit ourselves to working toward these and other sustainable changes. As the seder guides us from scarcity to plenty, let us empower others on their paths to sustenance.Hashata avdei—this year we are still slaves.  Leshanah haba’ah b’nei chorin—next year we will be free people. This year, hunger and malnutrition are still the greatest risks to good health around the world. Next year, may the bread of affliction be simply a symbol, and may all people enjoy the bread of plenty, the  bread of freedom.

Maggid - Beginning
Source :

Child labor in cocoa fields has been documented in the following countries: Cameroon, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, (leading supplier, accounting for around 40% of production) Guinea and Nigeria.

Hundreds of thousands of children work in cocoa fields, and many of them are exposed to hazardous conditions, where they:

- Spray pesticides and apply fertilizers without protective gear

- Use sharp tools, like machetesSustain injuries from transporting heavy loads beyond permissible weight

- Do strenuous work like felling trees, and clearing and burning vegetation

These children are treated with the “worst forms of child labor” (defined by the International Labor Organization), including

-mforms of slavery, the sale of a child and

- trafficking of children (recruiting children to work far away from families)

- debt bondage

- Most children who travel to work in cocoa fields are not accompanied by their parents

- Over 40% of children working in cocoa fields do not attend school

- Children as young as five (5) years old work on cocoa farms

Maggid - Beginning
Source :

Avadim Hayinu

(Purchase Fair Trade Kosher for Passover chocolate through:

The Haggadah reminds us that “we were slaves to Pharoah in Mitzrayim, and then Adonai brought us out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.” We were freed from slavery, yet slavery is not an institution only of the past; it still exists among us.

The Passover Seder celebrates our liberation as a people from the oppressive slavery we experienced in ancient Egypt. It recounts the story of the Jewish nation emerging from the chains of forced labor and beginning the journey towards freedom. As we celebrate this freedom during Passover, we are compelled to reflect on how freedom continues to be elusive for other people. Our history of slavery awakens us to the plight of the stranger, and to the alarming occurrence of modern day trafficking and slavery. For how can we celebrate our freedom, without recognizing that so many individuals still have not obtained theirs?

We each have the power and the obligation to free today’s slaves with a “strong hand and outstretched arm.” What does this mean to us?How can we do this? We must reach beyond ourselves, beyond the usual extent of our gaze. Our realm of influence, our chance to exert that divine capacity, is not an opportunity lurking in the distance—it is right here, within reach, just beyond us.

Slavery does not end through hope and passivity, but by powerful action. Our action to end slavery is not only important for our own time but also for its effects on future generations. This is our chance to shape the future.

Seder Plate: Adding  a bar of Fair Trade chocolate on the Seder plate. Lift the Seder plate and introduces all the foods, adding: “This is Fair Trade chocolate. Unlike most chocolate today, it is made without the labor of child slaves in the Ivory Coast. It is on our Seder plate to remind us that slavery still exists today, and that we have the freedom and obligation to choose chocolate not made with child labor.”  Tonight we eat chocolate to remember all the trafficked and enslaved children in the Ivory Coast who toil in the cocoa fields, harvesting the cocoa pods from which our favorite chocolates are made. For Jews, the descendants of slave laborers in Egypt in Auschwitz, such profit should never be sweet. We eat Fair Trade chocolate, the only chocolate that is free of child labor. We take the sweetness of this chocolate as a symbol of resistance and the possibility of liberation for all.

(Text taken from:

To purchase Frair Trade Kosher for Passover Chocolate go to:

See also:

Maggid - Beginning
Source : Rabbis Organizing Rabbis and Reform CA, Joint Projects of the Reform Movement, Reform Judaism's Just Congregations
For a well-formatted printable ritual, and for more information about Rabbis Organizing Rabbis, please visit

The traditional Ha Lachma Anya is found at the beginning of the Maggid, or “storytelling,” section of the Haggadah. This ritual connects both our Exodus story and the Jewish immigrant narrative to the reality of aspiring Americans today.

This is the Bread of Affliction - Ha Lachma Anya

Reader: In America, over 11 million undocumented immigrants live in our midst.We identify with their struggles from our memory as Jews freed from Egyptian servitude, and as Americans living in a country built by immigrants.As we look upon the broken middle matzah before us, this is our story - an immigrant story -- in three parts:Memory, Action, Vision.


[Leader uncovers and raises the matzah.]

All read: Ha lachma anya – This is the bread of poverty and affliction that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt.

Reader: We remember our ancestors’ fear and bravery in facing the new unknown, filled with dangers and opportunities. Poet Marge Piercy recalls our people’s past emigrations:

…The courage to walk out of the pain that is known into the pain that cannot be imagined, mapless, walking into the wilderness, going barefoot with a canteen into the desert; stuffed in the stinking hold of a rotting ship sailing off the map into dragons' mouths. Cathay, India, Serbia, goldeneh medina, leaving bodies by the way like abandoned treasure. So they walked out of Egypt. So they bribed their way out of Russia under loads of straw; so they steamed out of the bloody smoking charnelhouse of Europe on overloaded freighters forbidden all ports-- out of pain into death or freedom or a differentpainful dignity, into squalor and politics…  

“Maggid,” The Art of Blessing the Day: Poems with a Jewish Theme. Knopf: September 2000, p. 166-167.


All read:Let all who are hungry come and eat. Let all who are in need, come and share this Pesach meal.

Reader:The Seder demands action! American Jewish poet Emma Lazarus’s words reflected real action when they were engraved on the Statue of Liberty one hundred years ago:

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. "Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door


All read: This year we are still here – next year in the Land of Israel. This year we are still slaves – next year free people.

Reader: This year undocumented immigrants still live in fear in the shadows of a broken immigration system. Next year may over 11 million aspiring Americans step into the light of freedom and walk the path towards citizenship.

This year, our eyes are still clouded by the plague of darkness, as the Gerer Rav taught: “The darkness in Egypt was so dense that people could not see one another. This was not a physical darkness, but a spiritual darkness in which people were unable to see the plight and pain of their neighbors.” Next year, may we replace darkness with light and truly see our neighbors and be moved to act with them to fix our broken immigration system.

Discussion: Today, the Reform Jewish Movement is working to help create a common-sense American immigration process. How do your family stories connect to this historic moment?

Think about your family history: What brought your family to this country? What did your family leave behind, and what opportunity did they seek? Does this help you understand today’s immigrants? Why or why not?

-- Four Questions
Source :

Mah nishtanah ha-lailah ha-zeh mi-kol ha-lailot?

Why is this night different from all other nights?

We know the traditional answers to this question: On this night, we eat matzah and bitter herbs, we dip and we recline. But this is not all, or even most, of what Passover is about.  

On most other nights, we allow the news of tragedy in distant places to pass us by.  

We succumb to compassion fatigue – aware that we cannot possibly respond to every injustice that arises around the world.

On this night, we are reminded that our legacy as the descendants of slaves creates in us a different kind of responsibility – we are to protect the stranger because we were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Let us add a fifth question to this year’s seder.  Let us ask ourselves,

What must be done?

This year, this Passover, let us recommit to that sacred responsibility to protect the stranger, particularly those vulnerable strangers in faraway places whose suffering is so often ignored.

Let us infuse the rituals of the seder with action:

When tasting the matzah, the bread of poverty, let us find ways to help the poor and the hungry.

When eating the maror, let us commit to help those whose lives are embittered by disease.

When dipping to commemorate the blood that protected our ancestors against the Angel of Death, let us pursue protection for those whose lives are threatened by violence and conflict.

When reclining in celebration of our freedom, let us seek opportunities to help those who are oppressed. 

At this season of liberation, join us in working for the liberation of all people.  Help us respond to the seder’s questions with action and justice. 

-- Four Questions
Source : Unknown

 “Why is this night different from all other nights?”

The question is central to the telling of the Passover story and is followed in the traditional Seder with four more that elaborate on the holiday rituals:

1. On all other nights we eat either leavened and unleavened bread. Why on this night do we eat only unleavened bread?

2. On all other nights we eat all kinds of herbs. Why on this night do we eat only bitter herbs?

3. On all other nights we need not dip our herbs even once. Why on this night do we need to dip twice?

4. On all other nights we eat sitting or reclining. Why on this night do we recline?

These classic questions still hold meaning for us, but are there other questions that might be even more relevant to ask today? We’ve asked Jewish educators and organizations all over North America to add a fifth question to the Seder – one that will inspire us to make Passover meaningful for today’s Jewish world.

Birthright Israel NEXT's 5th Question is:

On this night we look into the past to tell a story about the history of the Jewish people. What do you take from this story as you write your part of the future of the Jewish people?

For more questions from our great contributors, visit

-- Four Questions
Source : Original

Early in the Seder we say, “All who are hungry, let them enter and eat.” We move ceremoniously through the Haggadah, reminding ourselves that we once were slaves in Egypt and explaining the meaning of each bite we eat. But millions of Americans and Israelis have only a few bites to eat, which has a very different meaning – it is a reminder that they are  still  enslaved.

This year, please join MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger as we again ask The Fifth Question

Why on this night are millions of people still going hungry?

After the youngest person reads the four questions from the Haggadah, ask The Fifth Question and reflect as a group upon the crisis of food insecurity, why it persists and what you individually and collectively could do to end it. Then share your ideas with MAZON by emailing

-- Four Questions
Source :

The answers to the first three questions are drawn from Michelle Alexander’s groundbreaking book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2010). Excerpts are cited with “NJC” and the page number.

Question #1

Why does America have the highest incarceration rate of any developed nation in the world?

Many factors have increased the incarceration rate, including the War on Drugs, the imposition of mandatory minimum sentencing, and privatization of prisons, which creates financial incentives for keeping people in prison.

“The impact of the drug war has been astounding. In less than thirty years, the U.S. penal population exploded from around 300,000 to more than 2 million, with drug convictions accounting for the majority of the increase. The United States now by far has the highest incarceration rate in the world.” (NJC, p. 6)

Incarceration is a tool of social control.

“[D]rug crime was declining, not rising, when a drug war was declared in 1972. From a historical perspective, however, the lack of correlation between crime and punishment is nothing new. Sociologists have frequently observed that governments use punishment primarily as a tool of social control, and thus the extent or severity of punishment is often unrelated to actual crime patterns.” (NJC, p. 7)

Question #2

Who is being locked up in the United States?

There is a strong racial dimension to the pattern of incarceration.

“No other country in the world imprisons so many of its racial or ethnic minorities. The United States imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid. In Washington, D.C., our nation’s capitol, it is estimated that three out of four young black men (and nearly all those in the poorest neighborhoods) can expect to serve time in prison. Similar rates of incarceration can be found in black communities across America.

“These stark racial disparities cannot be explained by rates of drug crime. Studies show that people of all colors use and sell illegal drugs at remarkably similar rates . . . This is not what one would guess, however, when entering our nation’s prisons and jails, which are overflowing with black and brown drug offenders.” (NJC, p. 6)

The Egyptians dealt harshly with us and oppressed us; they imposed heavy labor upon us. (Deuteronomy 26:6, Haggadah)

Two Personal Stories

Michelle Alexander describes two experiences of harsh treatment in the criminal justice system:

“Imagine you are Emma Faye Stewart, a thirty-year-old, single African-American mother of two who was arrested as part of a drug sweep in Hearne, Texas. All but one of those people arrested were African- American. You are innocent. After a week in jail, you have no one to care for your two small children and are eager to get home. Your court-appointed attorney urges you to plead guilty to a drug distribution charge, saying the prosecutor has offered probation. You refuse, steadfastly proclaiming your innocence. Finally, after almost a month in jail, you decide to plead guilty so you can return home to your children. Unwilling to risk a trial and years of imprisonment, you are sentenced to ten years probation and ordered to pay $1,000 in fines, as well as court and probation costs. You are also now branded a drug felon. You are no longer eligible for food stamps; you may be discriminated against in employment; you cannot vote for at least twelve years; and you are about to be evicted from public housing. Once homeless, your children will be taken away from you and put in foster care.

“A judge eventually dismisses all cases against the defendants who did not plead guilty. At trial, the judge finds that the entire sweep was based on the testimony of a single informant who lied to the prosecution. You, however, are still a drug felon, homeless, and desperate to regain custody of your children.

“Now place yourself in the shoes of Clifford Runoalds, another African-American victim of the Hearne drug bust. You returned home to Bryan, Texas, to attend the funeral of your eighteen-month-old daughter. Before the funeral services begin, the police show up and handcuff you. You beg the officers to let you take one last look at your daughter before she is buried. The police refuse. You are told by prosecutors that you are needed to testify against one of the defendants in a recent drug bust. You deny witnessing any drug transaction; you don’t know what they are talking about. Because of your refusal to cooperate, you are indicted on felony charges. After a month of being held in jail, the charges against you are dropped. You are technically free, but as a result of your arrest and period of incarceration, you lose your job, your apartment, your furniture, and your car. Not to mention the chance to say good-bye to your baby girl.” (NJC, pp. 97-98)

Question #3

Why are so many African Americans, as well as other people of color, being treated like criminals?

Mass incarceration is a tool to reinforce a racial caste system in the United States.

“Slavery defined what it meant to be black (a slave), and Jim Crow defined what it meant to be black (a second-class citizen). Today mass incarceration defines the meaning of blackness in America: black people, especially black men, are criminals. That is what it means to be black.

“The temptation is to insist that black men ‘choose’ to be criminals; the system does not make them criminals, at least not in the way that slavery made blacks slaves or Jim Crow made them second-class citizens. The myth of choice here is seductive, but it should be resisted. African Americans are not significantly more likely to use or sell prohibited drugs than whites, but they are made criminals at drastically higher rates for precisely the same conduct. In fact, studies suggest that white professionals may be the most likely of any group to have engaged in illegal drug activity in their lifetime, yet they are the least likely to be made criminals. . . . Black people have been made criminals by the War on Drugs to a degree that dwarfs its effect on other racial and ethnic groups, especially whites. And the process of making them criminals has produced racial stigma. (NJC, pp. 196-197)

Question #4
Why do we, as Jews and friends of Jews, ask these questions on this seder night?

We cried out to the Eternal One, the God of our ancestors, who heard our plea and saw our plight, our misery, and our oppression. (Deuteronomy 26:7, Haggadah)

There are Jews of color who have personal stories to tell about experiencing racism; there are Jews of all colors who have personal stories to tell about incarceration and the criminal justice system. But the issue affects us all, whether or not we have personal stories to tell. As the people of the Exodus, we are called to witness the suffering of our neighbors, to open ours eyes and to cry out in the name of justice.

Then the Eternal One freed us from Egypt by a mighty hand, by an outstretched arm and awesome power, and signs and portents. (Deuteronomy 26:8, Haggadah)

Dismantling the system of mass incarceration and creating a system of justice and dignity for all Americans calls for wisdom, perseverance, hard work, and faith. We must raise our voices and build alliances. We pray for the ability to see clearly, to act with compassion, and to forgive ourselves for the ways we have unknowingly been agents of oppression. We pray for courage, guidance, and strength as we celebrate Passover, our festival of freedom.

We read together the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr, from his letter from a Birmingham, Alabama jail on April 16, 1963:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

-- Four Questions
Source : Jessica Steinberg,

Why do we eat much on this night and others eat little?
Why do we eat the unleavened bread and throw our leavened bread away instead of donating it to the food pantry?
Why do we dip our food into sauce and salt andcharosetwhile others may not even havea crumb to dip?
Why do we lay back, relax and eat the food that comes to us so easily while others work to buy bread for their family?

This clip originally appeared on

-- Four Questions

The Fifth Question: What can we do to help alleviate poverty?

There are numerous charities which aim to get donations to end poverty. It is important to make food and money to these various charities to help others. We must remember that we were once "strangers in the land of Egypt" (Exodus 23:9). This quote appears numerous times in the Torah and explains to us to have sympathy for others because we were once abused and manipulated so we should consider to help others.

-- Four Questions
(1) How big of a problem is this?

According to the U.S. department of state, there are over 12 million slaves around the world.

(2) What is being done about the problem?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services assists victims of trafficking in the United States by funding service programs and through public information campaigns.

(3) Why isn't more being done?

Money doesn't grow on trees (and politics).

(4) What can you do to help?

Go to this government website to see what you can do

-- Four Questions

Four Questions:

Why should we be conscious of the people who we consider strangers?

Why are human beings treated as if they are disposable based on their living circumstances?

Why is it important to reach out to individuals who don’t have the same rights as us?

Despite what we hear about the working conditions, why do we still support the industries?

-- Four Children
Source : Jessica Steinberg,

The Generous Child
The generous child knows all about food justice and donates much of their monthly allowance to charity. This child encourages their parents to volunteer, brings the most cans in during school food drives, and never eats too much.

The Spoiled Child
The spoiled child knows and understands food justice, but chooses not to care. This child is selfish, easily upset by not getting what they want, and is likely a picky eater. This child's catch phrases are “So what?!” and “That’s not my problem.”

The Stoical Child
The stoical child may know something about food justice, may care, but does absolutely nothing to help. This is the kid who writes "bring in cans" every day during the fundraiser in their planner, but forgets each time.

The Child Who Doesn’t Know
The child who doesn’t know is the kid who lives life happily and ignorantly with absolutely no clue that there are people who don’t/can’t do the same. This child may have an overprotective parent that shelters them from the challenges of life.

This clip originally appeared on

-- Four Children
Source :
The Four Children: A Racial Justice Haggadah Insert

At the heart of Reform Jewish text and tradition is our commitment to equality for all people, from our historical commitment to and participation in the civil rights movement to our continued dedication to learning about power and privilege and combatting structural and systemic racism today.

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism’s racial justice work focuses on equity in a variety of institutions, including education, criminal justice, reproductive rights and access to health care, affordable housing, and many other areas of society. Use this resource to spark conversation about the importance of racial justice in your family’s Passover seder, and visit our racial justice issue page to further your learning and action.


You can respond by referencing some of the most important pieces of legislation aimed at addressing racial injustice in the United States, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. You should note that these laws were won through the efforts of individuals committed to social change, including many Reform Jews, and that the various protections they provide are critical to combatting discrimination on the basis of race.

At the same time, you should remind this child that the protections we already have are imperfect and, in many cases, are coming under attack. It is our responsibility as Reform Jews to fight against the erosion of existing civil rights laws and to advocate for reforms in education, criminal justice, voting rights, economic policies and more that advance true racial equality.


In asking this question, the wicked child has denied a basic principle of Judaism: that we have a collective responsibility to address injustice, even when we are not directly affected by that injustice or might benefit from it because of our own privilege. You should teach this child that it is for the sake of everyone that we advocate for racial justice.

In protecting voting rights, improving access to education and calling for sensible criminal justice and law enforcement reforms, we affirm the fundamental Jewish belief that all people are created  b’tzelem Elohim, in the Divine image, and thus are deserving of equal rights.


You can tell this child that racial justice is the pursuit of equality for all people, regardless of race. You should further explain that racial injustice can take many forms, from explicitly racist comments to laws and institutions that perpetuate racial inequalities.

With a firm hand, we as Reform Jews must protect every single person’s civil rights, ensuring that no individual is excluded from the benefits of society or suffers under discriminatory laws and actions solely because of race or ethnicity.

We must also consider the ways in which we are ourselves complicit in perpetuating racial injustice and work to build communities and congregations that reflect our commitment to equality.


To respond to the child who is too overwhelmed to ask a question, you can start at the beginning, telling the child that we are not required to complete the work of racial justice, but neither are we free to desist from it. 

There are many ways that we can play a positive role in the campaign for racial justice. We can help make racial justice a priority in our own synagogues by learning about and and by learning together about structural racism. We can build relationships that enable us to understand Jewish diversity, in all its ways, as an essential and vital ingredient to our communities. And we can initiate or participate in community, state and national efforts to advocate for civil rights laws.

In all of these ways, we honor the legacy of so many of our Jewish forebears, who in previous generations participated in acts of civil disobedience, marched arm-in-arm in support of equal rights, and traveled to register voters – while at the same time ensuring that future generations are granted an America in which our vision of racial justice is truly realized.

Visit the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism’s racial justice issue page to learn more about and become a part of our racial justice work.

-- Exodus Story
Source :

Maggid, which, like Haggadah, originates from the Hebrew root word fortell, has been designated as the official storytelling part of the Seder. We share the story of the Israelites’ escape from bondage after 400 years of oppression in Egypt each year to remind us that though we may be free at present, there are others who are not. By participating in a Seder we become deeply aware of the injustice of slavery, and so it is our responsibility to stay informed and educated and to loudly prevent continued human rights violations and slavery in our times. Unfortunately, some 2,000 years after the time of Moses, slavery has not been eradicated in the world. The trafficking of women and children within domestic, agricultural and sex industries is an enduring reality. Anti-Slavery International estimates that there are currently 20 million people being held as slaves throughout the world. Even this number is largely conjecture, since the voices of the oppressed are not easily heard. What is even more shocking is how prevalent this practice continues to be. The most common form of modern slavery is debt bondage, in which a person is made to give their body as a condition of their loan repayment. Frequently, in order to afford the journey to “freedom,” these people pay with their life savings and go into debt to individuals who make promises they have no intention of keeping. Instead of opportunity, what the immigrants find when they arrive is bondage. This is probably the least-known form of slavery, and yet it is the most widely used. These modern-day slaves live in all 50 states, working as farm hands, domestic servants, sweatshop and factory laborers, gardeners, restaurant and construction workers and prostitutes. Upwards of 50,000 women and children are forced into sexual exploitation every year. But there is hope. Several organizations are committed to eradicating slavery by finding long-term solutions and creating systemic change, including advocating for stronger federal and state laws against human trafficking. “…we are living in the midst of a tragic paradox: no longer is there an underground network to guide slaves to freedom, but rather, there is an underground criminal network to entrap people and sell them into slavery. Until we unite to confront this grave violation of human rights, it will continue to plague the world and feed off vulnerable men, women and children.” — The Freedom Center As we retell the story of the Israelites’ oppression so many generations ago, we must remain committed to helping those who are still enslaved today, and speak out for the freedom of all whenever it is compromised.

-- Exodus Story
Source : Religious Action Center

In every generation, each of us should feel as though we ourselves had gone forth from Egypt.

In every generation, each of us should feel as though we ourselves had been freed from bondage.

In every generation, each of us should feel as though we ourselves fought for humane conditions in the workplace.

God may have freed us from bondage in Egypt with an outstretched arm, but redemption from injustice in the workplace, be it a non-living wage, oppression of undocumented workers, pay discrimination, substandard working conditions or wage theft, is within our own capacity. On this Pesach, let us remember the importance of labor unions and collective bargaining in our own history, and let us rededicate ourselves to fight for workers’ rights in our own generation.

The Egyptians ruthlessly imposed upon the Israelites the various labors that they made them perform. Ruthlessly they made life bitter for them with harsh labor at mortar and bricks and with all sorts of tasks in the field. ~ Exodus 1:13-14

I have never declared a strike in all my life. I have done my share to prevent strikes, but there comes a time when not to strike is but to rivet the chains of slavery upon our wrists. Yes, Mr. Shirtwaist Manufacturer, it may be inconvenient for you if your boys and girls go out on strike, but there are things of more importance than your convenience and your profit. There are the lives of the boys and girls working in your business. ~ Samuel Gompers, AFL President (demanding better working conditions at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory one year before the 1911 fire there claimed the lives of 146 workers, mostly Jewish immigrant women)


Solidarity Forever sung to the tune of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic

When the union's inspiration through the workers' blood shall 

There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun

Yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one

But the union makes us strong

[Chorus] Solidarity forever, Solidarity forever, Solidarity forever, for the union makes us strong!

It is we who plowed the prairies, built the cities where they trade

Dug the mines and built the workshops, endless miles of railroad laid

Now we stand outcast and starving 'mid the wonders we have made

But the union makes us strong


They have taken untold millions that they never toiled to earn

But without our brain and muscle, not a single wheel can turn

We can break their haughty power, gain our freedom when we learn

That the union makes us strong


-- Exodus Story
Source : JSNAP Passover Haggadah Insert

Use this piece in tandem with the telling of the Exodus story. Think about the connection between the Jewish story of Exodus from Egypt to more contemporary examples of persecution and forced migration. How did the formation of the territory now known as the United States depend upon the forced migration of people already residing on the land?

The Hebrews’ Exodus from Egypt is a climactic moment in the Passover story. After suffering for generations as slaves in Egypt, the Hebrews cross the Sea of Reeds and head into the desert with only matzah, the bread of affliction. Led by Miriam and Moses, the community seeks its freedom from slavery, oppression, and violence by wandering in the desert for forty years. Though this is a long struggle, the Hebrews’ persistence leads them to the Promised Land.

More contemporary examples demonstrate that forced migrations are not a thing of the past. In 1863 and ’64, the United States government forcibly removed the Navajo Nation from its ancestral homeland in Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado. Prior to this forced move, the US Army went to war with the Navajo and Apache tribes, destroying much of their community. The US Army, led by Kit Carson, then forced 8,500 Navajo people to march 400 miles to their internment in Bosque Redondo, a forty square-mile area. This is now known as the Navajo Long Walk.

Over 200 people died after walking through the harsh winter for two months. Many more perished after arriving in the barren Bosque Redondo reservation, where disease, crop failure, and poor irrigation made survival almost impossible. The Navajos also had their own “bread of affliction.” They were given meager rations of only flour and coffee beans, but because the coffee beans were unfamiliar to this community, they tried to boil them and starved.

After the Navajo were recognized as a sovereign nation under the Treaty of 1868, they returned to their homeland on the Arizona- New Mexico border (one of very few tribes who were allowed to do so). Though their lands were greatly reduced by the US Army and government, the Navajo worked hard to take care of their livestock and rebuild their community.

Can you draw parallels between the Jewish Exodus from Egypt and the Navajo Long Walk? What are the key similarities and differences between these histories? What do you know about the long-term effects of forced migration and persecution on contemporary American Indian communities?

As we observe Passover to commemorate the hardships of our ancestors, how can we act in solidarity with American Indian communities’ histories of persecution, forced migration, and genocide? 

-- Exodus Story
Source : Abraham Joshua Heschel Quote, Design by
Heschel on Selma

-- Exodus Story
Source : HIAS Seder Supplement
Stand With Refugees This Passover

To use at the beginning of the Maggid, the telling of the Passover story.

The heart of the Passover Seder is the Maggid, meaning storytelling. Maggid comes from the same root as Haggadah, which means telling. The Maggid tells the story of the Jewish people’s exodus from slavery in Egypt. During the Maggid, we say the words, “ (Arami oved avi). ” This phrase is sometimes translated as “My father was a wandering Aramean” and other times as “An Aramean sought to destroy my father.” Somewhere between the two translations lies the essence of the Jewish experience: a rootless people who have fled persecution time and time again.

At this point in the Seder walk with your guests to your front door and place a pair of shoes on your doorstep and read together:

“As we recite the words ‘Arami oved avi,’ we acknowledge that we have stood in the shoes of the refugee. Today, as we celebrate our freedom, we commit ourselves to continuing to stand with contemporary refugees. In honor of this commitment, we place a pair of shoes on our doorstep of this home to acknowledge that none of us is free until all of us are free and to pledge to stand in support of welcoming those who do not yet have a place to call home.”

Invite family and friends to join you by placing a pair of shoes on their doorstep as well. Encourage them this Passover to support welcoming the world’s refugees and stand up against the xenophobia and hatred being levied against these most vulnerable people. You might also direct them to the HIAS website for ways they can amplify their support.

from the HIAS Seder Supplement

-- Exodus Story
Source :
Ruby Bridges

Born on September 8, 1954, in Tylertown, Mississippi, Ruby Bridges was 6 when she became the first African-American child to integrate a white Southern elementary school, having to be escorted to class by her mother and U.S. marshals due to violent mobs. Bridges' bravery paved the way for continued Civil Rights action and she's shared her story with future generations in educational forums.
-- Exodus Story
Source : @eileenmachine
Justice For All

-- Ten Plagues
Source : JWA / Jewish Boston - The Wandering Is Over Haggadah; Including Women's Voices

The traditional Haggadah lists ten plagues that afflicted the Egyptians. We live in a very different world, but Passover is a good time to remember that, even after our liberation from slavery in Egypt, there are still many challenges for us to meet. Here are ten “modern plagues”:

Inequity - Access to affordable housing, quality healthcare, nutritious food, good schools, and higher education is far from equal. The disparity between rich and poor is growing, and opportunities for upward mobility are limited.

Entitlement - Too many people consider themselves entitled to material comfort, economic security, and other privileges of middle-class life without hard work.

Fear - Fear of “the other” produces and reinforces xenophobia, anti-immigrant sentiment, antisemitism, homophobia, and transphobia.

Greed - Profits are a higher priority than the safety of workers or the health of the environment. The top one percent of the American population controls 42% of the country’s financial wealth, while corporations send jobs off-shore and American workers’ right to organize and bargain collectively is threatened.

Distraction - In this age of constant connectedness, we are easily distracted by an unending barrage of information, much of it meaningless, with no way to discern what is important.

Distortion of reality - The media constructs and society accepts unrealistic expectations, leading to eating disorders and an unhealthy obsession with appearance for both men and women.

Unawareness - It is easy to be unaware of the consequences our consumer choices have for the environment and for workers at home and abroad. Do we know where or how our clothes are made? Where or how our food is produced? The working conditions? The impact on the environment?

Discrimination - While we celebrate our liberation from bondage in Egypt, too many people still suffer from discrimination. For example, blacks in the United States are imprisoned at more than five times the rate of whites, and Hispanics are locked up at nearly double the white rate. Women earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man. At 61 cents to the dollar, the disparity is even more shocking in Jewish communal organization.

Silence - Every year, 4.8 million cases of domestic violence against American women are reported. We do not talk about things that are disturbing, such as rape, sex trafficking, child abuse, domestic violence, and elder abuse, even though they happen every day in our own communities.

Feeling overwhelmed and disempowered - When faced with these modern “plagues,” how often do we doubt or question our own ability to make a difference? How often do we feel paralyzed because we do not know what to do to bring about change?

-- Ten Plagues
Source :
“Gentrification: “It’s not about race...” by Lindsay Foster Thomas, posted on the York and Fig blog on January 6, 2015.

There’s no doubt about it. I am a gentrifier. So, why don’t I feel like one? Maybe no one really does, but if I may be honest, I think it’s because I’m African-American. Does that mean I get some kind of free pass to gentrify without it weighing on my conscience? Not even a little bit. I think about it a lot. I experience guilt over paying exorbitant rent prices that I complain about, but can afford with an awareness that my presence and ability to live in the country’s “hottest” neighborhoods means someone else can’t.

But here’s what race has to do with it. First of all, when middle and upper middle class people seek out more affordable housing options, the most budget-friendly places to turn to are communities that have been historically ignored by developers, retailers, elected officials, etc. The populations of these neighborhoods are often black and brown people who aren’t necessarily poor or even struggling. In fact, if houses and buildings have been well-maintained, that’s an attractive foundation to envision a community that feels like home to many more kinds of people. This is why many folks who decry gentrification define it as a process in which “rich white people” come in and take over everything. Property is cheaper in predominately African-American and Latino neighborhoods and so these areas are frequently ripe for development, investment and economic change — all courtesy of wealthier people taking an interest. When I move into such communities, I am perhaps in many ways not like the “old timers” there, but I look a lot more like them than white people and there’s a good chance I share some cultural connections with the neighbors that don’t feel forced.

The second point I’d like to make is inspired by a conversation I had with Georgetown journalism lecturer and author Natalie Hopkinson. Hopkinson, a longtime D.C. resident, is African-American, a wife, a mother and a scholar who has witnessed many changes to communities within the urban landscape of our nation’s capitol. She has a career and the financial means to live in almost any neighborhood she’d like. But, “I don’t have that white privilege,” she says, recognizing the main difference between herself and some of the newcomers to the community where she lives. “They can come onto the same block and just through the sheer fact of their whiteness, they can raise the value.”

Hopkinson continues, “Right off the bat, your calls are going to get answered. People are going to respond to you more. People will value the place more. People will invest more.” She’s quick to point out that she’s not “anti-gentrification” –Hopkinson and her family enjoy the restaurants, green spaces, school improvement and other benefits that have materialized along with neighborhood change. But, she confesses that it’s hard to feel good about it all the time.

“It’s hurtful when you realize that if millions of people who looked like me moved in, there wouldn’t be the same sort of response. There wouldn’t be the same outcome,” says Hopkinson. “I don’t have as much power or agency as people who are white. That’s not white people’s fault. That’s just sort of the way that it works and that drives some of the tensions that are around gentrification.” She adds that often, wealthy, white gentrifiers “have a personal stake in having black people gone because race is so closely tied to socioeconomic status so it’s impossible to separate those two.”

So, whose investment matters more? The people and families who have created strong communities in spite of disinvestment or the new members of the neighborhood who are able to drop a million dollars for a renovated row house? There’s no easy answer. But, I agree with Hopkinson about the role race plays in gentrifying neighborhoods.

When we began this project in Highland Park, the Wealth & Poverty team encountered many people eager to discuss their ideas about gentrification — even if shy about using “the G-word,” or admittedly confused about its meaning. Several local residents (all white, I have to point out) have declared confidently to me that what is happening here is “not about race.” A high school teacher in the area pointed out that not just white people are coming to majority-Latino Highland Park. Young Latinos are also part of the change something known as “gente-fication.” One woman said “White, black or brown doesn’t matter —gentrification only sees one color and that’s green.“

They’re not entirely wrong. The many drivers of gentrification are complex and they are what our team came to Highland Park to uncover. While we work to better understand these drivers, I think it’s important to acknowledge that race is a major factor in how gentrification plays out in America’s cities. I wouldn’t shy away from saying so while working on this project. At the same time, I continue to consider how my own money influences change in the neighborhoods I move to. So, before quickly dismissing race as a part of the larger conversation, listen to, learn from and think about who occupied the spaces you call home before you and who new businesses appear to be catering to in rapidly changing neighborhoods. That’s how I’ve been operating as a gentrifier all these years.

Guiding Questions:

● Lindsay Foster Thomas makes the case that “race is a major factor in how gentrification plays out in America’s cities.” Which aspects of her perspective resonate with you? Which don’t?

● Some neighborhoods undergoing gentrification have significant white populations, with parts of Kensington and Port Richmond in Philadelphia being one example. How does this affect what Thomas presents?

● How did her perspective change or nuance your thoughts on gentrification?

● In what ways have you experienced race as a factor of gentrification? Or does this perspective contradict your experiences?

-- Ten Plagues
1) 64% felt unsafe at school due to sexual orientation

2) 44% felt unsafe at school due to gender identification

3) 42% of LGBT youth have experienced cyber bullying

4) 42% of LBGT youth say the community in which they live in is not accepting of LGBT people

5) Only 77% of LGBT youth say they know things will get better

6) 60% LGBT students report feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation

7) LGBT youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide as their straight peers

8) LGBT students are twice as likely to say that they were not planning on completing high school or going on to college

9) LGBT youth who reported higher levels of family rejection during adolescence are three times more likely to use illegal drugs

10) Half of gay males experience a negative parental reaction when they come out and in 26% of those cases the youth was thrown out of the home

-- Ten Plagues
Source : HIAS Seder Supplement
Ten Plagues Facing Refugees in the U.S. and Worldwide

Remembering the ten plagues that God brought upon the Egyptians when Pharaoh refused to free the Israelites, we have the opportunity tonight to recognize that the world is not yet free of adversity and struggle. This is especially true for refugees.

After you pour out a drop of wine for each of the ten plagues that Egypt suffered, we invite you to then pour out drops of wine for ten modern plagues afflicting refugee communities worldwide and in the United States. After you have finished reciting the plagues, choose a few of the expanded descriptions to read aloud.

1. Violence 2. Dangerous journeys 3. Poverty 4. Food insecurity 5. Lack of access to education 6. Xenophobia 7. Anti-refugee legislation 8. Language barriers 9. Workforce discrimination 10. Loss of family


Most refugees initially flee home because of violence that may include sexual and gender-based violence, abduction, or torture. The violence grows as the conflicts escalate. Unfortunately, many refugees become victims once again in their countries of first asylum. A 2013 study found that close to 80% of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) living in Kampala, Uganda had experienced sexual and gender-based violence either in the DRC or in Uganda.

Dangerous Journeys

Forced to flee their home due to violence and persecution, refugees may make the dangerous journey to safety on foot, by boat, in the back of crowded vans, or riding on the top of train cars. Over the last two years, the United States has seen record numbers of unaccompanied minors fleeing violence in Central America. Many of these children have survived unimaginably arduous journeys, surviving abduction, abuse, and rape. Erminia, age 15, came to the United States from El Salvador two years ago. As she walked through the Texas desert, her shoes fell apart and she spent three days and two nights walking in only her socks. “There were so many thorns,” she recalls, “and I had to walk without shoes. The entire desert.”

Lack of access to education

Though the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees affirms that the right to education applies to refugees, a recent education assessment found that 80% of Syrian refugee children in Lebanon were not in school.4 Research shows that refugee children face far greater language barriers and experience more discrimination in school settings than the rest of the population. Muna, 17, a Syrian refugee living in Jordan, who dropped out of school, said, “We can’t get educated at the cost of our self-respect.”

Loss of Family

It is not uncommon for refugees to lose multiple immediate family members in the violent conflicts that cause them to flee home. These losses, as well as the fact that they may become separated from their family members during flight, can have major consequences on the family structure. Paola7, a refugee living in Jaque, Panama8 explains, “Fifteen years ago, paramilitaries invaded my community in Jurado, Colombia. The group began to massacre the locals, forcing many of us to flee our lifelong homes. I escaped across the border to Panama. Before the massacre, I had five children. Two of them died in the violence, and I don’t know anything about the remaining three, who all left the community many years ago. I am now 62 years old. I have two young grandchildren for whom I am the sole caretaker and provider.”


Just as a 1939 poll from the American Institute of Public Opinion found that more than 60% of Americans opposed bringing Jewish refugees to the United States in the wake of World War II, today we still see heightened xenophobia against refugees. This fear can manifest through workplace discrimination, bias attacks against Muslim refugees, and anti-refugee legislation. In recent months, there has been a frightening surge in anti-refugee sentiment here in the United States, a trend we expect will grow in the months to come.

from the HIAS Seder Supplement

-- Cup #2 & Dayenu
Source : Martin Niemoller

Martin Niemoller

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.

-- Cup #2 & Dayenu
Source :

As we gather around the seder table, we recount our journey from  slavery to freedom. we recognize that our people’s liberation  was not achieved in the single moment of the exodus, but that it  happened gradually over 40 years in the desert.

As we sing Dayenu, we recall our redemption from egypt, the  splitting of the sea, the care with which God sustained us in the  wilderness, and ultimately, the giving of the Torah and our arrival in the land of Israel.

Although we express gratitude for each moment—it would have been enough (dayenu) --we know that, in fact, all were necessary. Had the journey ended with the leaving of Egypt,  we would not be free people today.

-- Cup #2 & Dayenu
Source : Joshua Ratner, Rabbis Without Borders

by Joshua Ratner, Rabbis Without Borders

One of my favorite parts of the Passover seder is the singing that takes place after we finish eating. There are so many great, fun songs, from “Ehad Mi Yodeah” to "Chad Gadya."Perhaps my favorite song is “Dayenu.” The words are fairly easy to sing in Hebrew, and the chorus is so catchy that even those who don’t know Hebrew can easily join in. But beyond its functionality, the content of Dayenu (literally “it would have been enough”) also carries a deep amount of wisdom.

Dayenu consists of 15 stanzas referencing different historical contexts the Israelites experienced, from slavery in Egypt to the building of the Temple in Israel. After each stanza, we sing the chorus, signifying that if this was the total of God’s miraculous intervention into the lives of the Israelites, it would have been sufficient.

One of the primary purposes of the Passover seder is to make us feel as if we personally experienced the exodus from Egypt and the redemption from slavery to freedom. This is no less true for the way we understand the Dayenu song. Dayenu provides a powerful contemporary hashkafah (outlook on life), a call to mindfulness about the way we currently lead our lives. We live in an era when capitalism is our state (and increasingly global) religion. Consumption is unfettered by any internal sense of restraint, from the amount of soda we can drink to how much money Wall Street executives can make. We live in a world where it is okay that the richest 85 people in the world have total wealth equal to that of the poorest 3.5 billion people on the planet!

Dayenu reminds us that there is another way. Judaism offers an outlook on wealth, consumption, and sufficiency (sova) that is very counter-cultural. InPirkei Avot(Ethics of our Fathers) 4:1, Ben Zoma teaches: “Who is rich? The one who is content with what one has.” Even more austere, the Talmud instructs: “An individual who can eat barley bread but eats wheat bread is guilty of transgressing the law of bal tashchit (unlawful waste). Rabbi Papa states: one who can drink beer but drinks wine instead is guilty of transgressing the law of bal tashchit.” (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 140b). Judaism is not, to be sure, an ascetic religion. We are encouraged to carve out occasions for excess, for enjoying the finer parts of living—on Shabbat, holidays, and other joyous occasions. But the wisdom of Judaism is that, if we want to experience delight on these special occasions, we also need moments of restraint. It is the juxtaposition of restraint and largess that creates a life of meaning.

Beyond the individual experience, we also are becoming increasingly aware of the global consequences of championing unbridled materialism over a sense of sufficiency. From income inequality to climate change, our refusal to entertain limits on what we do and how much we consume are wreaking destructive consequences. By returning to a sense of Dayenu, of thinking deeply about what is enough, we have the potential to change ourselves and our world. May we be blessed, on this Pesah and beyond, to replace the idolatry of consumption with an embrace of all that we have.

Hag Sameach!

-- Cup #2 & Dayenu
Source : JSNAP Passover Haggadah Insert

In the Passover story, Miriam the prophetess is a true community organizer, leading her people across the Red Sea in song and dance and helping them to feel the power of liberation! Miriam knows that their power lies in the full diversity of the community. Everyone, man or woman, can be a great leader. Another story is told about Miriam and her brother Aaron challenge Moses’ prophetic authority asking: “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” (Numbers, 12:2). Like women throughout history, Miriam bears the brunt of the penalty for her and Aaron’s actions. While Aaron is left unpunished, Miriam suffers leprosy and is sent to live outside of the camp for a week. Though G-d and Moses instruct the community to continue in the wilderness, they refuse and insist on waiting until Miriam returns. This story illustrates the power of fierce women in our communities, demonstrating that gender diversity is critical on our long path to liberation.

The example Miriam sets is reflected in the work that women organizers are doing all over the country, including those in Native American communities. Winona LaDuke is a fiery Anishanaabe Native rights and environmental activist who founded the White Earth Land Recovery Project in Minnesota and the international Indigenous Women’s Network. Winona's calls for action against destruction of sacred land have made tremendous impacts on both indigenous people and the world at large. She speaks to women’s experience and, like Miriam, maintains a feminist perspective in her work. She writes:

“We, collectively, find that we are often in the role of the prey, to a predator of society, whether for sexual discrimination, exploitation, sterilization, absence of control over our bodies, or being the subjects of repressive laws and legislation in which we have no voice. This occurs on an individual level, but equally, and more significantly on a societal level. It is also critical to point out at this time, that most matrilineal societies, societies in which governance and decision making are largely controlled by women, have been obliterated from the face of the Earth by colonialism, and subsequently industrialism. The only matrilineal societies which exist in the world are those of Indigenous nations. We are the remaining matrilineal societies, yet we also face obliteration.”

Like Miriam, Winona and the organizations she helped to form provide spaces for indigenous women to develop political consciousness and a powerful national voice. During Passover, we can all be moved by Miriam and Winona’s work and strive to be concious of creating inclusive communities as we cross from slavery to freedom. 

Source : The Other Side of the Sea: T'ruah's Haggadah on Fighting Modern Slavery
Our hands were touched by this water earlier during tonight's seder, but this time is different. This is a deeper step than that. This act of washing our hands is accompanied by a blessing, for in this moment we feel our People's story more viscerally, having just retold it during Maggid. Now, having re-experienced the majesty of the Jewish journey from degradation to dignity, we raise our hands in holiness, remembering once again that our liberation is bound up in everyone else's. Each step we take together with others towards liberation is blessing, and so we recite: 

                                                         --Rabbi Menachem Creditor, Congregation Netivot Shalom, Berkeley, CA

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha’olam, asher kidshanu bemitvotav vetzivanu al netilat yadayim.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱלֹֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶך הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל נְטִילַת יָדָיִּם.

Blessed are You ETERNAL our God, Master of time and space, who has sanctified us with commandments and instructed us regarding lifting up our hands.

Source : Martin Luther King, Jr.

We still have a long, long way to go before we reach the promised land of freedom. Yes, we have left the dusty soils of Egypt, and we have crossed a Red Sea that had for years been hardened by long and piercing winter of massive resistance, but before we reach the majestic shored of the promised land, there will still be gigantic mountains of opposition ahead and prodigious hilltops of injustice.

Let us be dissatisfied until the tragic walls that separate the outer city of wealth and the comfort from the inner city of poverty and despair shall be crushed by the battering rams of the forces of justice.

Let us be dissatisfied until those who live on the outskirts of hope are brought into the metropolis of daily security.

Let us be dissatisfied until slums are cast into the junk heaps of history, and every family will live in a decent sanitary home.

Let us be dissatisfied until the dark yesterdays of segregated schools will be transformed into bright tomorrows of quality integrated education.

Let us be dissatisfied until integration is not seen as a problem but as an opportunity to participate in the beauty of diversity.

Let us be dissatisfied until men and women...will be judged on the basis of the content of their character, not on the basis of the color of their skin.

Let us be dissatisfied until from every city hall, justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

Let us be dissatisfied until the day when nobody will shout, "White Power!" when nobody will shout, "Black Power!" but everybody will talk about God's power and human power.

Source :

Tonight, we perform a number of rituals to try to arouse compassion within ourselves. We eat bitter herbs to give us a physical way to connect with the suffering of those who are not free. In the Bible, the reasoning behind the commandment to retell the story of the Exodus is explained as follows: “you know the soul of the outsider, because you were outsiders in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9). Once a year, on Passover, we share the story so that we do not forget those in our society who, for any number of reasons, may be considered outsiders. The Seder reminds us that we were the undocumented immigrants in Egypt who put in long hours of hard labor doing the Egyptians’ dirty work; we were the unskilled workers, with no rights, working in subhuman conditions for wages that did not cover the basic necessities of life. Because we know this suffering first hand, we cannot sit back and watch while others struggle. We are grateful for the sumptuous fare we share tonight, but let’s also take a moment to consider those who have labored on the farm or in the factory to provide us with our festive table this evening. The entrepreneurs, farm owners, workers, janitors, truck drivers, loading dock workers and clerks all deserve to make a living wage. Many of us are aware of the human rights abuses that are often connected with the production of cotton, coffee, cocoa, steel, rugs, diamonds and cell phones in other countries, but it does not stop there. Let’s resolve to be more ethical in our purchasing decisions, and consider the companies and circumstances of the people involved in the supply chain, whether we buy products produced locally, through fair trade or from companies who have demonstrated fair and equitable treatment of their employees. The Seder reminds us that we must speak out if we encounter discrimination and abuses in our own workplaces, whether they are based on race, gender, religion, age, national origin, ancestry or disability. A highly respected twentieth century rabbi, Rav Soloveitchik, said this of the Seder: “without manifesting and demonstrating the sense of solidarity, responsibility, unity, and readiness to share and participate, the whole Seder becomes meaningless.” (Genack 2009, p. 27) As former slaves, we must advocate for the dignity and just treatment of all beings, especially of those who do not have the power or ability to speak for themselves. Poverty, prejudice, inequality and silence are what make slavery possible.

Source :

By: Rabbi David Jaffe

In Talmud Bavli Pesachim 115b, Rava teaches, "[One who] swallows the matzah [without chewing] has fulfilled the obligation [of eating matzah]. [However, one who] swallows the maror [without chewing] does not fulfill the obligation [of eating maror]." Rashbam explains that even though ideally one should taste the matzah, after the fact, even swallowing without tasting is a form of eating and thus one has fulfilled the mitzvah. Maror is different. Actually tasting the maror, and not just eating it, is the essence of the mitzvah because the maror should remind us of how our lives were embittered by the oppression of the mitzrim. (See also Shulchan Aruch, Orech Chayyim 475:3; Mishnah Berurah 475: 29, 30.)

We need to slowly chew our horseradish or romaine lettuce, letting the burning juices sink into our tongues and open our sinuses!  We live in a fast food culture. Except on Shabbat, our meals are often rushed; an efficient meal is something we can finish in under five minutes or eat while doing something else. The ba'alei mussar teach that the yetzer harah's main strategy is to keep us busy, moving so fast that we absorb neither our own reality nor the reality of the world around us.

There is so much suffering in the world, both our own and others', such as the migrant workers who harvest our food, exposing themselves to dangerous pesticides while being paid less than a living wage. They contract illnesses and do not have the health insurance needed to heal. Subsistence farmers in Central and South America are forced by economic need to produce only one type of crop and no longer have the ability to feed their own families. Or, closer to home, a relative may be silently suffering health problems, family strife, or economic vulnerability. This halachah is teaching us that suffering is something to be absorbed and felt if it is to have a cathartic and motivating impact. Our business urges us not to look, not to dwell, not to really feel. However, it is that bitter taste of suffering that makes it impossible for us to accept things the way they are. We must act, we must reach out, we must make change!  

Source : Earth Justice Seder

The bitter herbs serve to remind us of how the Egyptians embittered the lives of the Israelites in servitude. When we eat the bitter herbs, we share in that bitterness of oppression. We must remember that slavery still exists all across the globe. When you go to the grocery store, where does your food come from? Who picked the sugar cane for your cookie, or the coffee bean for your morning coffee? We are reminded that people still face the bitterness of oppression, in many forms. 

Together, we recite: 

ָבּרוּךְ ַאָתה יי ֱאלֹ ֵהינוּ ֶמֶלךְ ָהעוָֹלם, ֲא ֶשר ִקְד ָשנוּ ְבּ ִמ ְצווָֹתיו, ְו ִצָוּנוּ ַעל ֲאִכיַלת ָמרוֹר

Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al achilat maror. 

Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Sovereign of the universe, who has sanctified us with
Your commandments and ordained that we should eat bitter herbs. 

{ GREENING TIP }  Start a garden in your community and use the produce for synagogue gatherings or donate it to your local food pantry or soup kitchen. 

For more information on the environmental justice, please visit .  For all Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism resources, please visit .

Shulchan Oreich
Source :


Supporting Those Working to End Modern-Day Slavery

PART 1 Please read this towards the beginning of the seder.

The seder begins: “Let all who are in need, come and share in the Passover meal.” In this year of struggle for workers’ rights, we want to symbolically welcome members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a human rights organization made up of Florida farmworkers, primarily tomato harvesters, to share in our seder. Before we begin to tell our story of the journey to freedom, we take a moment to hear a voice from this current fight for freedom, symbolizing their presence by placing a tomato on the seder plate. Until we know that the food that we eat isn’t tainted by forced labor and exploitation, none of us is truly free. 

“When you’re there, [enslaved,] you feel like the world is ending. You feel absolutely horrible... Once you’re back here on the outside, it’s hard to explain. Everything’s different now. It was like coming out of the darkness into the light. Just imagine if you were reborn. That’s what it’s like.” — Adan Garcia Orozco, farmworker

PART 2 This can be read during the Rabban Gamliel section of the seder, when you hold up and explain each  of the traditional items on the seder plate.

Why is there a tomato on the seder plate? This tomato brings our attention to the oppression and liberation of farmworkers who harvest fruits and vegetables here in the United States. And it reminds of us of our power to help create justice.

A tomato purchased in the United States between November and May was most likely picked by a worker in Florida. On this night when we remember the Jewish journey from slavery to freedom, we remember numerous cases of modern slavery that have been found in the Florida tomato industry. The tomato on our seder plate might have been picked by someone who has been enslaved.

Slavery is just the extreme end of a continuum of abuse; perhaps this tomato was picked by someone facing other abusive working conditions, such as wage theft, violence, sexual harassment, exposure to dangerous pesticides, or poverty level wages—just fifty cents for every 32-lb bucket of tomatoes picked and hauled—that have not changed for more than 30 years.

But a transformation is underway. Since 1993, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a farmworker organization, has been organizing for justice in the fields. Together with student groups, secular human rights organizations, and religious groups like T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, they have convinced 11 major corporations, such as McDonald’s and Trader Joe’s, to join the Fair Food Program, a historic partnership between workers, growers and corporations. Not only does the Fair Food program raise the wages of tomato workers, it also requires companies to source tomatoes from growers that agree to a code of conduct in the fields which includes a zero tolerance policy for forced labor and sexual harassment. Since 2011, when more than 90% of Florida’s tomato growers began to implement the agreement, over $8 million has been distributed from participating retailers to workers. 

But the resistance of holdout retailers, such as major supermarkets and Wendy’s, threatens to undermine these fragile gains, as they provide a market to farms to continue abusive practices. 


This can be read at any point towards the end of the Seder, after the meal.

This Pesach, while commemorating our own freedom from bondage, we remind ourselves of our responsibility to end slavery as it exists today and our power to create justice when we join together. We commit ourselves to standing with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, so that next Passover, the tomato on our seder plate might represent workers who have a liberation story to tell of their own.

Ways to take action:

• Learn more about the Campaign for Fair Food through online educational materials.

• Speak up at your local Wendy’s, Stop & Shop, Giant, Publix or Kroger’s! You can download a letter to give to your store manager or send a letter to the corporation who owns your neighborhood store.

• Organize an action! Work with the CIW to plan a demonstration calling on your grocery store or Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Program and commit to buying from farms that comply with the Fair Food Code of Conduct.

• Educate your community! Use educational materials—articles, fliers, and videos—to bring this campaign to your synagogue or school

For more information and materials for taking action, visit: and 

Source : Pesach: A Season of Justice

To highlight the continuing existence of slaver, spiritual

leaders and families may use the following original prayer, written Rabbi Joel Soffin of Temple Shalom in Succasunna, NJ, while holding up a fourth piece of matzah:

"We raise this fourth matzah to remind ourselves that slavery still exists, that people are still being bought and sold as property, that the Divine image within them is yet being denied. We make room at our Seder table and in our hearts for those in southern Sudan and in Mauritania who are now where we have been.

We have known such treatment in our own history. Like the women and children enslaved in Sudan today, we have suffered while others stood by and pretended not to see, not to know. We have eaten the bitter herb; we have been taken from our families and brutalized. We have experienced the horror of being forcibly converted. In the end, we have come to know in our very being that none can be free until all are free.

And so, we commit and recommit ourselves to work for the freedom of these people. May the taste of this 'bread of affliction' remain in our mouths until they can eat in peace and security. Knowing that all people are Yours, O God, we will urge our government and all governments to do as You once commanded Pharaoh on our behalf: 'Shalach et Ami! Let MY People Go!'"

Source : Pesach: A Season of Justice

This section of the Haggadah focuses on our hopes for the peace and redemption of messianic times, while also reminding us of what we can do l’taken et haolam, to repair the world in our own time. By way of example, North Shore Congregation Israel of Glencoe, IL’s Women’s Seder includes the following passage to be read while opening the door for Elijah. This reading reminds us that there are still injustices based on gender, and that we must continue to fight for equality in the Jewish community, in the workplace, economically and in society between men and women:

Elijah, we are told,

Will precede the Messiah.

He will be a sign to us.

And so we welcome Elijah

At the end of Shabbat,

A taste of the ideal, the messianic.

We pray, we sing.

At the Seder we even open the door.

At a bris we welcome a baby boy into the covenant. There we place a chair for Elijah, reminding us that each child born bears the potential…could make the difference…could be the Messiah.

But some would say that the Messiah will truly come when we welcome our daughters into the covenant with Elijah’s chair present, bringing them into our people, recognizing their potential to make a difference. We open the door. We welcome Elijah, girls and boys, women and men. Together, we realize potential. (Lisa S. Greene)

Source : Pesach: A Season of Justice

This new custom celebrates Miriam’s role in the deliverance from slavery and her help throughout the wandering in the wilderness. An empty cup is placed alongside Elijah’s cup. Each attendee at the Seder then pours a bit of his/her water into the cup, symbolizing Miriam’s life-giving well that followed the wandering Israelites. With this new custom, we recognize that women are equally integral to the continued survival of the Jewish community. With a social action lens, we see the pouring of each person’s water as a symbol of everyone’s individual responsibility to respond to issues of social injustice, and that, together, significant actions can take place.

Source : JSNAP Passover Haggadah Insert

Use this piece before singing Hallel and think about what it means to transition from slavery to freedom.

Exodus and Liberation translate many different ways for different communities, religious groups, and individuals. Chief Tom Dostou of the Wabanaki Nation of Massachusetts offers the following prayer in an excerpt from a larger piece describing his journey across his ancestral homeland of “Turtle Island.”

"We will pray for the American peoples who send their sons and daughters out to foreign lands to be mutilated and or die for the flag which has been prostituted for the oil profits of a few to the expense of many.

We will pray for the children of those brought over here in chains from Africa and the children of Abraham, Issac and Ishmael.

And we will pray for the children of the Pilgrims and Puritans whose ancestors came here to escape religious persecution and economic slavery but who once offered hospitality and safety lost their vision and became the oppressor.

And finally we will pray for the American Indian people who are now exiles in our own homelands. We will pray that the spiritual connection which the indigenous peoples of this land have cherished and maintained despite overwhelming odds and obstacles will continue to be the backbone and staff upon which this land rest." 

Source : Daniel Brenner

I read the haggadah backwards this year

I read the haggadah backwards this year

The sea opens, the ancient Israelites slide back to

Egypt like Michael Jackson doing the moonwalk

Freedom to slavery

That’s the real story

One minute you’re dancing hallelujah with the prophetess

the next you’re knee deep in brown in the basement of some minor pyramid


The angel of death comes back to life

two zuzim are refunded. 

When armies emerge from the sea like a returning scuba expedition

the Pharoah calls out for fresh towels.

The bread has plenty of time to rise.

I read the hagaddah backwards this year,

left a future Jerusalem,

scrubbed off the bloody doorposts,

wandered back to Aram.


- Daniel Brenner

Commentary / Readings
Source : Pesach: A Season of Justice

The Anti-Slavery Seder Centerpiece (Grades 3-6): Religious School teachers can use the story of Passover to teach about modern manifestations of slavery and discuss the need for

awareness. This age-appropriate activity, in addition to others available at the website, will help children teach their parents about this critical issue:

Materials needed for each student:


Glue stick (or other Elmer’s)

A copy of the “templates” page (available at

A copy of the “photos” page (available at

Markers or other decorating supplies

1. Photocopy the “templates” and the “photos” pages so that you have one

copy for each student in the class (plus a few spares).

2. Discuss modern slavery, Passover and the Jewish obligation to stop

slavery (with the aid of the curriculum material at

3. Cut out the templates on the solid lines only, not the dashed lines. Two

templates will result, one rectangular and the other rectangular with tabs.

4. Fold the two templates on all of their dashed lines and make creases. Then

lay flat again.

5. Now it’s time to design how you want your centerpiece to look. You can

use the photos provided as well as words and pictures of your own

creation. To use the photos provided, cut out the pictures that you would

like to use and glue them on the templates, within the lined squares. Be

careful not to use too much glue so that it gets messy – use just enough for

the photos to stick to the template.

6. Write and decorate other parts of your centerpiece as you see fit – perhaps

you can write your own prayer, or boldly draw the phrase “Let My People

Go” or sketch the word “slavery” inside a circle with a line through it.

7. When you are done decorating, refold the tabs on their dashed lines and

glue them lightly. Then fold both templates into their box shapes, fit them

together, and press the tabs into the inside of their connecting sides.

8. Let dry. Take home and place on your Seder table. Pick a point in the

Seder to say the prayer (found on the Template) on your centerpiece (a good spot would be right before the four questions). Ask the adults at the table “Do you think slavery exists today?” See if they know! Tell them million people are enslaved today. Tell them we can do something about it – just visit to find out!

Commentary / Readings
Source : New York Times

The brutality of corrective rape

South Africa has one of the world’s highest rates of sexual assault. According to a 2009 government survey, one in four men admit to having sex with a woman who did not consent to intercourse, and nearly half of these men admitted to raping more than once.  An earlier government study found that a majority of rapes were committed by friends and acquaintances of the victim. Just as disturbing is a practice called “corrective rape” — the rape of gay men and lesbians to “cure” them of their sexual orientation.

We bring you here a drop in the ocean, six stories of lesbian women who have been sexually attacked by men, some of these stories are heartbreaking in the best case, some had the worst ending of all. Please read and share to raise awareness of this horrific act in South Africa, hoping some kind of help will arrive one day soon.

Eudy Simelane – 2008

In one of the few cases to attract press attention, in 2008, Eudy Simelane, a lesbian, was gang-raped and stabbed to death. Her naked body was dumped in a stream in the Kwa Thema township outside Johannesburg. A soccer player training to be a referee for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, she was targeted because of her sexual orientation. A mural was painted after the body of her was found in the same place.


Noxolo Nogwaza’s – 2011

In 2011, Noxolo Nogwaza’s body was found in a drainage ditch in the Kwa Thema township near Johannesburg. She was raped; her body was mutilated; her eyes were pulled from their sockets; her brain was split open; and her teeth were scattered around her body. Ms. Nogwaza had been seen earlier that evening in a bar with a female friend. Her mother sits by her grave in the picture below.


Zukiswa Gaca- 2009

In December 2009, Zukiswa Gaca left a party to buy cigarettes. A man, who knew she was a lesbian, accompanied her. He deceptively led her to a shack where someone was sleeping. “He said he was going to show me I was a woman so he took off his pants and put a blanket over the man sleeping on the bed. He raped me in front of his friend who just lay there under the blanket.”


Lindeka Stulo – 2010

In June 2010, Lindeka Stulo was attacked by a man while walking home. He slammed her head into a nearby wall with a heavy crate. Two weeks later, the same man struck her on the back of the head with a bar. “You are a girl, not a boy,” she remembers hearing. “I am going to beat you until you stop what you are doing with other girls.”


Pearl Mali – 2004

In 2004, Pearl Mali was raped for the first time by an elderly man whom her mother brought home from church. She was 12 years old. The man raped her in her bedroom almost daily until she was 16 years old. “My mother didn’t want me to be gay so she asked him to move in and be my husband. She hoped it would change me.”


Hlengiwe Hlengwa – 2007

In 2007, Hlengiwe Hlengwa was repeatedly raped by her uncle, whom she depended on financially. He told her that by forcing her to have sex with him, he was trying to change her. 


Funeka Soldaat, a founder of Free Gender, a black lesbian activist group in the Khayelitsha township outside Cape Town, described an atmosphere of pervasive fear: “It’s as if you are sitting like a time bomb. You don’t know when it’s going to explode. You are just waiting for it to be your turn. And you won’t get any support from the community, as the community thinks homosexuality is un-African. Homophobia is going to take time to go away, if it ever does.”

Commentary / Readings
Source : T'ruah Passover Supplement

At the heart of a progressive Muslim interpretation is a simple yet radical idea: every human individual, female or male, Muslim or non-Muslim, rich or poor, of the “developed” North or “underdeveloped” South, has exactly the same intrinsic worth. The essential value of human life is God-given, and is in no way connected to culture, race, ethnicity, gender, geography, or privilege. A progressive Muslim is one who is committed to the strangely controversial idea that the true measure of a human being’s worth is a person’s character and not the oil under their soil or their particular flag. A progressive Muslim agenda is concerned with the ramifications of the premise that all members of the human race have this same intrinsic worth because each of us has the breath of God breathed into our being: /wa nafakhtu fihi min ruhi/. (Qur’an 15:29 and 38:72). This identification with the full humanity of all human beings amounts to nothing short of an Islamic Humanism, one that strives for affirming of dignity and sanctity of all human life through—and not outside—a religious context.

A goal of Passover is the simultaneous remembrance of our bondage in Egypt and God’s liberation of the Hebrews. While progressive Muslims honor the spiritual readings of bondage and liberation, they also insist that for billions around the planet, the bondage of Egypt is real in forms of poverty, occupation, exile, and humiliation. All of us deserve to worship a God who is committed to liberating all of God’s children. All of us deserve to enjoy this liberation, by the simple virtue of being human and being made in God’s image. An increasing number of those who advocate such a humanistic framework within the context of Islam have self-identified as progressive Muslims. ‘Progressive’ refers to a relentless striving towards a universal notion of justice in which no single community’s prosperity, righteousness, and dignity comes at the expense of another’s. Adherents of progressive Islam conceive of a way of being Muslim that engages and affirms the humanity of all human beings, that actively holds all of us responsible for a fair and just distribution of our God-given natural resources, and that seeks to live in harmony with the natural world. Safi introduces the idea of a humanistic framework allowing one to embrace the intrinsic worth of every individual. Such a progressive framework is seen as an inherent expression of an authentic Muslim identity. He concretizes the Passover story into the lived experience of the enslaved today. Professor Safi reminds us that for billions around the planet, the bondage of Egypt is real in forms of poverty, occupation, exile and humilliation. How do you remember those around the world who are "still in Egypt" during Passover? How does your religious identity compel you to embrace notions of universality?

Commentary / Readings
Source : Avodah
Passover is a time for us to reflect on our own freedom and an opportunity to connect our lives with the struggles of others. At AVODAH, we support emerging Jewish leaders as they work to address some of the most pressing issues in the fight against poverty. We study the complex (and often overlapping) systemic issues that impact people in our country, and explore how Jewish tradition calls on us to respond. This year, we’ve collected stories and insights from members of the AVODAH network to explore ten modern plagues of domestic poverty. Use this resource as a way to bring discussion to your own Seder table about the reasons so many people in America live in poverty today.

The learning we do at AVODAH asks us to question previously-held assumptions, and to challenge ourselves to explore perspectives with which we may not agree. Going into those uncomfortable spaces is often the core of meaningful learning. I encourage you to embrace those difficult moments, should they arise as you study this supplement. The seder is a time for wrestling with deep questions; let our questions be a part of your process.

With blessings for a Passover of learning, joy, and a renewed effort to build a more just world,

Cheryl Cook Executive Director, AVODAH  

Hunger By Jenny Waxberg and Erin Butler

Background: One of the most common assumptions is that if someone is hungry, that person does not have a job and is living on the streets. What most people don’t realize is that circumstances can change and anyone can experience hunger at some point. It could be the family with two incomes that unexpectedly must get by on one income. It could be the household with mounting medical bills that make it difficult to make ends meet at the end of the month. It could be the senior on a fixed income after a lifetime of hard work. Hunger is a silent but growing epidemic.

People live in food insecure homes if they do not always know where to find the next meal. Many citizens turning to soup kitchens and food pantries are employed but their wages cannot keep up with the cost of living.

Discuss: What does hunger look like to you?

A Kavanah/Intention: May we all answer the Passover call, ‘May all who are hungry come eat’ by educating ourselves about hunger in America and supporting work to alleviate hunger.

Jenny Waxberg and Erin Butler were AVODAH Fellows in 2014 and work at City Harvest in New York.

Lack of Affordable Housing

by Yonah Liberman

Background: The plague of unaffordable housing and rampant homelessness is nothing new. The problems facing the tenants I work with — leaky ceilings, no heat or hot water, patch repairs — are problems that people have faced for centuries. What’s new is the way intentional neglect has reared its ugly head. As a tenant organizer working with people living in multifamily buildings that are in foreclosure, I’ve seen firsthand how landlords get away with it. Private equity firms come together and take out enormous mortgages from banks to buy up millions of dollars worth of property. The “business model” revolves around harassing tenants into leaving their homes so landlords can raise the rents and cut maintenance costs. When people refuse to leave their homes, landlords can’t raise the rents, and they can’t pay back the bank. The bank sells the buildings to the highest bidder, unless tenants get organized and put pressure on it to sell their buildings at a lower price to a responsible investor. That’s the goal I and the tenants I work with strive for everyday.

Discuss: What does the concept of “housing as a human right” mean to you?

A Kavanah/Intention: I intend to fight for the right for all people to housing by holding my elected officials to their promises to build and preserve affordable housing. And if I am living in an urban community, I intend to deepen my understanding of my neighborhood and how I can keep it affordable for my neighbors.

Yonah Lieberman was an AVODAH corps member in 2013-2014 and worked as a tenant organizer at Urban Homesteading Assistance Board in New York.


by Emily Unger

Background: Last week at work, one of my clients called me. He sounded exhausted and unwell. He had suddenly become very sick, he told me. He thought that he needed to go to the hospital. But he was afraid because he couldn’t afford to pay a huge bill. I counseled him that the most he would have to pay for a short hospitalization was the cost of his insurance deductible, but even this amount — over $1,000 — was more than his entire monthly income. He had been putting off medical treatment for days out of fear for the cost.

I eventually persuaded my client to see a doctor, but every day, countless others are faced with a similar choice. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, most Americans who once had no health insurance will now be covered. However, many states still refuse to expand their Medicaid programs, leaving millions of the poorest Americans completely uninsured. Moreover, many barriers — unaffordably high co-pays and deductibles, lack of cultural competency among healthcare providers, inaccessibility of health care facilities to people with disabilities — remain, preventing even those with basic health insurance from receiving needed medical care.

Discuss: Share a time when you had to rely on your medical insurance and consider what would have happened had you not been covered.

A Kavanah/Intention: May our healthcare system provide the best possible healing to all those in need, and enable our providers to be the best possible healers.

Emily Unger was an AVODAH corps member in 2013-2014 and worked as an AmeriCorps Paralegal at the New York Legal Assistance Group

The Threat to Voting Rights byAmelia van Iwaarden

Background: Bend the Arc launched our Voting Rights Campaign to mobilize the Jewish community to support the passage of the Voting Rights Amendment Act (VRAA). This bipartisan bill includes modern protections against discrimination in voting in every part of the country. Last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder scrapped the enforcement mechanisms in the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act, which provided protections against discriminatory voting laws at the state and local levels. Since the Supreme Court’s ruling, we have already seen a flurry of state and local efforts that will make it difficult for communities of color, women, first-time voters, the elderly, and those living in poverty to cast their vote. In my work, I am helping to develop leaders — both organizers in diverse religious communities, and Jewish leaders in social justice organizations — who are addressing systemic issues of racial and economic injustice of which voter suppression is a symptom.

Discuss: There are some who say that there is no need for Jews to be involved in this work, because most American Jews do not belong to the groups experiencing discrimination. Why is it important for Jews to be in this fight as Jews? What role do you think we can play as Jews in protecting voting rights for all Americans?

A Kavanah/Intention: Exodus 22:20 tells us “ You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” This Passover, as we celebrate our freedom, let us recommit to ending oppression wherever we see it.

Amelia van Iwaarden was an AVODAH Fellow in 2014, working at Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice

Debt by ErikaVan Gundy

Background: Debt is a primary force that traps individuals in a cycle of deepening poverty. A number of factors contribute to the strong effect that debt has on poverty, including required payments on interest accrued, late fees, predatory products targeted to the short-on-cash, and the inherent insecurity of one’s financial future. In the finance world, there is a distinction between “good debt” and “bad debt,” one which grows in value and the other which becomes costlier over time, respectively. However, debt (student loan, credit card, medical, or other) is almost universally a stressor for those in its grips and an extra factor in decisions such as where to live, what to eat that day, and how many jobs are needed to pay for the above and more. As a financial counselor for low-income New Yorkers, I see debt in terms of people and control. For my clients, debt is a dozen calls per day from creditors seeking repayment, piles of mail that sit unopened out of fear, and a constant tax on mental, financial, and emotional bandwidth.

Discuss: In taking on debt, there is an expectation and hope that your“future self”will be better off than your current self. Reflect on this for a moment. What does this hope mean, and how does it change the way we think about debt and debtors? How can this hope be channeled otherwise as it relates to financial or other aspects of someone’s life?

A Kavanah/Intention: I intend to speak with people from different parts of my life to better understand their experiences with debt, the situations that led them into debt, and how their subsequent decisions were impacted.

Erika Van Gundy was an AVODAH Fellow in 2014 and works for the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs Office of Financial Empowerment

Education byLaura Taishoff

Background: A significant proportion of positive life outcomes depend on the foundation of a quality education. But what does it really mean? We need students to pursue challenging coursework and succeed academically, but education is also about empowerment and building character. It is no secret that the students with the greatest needs are often in the schools with the fewest resources available to meet them. In New Orleans, a city where an overwhelming majority of schools are either private or charter, access to quality education for the city’s most at-risk population is a cocktail of school closings, staff changes, and school-based arrests. I am a high school special education teacher working with students who are past the typical age range for their schooling. They are overage for a variety of factors, but one of the most prevalent is that other schools pushed them out. Despite the fact that they have consistently been denied access to a quality education, these are the students who are pursuing a diploma when it would undoubtedly be easier not to. We should simultaneously be inspired by them and ashamed that so many of them exist.

Discuss: In your best memories of school, how did you feel? Creative? Boundless? Praised? How would it have felt to be told you were not smart or made to feel as if your school did not want you there?

A Kavanah/Intention: I commit to doing my part to create a world in which every student, no matter what neighborhood the student is from, attends a school where students are challenged academically and empowered to be the future leaders of our world.

Laura Taishoff is a special education teacher at ReNew Accelerated High School in New Orleans. Laura is an alumna of the AVODAH 2009-2010 New Orleans cohort.

The Decline of Labor Rights by Lee M. Leviter

Background: For the past several decades, median earnings have been stagnant while hours worked have steadily increased. Why have we been working harder for less and less? Because decreasing union density has led to the disempowerment of workers in all sectors of the economy. Although workers are best able to improve their working conditions when they can make collective demands of their employer, many seek to vilify and weaken collective employee action. Companies like Walmart continue to fight unionization while paying so little that many of their full-time employees qualify for food stamps. Standing together in a union, these workers could negotiate for higher wages. In New York, we have heard calls for a higher minimum wage from workers in the fast-food industry, where pay can be as little as $8 an hour. It’s nearly impossible to survive in New York City at such a wage. As an attorney, I help represent public sector teachers, nurses, and other civil servants in New York City, where the same political and economic pressures threaten public sector employment as a pathway to the middle class

Discuss: If you are an employee, what aspects of your job would you change if you could join with your co-workers and ask? If you are an employer, how would you respond if an employee – or a group of employees – asked to change a particular aspect of the job?

A Kavanah/Intention: As we celebrate freedom this Passover, let us remember that we empower ourselves to fight oppression by acting together.

Lee Leviter was an AVODAH Fellow in 2014 and works as an attorney representing several major public-sector unions.

Immigration byMerri Nicholson

Background: During my AVODAH year at CASA de Maryland, young people (commonly referred to as DREAMers) led the way in utilizing grassroots organizing to successfully pass the Maryland DREAM Act, which expanded access to higher education to students without documentation. These DREAMers also pushed for comprehensive immigration reform that would provide a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people currently living in the United States. Many of these people are the cornerstone of economies from which we all benefit, such as construction and agriculture. They proudly pay taxes and immigrated for the same reasons our families did, to seek a better life or escape violence. Unlike when our families came to the United States, current restrictions make it impossible for most to obtain legal status. Fixing our immigration system will strengthen our communities by keeping families together and lift many out of poverty with expanded access to opportunities such as higher education and quality jobs.

Discuss: What caused your family to come to America? If it wasn’t recent, would they still have been able to immigrate in today’s political climate?

A Kavanah/Intention: May we see a Jewish community that fully embraces our immigrant roots by working for justice in solidarity with those coming to America seeking a better tomorrow.

Merri Nicholson is a research assistant at Academy Health in Washington, DC. Merri is an alum of the AVODAH 2012-2013 Washington, DC cohort.

Systemic Oppression byEmily Saltzman

Background: Oppression is largely defined as the use of authority or power in a cruel or unjust manner. Institutional oppression refers to the power of large systems or institutions that determine the cultural or professional standards for our society. Often these systems were developed from a framework, intentionally or not, that propels certain communities towards success, while keeping others from it. There is also an inextricable link between systematic oppression and poverty. For example, transgender communities of color are more likely to experience poverty due to transphobia in a labor force layered with racism in the educational system. This does not mean that individual members of this community cannot break the cycle of poverty, but it does mean that due to systematic oppression, they will have to struggle harder to reach success.

As Jews, we often think about oppression as it relates to our community’s historical struggle for religious freedom. This experience with historical oppression gives us a jumping-off point to address issues of systematic oppression with which we may not all have first-hand experience, including racism, classism, homophobia, sexism, ableism, and transphobia. Our ability to tap into our personal experiences with antisemitism in addition to our community’s struggle allows us to build solidarity with these communities and adds to our call for tikkun olam —to repair the world—because it is a world we share.

Discuss: As Jews, how can we use our experience of oppression to build solidarity with and support communities who are currently experiencing oppression? How might we inadvertently contribute to certain oppressive systems?

A Kavanah/Intention: I intend to challenge myself and my family to think more concretely about the ways systematic oppression affects our lives and what we can do individually to question the systems that we work and live in.

Emily Saltzman is a social worker focusing on comprehensive sexuality education in addition to being a Steering Committee Member of the Undoing Racism Internship Project. Emily is an alumna of the AVODAH 2008-2009 New York City cohort.

Intersecting Oppressions by Rabbi Stephanie Ruskay

Background: Hunger, healthcare, education, threats to voting rights, systemic oppression, lack of affordable housing, immigration, debt, labor restrictions. For many, these plagues intersect and overlap for people in poverty, increasing the obstacles that they must face. High health care bills can trigger hunger, inability to pay for adequate housing and long-term debt. An insufficient immigration policy can limit educational opportunities. Threats to voting rights limit the ability of individuals and communities to advocate for policies that could alleviate the challenges they face. Each individual plague has the capacity to devastate, and the combination can paralyze.

There are a variety of perspectives on how to address these plagues. We divide ourselves by political affiliation, sure that our policy and perspective is the best way forward. And yet, year after year, there are poor people to invite into our seders. Year after year, we create a set of contemporary plagues to read at our seders, because the society we’ve constructed is imperfect. We continue to dream of a redeemed and just world, and wonder how to get there.

This Passover, as always, we retell the story of our exodus from slavery to freedom. We remember the Egyptians by spilling a drop of wine for each plague that afflicted them, sacrificing some of the sweetness of the wine to honor the humanity of our enemy. This action reminds us that we were all made in God’s image. It compels us to connect even with those whom we consider our foes.

We live in a polarized society and often find ourselves believing the worst about one another. We have different ideas about how a just society looks and how it requires us each to behave. Our sages teach us that we cannot live without a chevruta, someone who challenges our “facts” and demands that we reconsider our opinions. Though we may disagree about how to get there, we must remember that our ultimate goal is to alleviate the intersecting oppressions that foster a system in which many don’t have the resources to meet their needs or a path through which they can attain them.

Discuss: Can you share a time in which someone (maybe even someone at your seder) inspired you to reconsider and expand your ideas about how to alleviate poverty? What contributed to your ability to think differently (and hopefully even act)?

Having considered this contemporary list of intersecting plagues and oppressions, how might the Jewish community contribute to creating a more just world for all people?

A Kavanah/Intention: May we always assume goodwill as we work to pursue justice and may our assumption of goodwill inspire it in others, so that together we bring about more civil discourse among pursuers of justice.

Rabbi Stephanie Ruskay is AVODAH’s Director of Alumni and Community Engagement


To Download the original PDF, go to:

Commentary / Readings
Source : Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
The world was awakened and shattered by the images of a little boy whose body lay lifeless amidst the gentle surf of a Turkish beach this past summer. Another nameless victim amongst thousands in the Syrian Refugee Crisis, the greatest refugee crisis since WWII. But this little boy, like every little boy ,had a name. His name was Aylan Kurdi (age 3), he drowned along with his older brother, Galip (age 5), and their mother, Rihan, on their own exodus to freedom’s distant shore.

Aylan and Galip’s father, Abdullah, survived the harrowing journey – though how does a parent survive the death of their children? In teaching the world about his sons, he shared that they both loved bananas, a luxury in their native war-torn Syria. Every day after work, Abdullah, like mothers and fathers everywhere, would bring home a banana for his sons to share, a sweet little treat, a sign of his enduring love for them.

Tonight we place a banana on our seder table and tell this story to remind us of Aylan, Galip and children everywhere who are caught up in this modern day exodus. May they be guarded and protected along their journey to safety, shielded by the love of their parents, watched over by God full of mercy and compassion.

Rabbi Dan Moskovitz, Temple Sholom Vancouver, British Columbia

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Debout, les damnés de la terre
Debout, les forçats de la faim
La raison tonne en son cratère,
C'est l'éruption de la faim.
Du passé faisons table rase,
Foule esclave, debout, debout
Le monde va changer de base,
Nous ne sommes rien, soyons tout.

Refrain (répété deux fois)
C'est la lutte finale ;
Groupons nous et demain
Sera le genre humain.

Yiddish Version

Dem Internazionale

Sheit oif ir ale wer nor shklafen
Was hunger leiden mus in noit
Der geist er kocht unruft teu wafen
In shlacht uns firen is er greit
Di welt fun gwaldtaten un leiden
Tzrushteren welen mir, undan
Fun freiheit gleichheit a ganeiden
Bashaien wet der arbetsman!

Dos wet seinshoin der letzter un antsheidener shtreit
Mit dem internazional shteit oif ir arbetsleit!

English Version:

Stand up, damned of the Earth
Stand up, prisoners of starvation
Reason thunders in its volcano
This is the eruption of the end.
Of the past let us make a clean slate
Enslaved masses, stand up, stand up.
The world is about to change its foundation
We are nothing, let us be all.

This is the final struggle
Let us group together, and tomorrow
The Internationale
Will be the human race.