03 April 2015
You can find clothes online for just about any occasion these days. This was confirmed for me when I came across this the other day: “We were slaves to Pharoah in the land of Egypt and all I got was this lousy T-shirt?”
Indeed, we were slaves in the land of Egypt, fled under the leadership of Moses, stood together at Mount Sinai, became a nation, wandered for 40 years, found a home, lost a home, rebuilt a home, lost a home, endured thousands of years of persecution and expulsion and finally re-established the State of Israel a mere 67 years ago. For the first time in thousands of years, Jews are free to travel and live anywhere we want. We are the most secure we’ve been in our history and the most prosperous. Yeah, we got more than a T-shirt.
On the other side of the coin, there are significant challenges: the specter of a nuclear-armed Iran and its threat to Israel, growing anti-Israel and anti-Semitic language and violence around the world and on college campuses, assimilation, lack of Jewish engagement by a growing segment of our community, and more.
As you sit around the seder table tonight, on which side of the coin will you focus: the threats or the opportunities?
In 1993, John McKnight and John Kretzmann developed an approach to the sustainable development of communities called “asset-based community development” (ABCD). The methodology seeks to “map” the resources and skills available in a community, organize people around issues that motivate them and then take action. It differs from need-based mapping, which starts from deficiencies rather than strengths. The Passover song, Dayenu, seems to be a rudimentary asset map for early Jewish nationhood: successive refrains outline yet another source of Jewish communal strength, each of which would have been “enough.”
As we retell the story of being slaves in Egypt and our collective and individual journeys to freedom, we would do well to consider what we have rather than what we don’t have. I am not suggesting naiveté as a strategy; we clearly have challenges as a people and as a community. But seeing what we have – including the right and responsibility to take action and to organize politically in response to issues that concern us – is far more empowering than focusing on what we don’t have. Take a look around the table tonight at your family and friends and consider the strengths each bring to our lives and to the community. Consider your strengths and what you bring “to the table.”
And then let’s design a new T-shirt that says: “We were slaves to Pharoah in the land of Egypt, but now I’m doing my part to build a stronger Jewish community.”
Chag Pesach Sameach!
Ways to Make it Yours
-Download a copy of our new Passover booklet, chock full of delicious recipes, kid-friendly songs and book ideas and more for a fun, festive, educational seder experience.
-Whip up one of Jewish Food Experience’s Top 10 Passover Recipes for a scrumptious seder you won’t want to ‘pass-over’.
-Attend an information session on JCCGW’s Hamsa Fellowship bringing together teens from Israel, Hungary and America for community building, travel and Jewish identity exploration on Tuesday, April 14.
-Commemorate Yom Ha’Shoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) in Maryland on April 12 and Virginia on April 19.
-Join the Embassy of Israel and The Defense Attaché’s Office for a Yom HaZikaron memorial day ceremony in honor of Israel’s fallen soldiers on Tuesday, April 21.