For many children, especially the youngest, the days leading up to Passover are filled with dread and stress. No, it is not because they remember they won't be able to eat their favorite foods like pizza, macaroni and cheese, bagels, etc. Instead, the stress is caused by their older siblings, parents, or even grandparents, saying, "Have you been practicing the Four Questions? Remember, you will be chanting it during the seder." Even to this day, I can still remember that feeling of worry and dread and the sense of relief once "my portion" of the seder was complete.
One of my favorite parts of the Passover is the questions raised during the seder. Whether it is the prompts from the Haggadah itself or the conversations and discussions during the evening, Passover is full of questions. The most famous of the questions is, Why is this night different than all other nights? It is what leads us into the Four Questions.
So, right before Passover begins, I will pose two similar questions for this week's column: Why is this year's Passover celebration different from all other Passovers? What makes this year even more important? I think it has everything to do with the current climate Jews worldwide find ourselves in.
As I have previously shared, the amount of antisemitism we are seeing around the country is astonishing. Within the last couple of weeks, the ADL published its 2022 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents. While it did not get the publicity previous audits have, the numbers are alarming. There was a total of 3,697 total incidents last year (a 36% increase over 2021's figures) that ranged from vandalism to violence and everything in between. That is roughly TEN incidents a day.
In addition, we are also seeing a significant decrease in the amount of empathy, support, acceptance, and understanding in society of people different from us… something I call the "othering" of society.
Our Passover celebration is about freedom, redemption, and trying to leave our own personal "narrow place" so we can achieve our fullest potential. Each of us needs to commit ourselves to this and help others do the same.
It is why I believe the #Stand Up to Jewish Hate campaign, launched last week by the Foundation Combating Antisemitism, is so crucial and vital. We need to get the word out and encourage non-Jewish friends to stand with us as our allies. We need people to recognize and share this symbol, n, a blue square, to help us get people out of their "narrow place" and understand that by hating Jews, they are not making themselves feel stronger… they are actually showing how ignorant and weak they are as a person.
By celebrating Passover this year, not only are we keeping the memory of our past alive, but we are also standing up and proudly shouting that we are proud of who we are as a people and that no amount of hatred, intimidation, or fear will undermine or eliminate us. That is why this Passover is different than all other Passovers.
On behalf of myself, the Jewish Federation's Board of Governors, and Staff, we wish you and your family a very happy and meaningful Passover. And to those children chanting the Four Questions this year…. You got this!