Each year during the Passover seders, we recite the ages-old story of the Jews’ exodus from ancient Egypt – a tale which can seem far removed from our lives today. But each year, we also have the opportunity to breathe new life into the story as we join together to put ourselves in our ancestors’ shoes, and make connections that help bring the story closer to our own reality.
In recent years, modern adaptations of the Ten Plagues have been created, additions (like oranges and olives) have been added to the seder plate and tons of versions of the classic Maxwell House Haggadah have been written. The Exodus story has provided endless inspiration. But what about the story’s main characters?
Some serious game changers starred in the epic story of Passover, and we think they deserve some attention. So this year, Repair the World decided to have a little fun and explore modern day heroes – today’s leaders who work tirelessly on behalf of others and tikkun olam – and see how they remind us of Moses, Miriam, and Aaron.
First up, Moses:
Who he was: The Passover’s story best-known character, and arguably the most important figure in Jewish history, Moses had quite the life’s story. He was a Hebrew who grew up in Pharaoh’s court in Egypt, heard God’s word from the burning bush, stood up to Pharoah’s harsh rule (and did some nifty tricks along the way), led his people out of slavery and bondage, received the Torah from God, led hoards of people through 40 years of wandering and ultimately, brought them to the Promised Land.
Moses, like all people, also had his challenges. He killed an Egyptian guard in a rage. He dealt with bouts of uncertainty and self-doubt. Later in the story, after returning from Mount Sinai to find that the Hebrews had built a golden calf, he shattered the 10 commandment tablets. And yet, his challenges and faults make him evermore relatable (and human!) in his heroism. (Read more about Moses here).
Why he’s a hero: Moses was a leader who inspired others to imagine a new and more just future. He stood up to power (ahem, Pharaoh) and led his people from a state of bondage towards a new destiny.
Modern day Moses? While the shoes Moses left are too big to ever fully fill, here are some modern day heroes and heroines who share his spirit of leadership, and work towards justice.
- Stephen Lerner: A labor and community organizer who has worked on behalf of janitors, farm workers and other low-wage workers for more than three decades. Just because we can’t always see how things get done, doesn’t mean we should forget about the people who are doing the work.
- Ruth Messinger: CEO of American Jewish World Service (AJWS) and board member of numerous world-changing organizations. She’s one leader you want to get behind.
- Rabbi Jill Jacobs: This head of Rabbis for Human Rights is also a tireless advocate for workers’ rights and an inspiring Jewish voice in the global social justice movement.
- Michelle Obama: America’s First Lady is doing world-changing work around childhood obesity with her Let’s Move campaign, and initiated the first vegetable garden at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt.
- Leonardo DiCaprio: Part Golden Globe-nominated actor, part environmental activist through his own foundation and his generous gifts to sustainability organizations like the Wildlife Conservation Society, Leo does more than just make us weep when Titanic sinks.
- Dan Savage: A hugely popular syndicated columnist and founder of the It Gets Better campaign, which has become a worldwide movement against bullying, particularly within the LGBT community. A simple idea, a huge undertaking, of great importance.
- Will Allen: A super-influential urban farmer, CEO of Growing Power in Milwaukee (which empowers inner-city communities around food issues), and recipient of the “Genius Grant” for his work. Everyone has the right to eat well, after all.
- Rosario Dawson A talented actress and activist who spends her off-screen hours with organizations like Voto Latino, which empowers America’s Latino population around pressing political issues and voting. She may be in US Weekly here and there, but she’s also working to help U.S. citizens.
- Jamie Oliver: A celebrity chef and visionary food activist who works tirelessly to improve the diets and nutrition of kids in the UK and United States.
- Brangelina: This Hollywood royalty duo is involved with countless humanitarian efforts from rebuilding New Orleans to working for childrens’ rights in developing nations. Find out more here.
Who did we miss? Who do you think should be counted as a Modern Day Moses? Let us know in the comments below, or by tweeting us at @repairtheworld.
Check out the Miriams of today here!