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Archive for : Passover

Modern Day Passover Heroes: Miriam

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.

Next up: Miriam.
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Shabbat Service: Bring Freedom to All

Shabbat Service is a weekly bit of Torah-inspired do-gooding, brought to you by Repair the World and our grantee-partner American Jewish World Service (AJWS). Read on to see how these ancient stories can apply today. Seem far fetched? Check it out:

The story: In this week’s parsha (Torah portion), Bo, we flash forward a couple of months to Passover by learning about Chag haMatzot a.k.a the Festival of Unleavened Bread. We also learn the difference between matzo – the thin, cracker-like “bread of oppression” vs. its seeming opposite, chametz, which you might call the “bread of freedom.” (Because only free people have the time to let bread rise, let alone bake it until it forms a nice chewy crust.)

The takeaway: All this talk about matzo and chametz in the parsha brings up questions about the meaning of freedom. When you get down to it, there are actually two types of freedom: There’s freedom “from” things – mostly bad stuff, like oppression and slavery. But there’s also freedom “to” things – like the freedom to make our own decisions, and the freedom to create new realities. By accepting our freedom, we meanwhile accept a type of responsibility to ourselves and to others. In other words, “our newfound freedom [obligates] us to bring about the same transformation for others in our world.” It obligates us to “be the change,” as Gandhi famously put it, and to help others find their own freedom.

The “to-do”: There are still three months until Passover’s week-long matzo-fest begins (whew!). In the meantime, why not get a jump start on embracing your freedom, by helping ensure it for others. Volunteer with or support human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch, Youth for Human Rights, or Rabbis for Human Rights North America.

Read the full Torah commentary, on which this excerpt is based, over at AJWS’ website.

Spotlight On: Passover’s Connections to Service

Passover is the Jewish calendar’s most popular holiday. Whether religious or secular, Sephardic or Ashkenazi – about 90% of Jews celebrate the holiday at a Passover seder.

The seder itself is a mixture of food (traditional favorites like matzah ball soup usually reign), singing (dayenu anyone?) and storytelling – particularly the telling of the Exodus story, which recounts the Israelite’s journey from slavery under Pharoah to liberation.

It doesn’t take much digging to uncover Passover’s compelling connections to service. The Exodus story itself offers endless starting points to discuss the personal and systemic oppression our friends, families, communities and world face today. Jews are told to tell and understand the Passover story as if it recounts their own Exodus from Egypt. As Rabbi Jill Jacobs wrote for My Jewish Learning, “During the seder, we can fulfill the double command to show and to see ourselves as having come forth from Egypt by retelling the story in our own words and through the lens of our own experience…by using the story of the exodus as a framework for exploring our own personal liberation struggles or current political struggles, we can come to see ourselves as participants in the continuing journey toward freedom.

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Tuesday Link Roundup

In the week leading up to Passover, here are a few inspiring bits and stories from around the blogosphere…

  • SF Chronicle Vegetable gardens sprout around San Francisco – from the library to the police department, thanks to support and legislation from Mayor Gavin Newsome, and the work of many of the city residents and organizations who are determined to create a greener and healthier city.
  • Yes Magazine Rabbi Ted Falcon makes the connection between Passover and living a more conscious, aware, and free lives.
  • New York Times Sunday’s inspiring immigration rally on Washington draws tens of thousands of supporters and activists.
  • Huffington Post First Lady Michelle Obama makes a cartoon appearance on the Simpsons, standing up for high achieving students. “I got A’s back when A’s were hard to get,” she said. She also plugs organic gardening.
  • Jerusalem Post Hillel and City Year get a major shout out in the Jerusalem Post for their alternative spring break programs, and inspiring college kids to make a difference.
  • JTA Hear Sara Hurwitz talk in her own words about the growing role of women as spiritual leaders in the Orthodox movement. (See the video at the bottom of the post.)

Wednesday Link Roundup

Check out these inspiring bits and headlines from around the Jewish service blogosphere. In the post: three links about amazing service work by teenagers, and a not-to-miss pre-Passover read…

  • Remember the Chase Community Giving contest that was all over your Facebook feed a few months ago? Now JChoice, a great social networking site for young Jewish giving, is offering a similar contest to let you vote for your favorite Jewish charity and win a free gift card. Check it out here. [JChoice]
  • Speaking of young Jewish giving, here’s a sweet article about how Tulsa’s teen community (Jewish and not) are pooling their resources to make a powerful philanthropic impact. [Tulsa Kids]
  • On the eco-front, kids in San Francisco are using eco-rap as an empowerment tool. [Sundance Channel]
  • Looking forward to Passover (which starts at the end of the month)? Read Dara Horn’s great book, All Other Nights, that weaves the story of the Exodus together with a tale of slavery in the American South. [My Jewish Learning]