I hope you and your family are well. I am thinking of you and sending my positive thoughts and prayers. We are missing everyone, and hope to bridge the distance through this electronic connection.
Passover begins Saturday evening, and offers an opportunity to look back at our past, reflect on our present, and think thoughtfully about our future. Although this Passover feels lighter and more hopeful than last, there is still much work to do! Our brilliant scientists and leaders continue getting Covid vaccines into our arms, but we still have a long way to go until we reach ‘herd immunity.’ (As a sidenote… If you need more information, want to register for the Covid-19 vaccine or require assistance scheduling this appointment, click here for the City of Milwaukee Health Department website: https://city.milwaukee.gov/CovidVax or call the Covid-19 Hotline number: 414-286-6800.) Besides the pandemic, this year has increased the visibility and awareness of the work needed toward equity, social justice and discrimination. While these issues are always important, they are especially poignant during Passover as we remember the Jews’ enslavement and the mass Exodus from Egypt more than 3,000 years ago. Through our seders (the special home service and meal) we retell this story.
For more information about the holiday, click on these websites:
This Touch Points will focus on current topics and concerns, and how to meaningfully incorporate them into our Passover ritual. I hope the subjects will resonate with you, add awareness and provide inspirational conversation. Rabbi Rick Jacobs states that Passover is a time “we remember the struggle against oppression then and now, and we commit ourselves to continuing to pursue a more just and compassionate world together.” Ideally, my hope is that our seders become a catalyst for spiritual growth, and a motivation toward Tikkun Olam (repairing the world).
“The Exodus from Egypt occurs in every human being, in every era, in every year, and in every day.” –Rabbi Nachman of Breslov
Filling Passover with Meaning:
- Add to Your Seder Plate: The Passover seder is full of symbolism; each item on the seder plate is symbolic of the Exodus story. This year, I would encourage you to augment your seder plate; infuse the holiday with social justice themes and reflective symbolism from the pandemic. Discovering the parallels between the Passover story and the present day equivalent make the holiday message come alive. What will you add to your seder? Here are additions and supplemental ideas:
- An Orange for LGBTQ+ Equality: This addition acknowledges people who may feel marginalized within the Jewish community. Taking a segment of the orange, each person “makes the blessing over the fruit, and eats it as a gesture of solidarity with LGBTQ Jews and others who are marginalized within the Jewish community. They spit out the orange seeds, which were said to represent homophobia.” (reformjudaism.org)
- Miriam’s Cup: This ritual honors women and recognizes and honors Miriam’s contributions to the Exodus. During the seder, share a memory of a woman that made a monumental difference in your life. Reflect on those memories and impact. Click here to learn more and to add a supplemental reading. https://reformjudaism.org/jewish-holidays/passover/miriams-cup-supplemental-reading-passover-haggadah. Listen and watch this moving rendition of Debbie’s Friedman’s tune, “Miriam’s Song.” It is sung by the Project Kesher Chorus, an initiative of the Jewish feminist nonprofit Project Kesher. https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=project+kesher+miriam%27s+song&docid=13827256389293&mid=423EDAB22D101923F4FE423EDAB22D101923F4FE&view=detail&FORM=VIRE
- Face Masks: Rabbi Joel Alter from Congregation Beth Israel Ner Tamid suggests, “ Our ancestors smeared blood on the doorposts and lintel of their homes to direct the Destroyer to pass over them in the killing of the firstborn. With that blood, they warded off the plague. Perhaps this year we should adorn our doorpost with face masks.”
- An “Emotional Well-Being” Seder Plate: This pandemic year has been challenging for those with mental health issues. The Blue Dove Foundation suggests that we not only reflect on the holiday of Passover, but also on our own mental health. Perhaps the isolation has made us stuck in our own “metaphorical Egypt.” Pause and reflect on this concept. What would you include on your symbolic self-care/mental health seder plate to help achieve emotional well-being and calm? “Who in your life can be your outstretched arm?” -Who is the person you can talk to or lean on for support?
- Add Passover Rituals to Honor Jewish Diversity and Discussion About Racial Justice- “On Passover we use stories and rituals to remember and retell the narrative of our collective liberation. We share the ancient Exodus story, year after year, so that it resonates through the generations as a narrative of deliverance from slavery to freedom.” (-globaljews.org) This year, at our seders, let us discuss how we can lend a hand to support others that are currently oppressed and struggling. What can each of us do? Consider adding these beautiful readings and discussion questions in your seder:
- click here to print out a reading called Avadim Hayinu “We Were Slaves.” https://globaljews.org/resources/holidays/passover/avadim-hayinu/
- Add a new Passover ritual honoring Jewish diversity; incorporate Ruth’s Cup into your seder. Click here to learn more and print out this lovely, inclusive addition. Beautiful! https://globaljews.org/resources/holidays/passover/ruths-cup/
- Unite against any form of hatred and violence. We need to spread awareness and unite against the dehumanization of Asians and racist rhetoric. After the horrific shootings of Asian American women in Atlanta, the Stop AAPI Hate Reporting Center (a nonprofit organization that tracks incidents of hate and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States) released this statement, “This latest attack will only exacerbate the fear and pain that the Asian American community continues to endure. There has been a documented pattern of recent attacks against our community, as we have received nearly 3,800 reports of hate incidents across the country since March 2020. Not enough has been done to protect Asian Americans from the heightened levels of hate, discrimination and violence. Concrete action must be taken now. Anything else is unacceptable.” At your seder, discuss how we can each make an impact. Tikkun Olam- Let us work toward repairing the world one step at a time.
- Click here for more information about this organization and what we can do to stop hate: https://stopaapihate.org/
- Read this short piece on how to help combat Asian-American violence: https://time.com/5947603/how-to-help-fight-anti-asian-violence/
“To be free is not merely to case off one’s chains but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
- Passover Unites us as a People: When I think about the Jewish people around the world celebrating the Jewish holiday of Passover and making a seder, I feel a closeness to my sisters and brothers worldwide. Even during this difficult time, our rituals unite us and connect us together. Why not bring a little Jewish culture from another part of the world into your own seder? Explore what Jewish people around the globe are eating. For a taste, incorporate a few new recipes into your menu. For example, try a Moroccan Charoset recipe, or search the web for your own addition. https://www.myjewishlearning.com/recipe/haroset-from-morocco/.
“The Seder nights… tie me with the centuries before me.” –Ludwig Frank
- How Do We Add Warmth and Closeness, When We Are Apart? Due to safety, many of us need to remain at home for this seder. Here are some tips for celebrating the holiday of freedom with warmth and connection:
- If it is your custom, you may choose to Zoom and share a virtual seder with family, friends, or your synagogue. If that is difficult, consider singing Dayenu (or another song) with them. This brings loved ones together.
- One of the customs of the Passover seder is to recline in your chair as a sign of comfort and freedom. My favorite suggestion that made me smile was from myjewishlearning.com. They encourage you to “really (ahem) lean into this tradition. You can even get up from the table and sprawl across the floor or on a pile of pillows stacked by on the floor.”
- To elevate the experience, add treasured family recipes, or use rituals objects/dishes that were passed down. These special touches add meaning, love and family history to your experience. I am quite sentimental, and enjoy using dishes and flatware from people I love. For example, I set our table with my Grandma Dorothy’s (of blessed memory) china and my wonderful mother-in-law, Judy’s flatware. These are beautiful reminders of their presence and love. Also, objects remind us of our legacy. For example, my Mom has the dish my Grandma Mildred served her homemade chrain (Yiddish for horseradish). Hearing my Mother share the memory of her Mother making this Passover delicacy, fills me with profound gratitude for my family and for our Jewish history. What recipe or dish will you put on your holiday table to add meaning? I would love to hear how and why this elevates your experience.
- Funny Passover Gifts: Perhaps being together isn’t in the cards this year. Here are a few ideas to let your loved one know you are thinking about them. Imagine their face when they receive these gifts! Even if you aren’t buying anything, click below for a big smile.
- Everyone needs a face mask to stay safe and healthy! Why not celebrate the holiday with a matzah face mask? Click here for options: https://www.etsy.com/market/matzah_mask?ref=rlte_std_4
- We all need to recline during the seder, so buy your favorite relative a Dayenu Reclining Pillow. Click here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/957399624/dayenu-passover-reclining-pillow?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=Dayenu+reclining+pillow&ref=sr_gallery-1-1&organic_search_click=1&frs=1&col=1
- You say you have nothing to wear?! Not to worry, I have the perfect gift! Why not buy a Matza Passover Dress?!? This is sure to be a hit! Please send me a picture. Click here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/961526695/passover-skater-dress-funny-passover?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=passover+dresses&ref=sc_gallery-1-1&plkey=0d503916ea58e61d0f7ed02c40ede63d5e132ac2%3A961526695&frs=1
- Still looking for just that perfect gift? Click here for a variety of matza blankets, sweatshirts, socks and mugs. The supply is endless! Click here: https://www.etsy.com/search?q=matzah%20lanket
- Try Passover Brain Health- Here are three different brain health exercises related to Passover:
- Close your eyes and think about what smell takes you back to your earliest memory of Passover? Do you remember what your favorite food was during the seder? Who did you sit next to at the seder? Who sang the Four Questions?
- Print out and complete the attached worksheet- inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King’s incredible ‘I Have a Dream’ speech at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963.
- Create a story using the following Passover themed words: Spring, holiday, retelling, liberation, slaves, eggs, matzah, wine, cleaning, Moses, seder, four sons, ten plagues, pharaoh, salt water, Egypt, songs, Miriam, Mt. Sinai.
- Not Related to Passover or Matzah, But Still Equally Interesting!.. We are leading FREE community Brain Health and Wellness Virtual Workshops in April. This is a four-part series held at the JCC. Check out the attached flyer for more information.
“The message of Passover remains as powerful as ever. Freedom is won not on the battlefield but in the classroom and the home. Teach your children the history of freedom if you want them never to lose it.” –Rabbi Shimon Raichik
Wishing you a very happy, meaningful Passover. Traditionally, at the end of the Passover seder we say, ‘L’Shana Haba’ah B’Yerushalayim’- wishing that next year we celebrate in Jerusalem. However, this year we will change this to, “ L’Shana Haba’ah B’in-person”- Next year we should be together in person! Amen!
As always, if you have a question related to aging, memory loss or caregiving, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am here for you, and happy to help. You can find me here: DRubin-Winkelman@ovation.org
Thinking of you and sending all my positive energy and love,