I recently read a terrific article by the Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, Arnie Eisen, entitled “Four new questions from the four children.” Chancellor Eisen challenges his readers to add questions, and ones that specifically address the problems we see
Who gets to tell "our" story? A few days ago, I saw a performance of "The Diary of Anne Frank," portrayed by a multiracial cast. The play was excellent, and after an initial eyebrow-raising moment of seeing African-American and Asian actors wearing Jewish stars, race became essentially a non-issue throughout the
But this particular performance has drawn controversy. Some critics, especially Jewish ones, are vehemently opposed to anyone but Jews portraying these historical figures. To which I have to ask: why? Is the message of this tragic story not a universal one? Or even if this IS a Jewish story, do we not want others to see - and feel - themselves in our plight? Here is perhaps an even harder question: Would these critics be as uncomfortable if the actors were non-Jews… but white?
This year, people everywhere are talking about democracy and democratic values. Both the Passover story AND the vital testimonies from the Holocaust remind us - insistently - that as long as there is tyranny, we must continue to fight… and fight with and for one another. Our stories are intertwined; and as long as they are done with respect, sensitivity, and dignity, we should share ALL our stories with people
who want to learn and know... and question. Change will only be possible if we walk this path together. I implore you: Please, please do NOT allow your Seder to remain rigid or antiquated. There are too many vital questions that we need to ask right now. The children of today are already asking some of the toughest questions. But the responsibility is surely not theirs alone. This Passover, you need to ask yourself if you are ready to heed the underlying messages of the Seder, and stand up for freedom and equality like our ancestors did 4,000 - as well as 70 - years ago. Isn't it time?
Photos in this blog post:
1. CC image from the Arthur Szyk Haggadah (I own a copy...) courtesy of Allison.c.chang on Wikimedia Commons
2. CC image of a Seder for new immigrants to Israel, ca 1945, courtesy of Pikiwikisrael on Wikimedia Commons
4. CC image from the March for Our Lives (with signs reading "Enough" - "Dayeinu"...) courtesy of MB298 on Wikimedia Commons