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Celebrating Passover

A time to remember the story of the Jewish people
Photo+Courtesy+of+NARA+%26+DVIDS+Public+Domain+Archive
Photo Courtesy of NARA & DVIDS Public Domain Archive

Referred to by Rabbi Mona Alfi of the Congregation of B’nai Israel as “the Jewish holiday for the 4th of July,” to many, Passover is known as the most important of all the Jewish holidays. It’s the origin story of Judaism, and is, therefore, one of the most widely celebrated Jewish holidays. Celebrating this holiday in America, however, has a considerable amount of differences than celebrating in Israel. 

Passover takes place the evening of Mon, Apr 22  – Tue, Apr 30 this year. The holiday celebrates the liberation of the Israelites from Egyptian enslavement. It’s based on the chapter Exodus: 11-19 from the Bible where Moses led them to freedom while the 10 plagues reigned over Egypt. The Egyptians that attempted to follow the Israelites were drowned.

“The idea of Passover is to inspire within every single person the awareness and recognition that they are free and totally liberated to be able to serve God and the way they know and are directed to,” Rabbi Yossi Korik, a conservative Rabbi at the Chabad of Placer County said.

Though different, some believe the traditional aspects of Passover and contemporary American culture do align very well.

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“The idea of celebrating Passover is for a Jewish person to be able to be committed and focused on fulfilling our mission as a Jew in the world, not being uncomfortable or ashamed to practice and express that religious faith openly and proudly. That is very much within the values of the American nation,” Rabbi Yossi Korik said. 

To Rabbi Yossi Korik, Passover should be about what a person believes connects themselves to their heritage.

“This enriches every one of our lives, to be able to recognize that at the core of our being and the essence of who we are, we are really empowered to have all the emotional, psychological, and spiritual strength to stand up for what’s right even if it doesn’t seem like the right thing,” Rabbi Yossi Korik said.

In Israel, the holiday is not only celebrated at night like it is traditionally, but it’s also being celebrated all day. During this holiday, there are many food restrictions such as wheat, barely, oats, and certain types of grains, or anything with yeast or cooking stuff that would make things rise. This commemorates the fact that their ancestors fled Egypt so fast, the bread did not have time to rise. 

In Israel, there is access to kosher for Passover foods in the grocery store. Since everybody else is participating, there are places to go to eat and be able to have available food options to accommodate for those requirements. Most places are shut down because everyone’s at home for their Passover Seder. Meanwhile, here, one normally wouldn’t get time off for that holiday.

When there are such important restrictions, it’s easy to become very conscious of what you’re doing for the week when not everybody else is doing the same thing. 

“I have to say it’s a lot easier as an adult than it was as a kid. As a kid I’m bringing in my little matzah and peanut butter sandwich, and my friends have the most beautiful easter basket candy that’s in their lunches. So that’s hard when you’re going out with your friends and you can’t eat certain things like they can,” Rabbi Mona Alfi, a reformed Rabbi at the reformed synagogue Congregation B’nai Israel said. 

Children are carefully included as participants in Passover as they are the main focal point. They are the ones that are going to pass on the traditions to the next generation, so their understanding of the holiday is vital.

For these reasons, there are questions known as The Four Questions directed at children in order to get them aware, engaged, and curious about the holiday in order to pass on the tradition to the next generation. These questions encourage and inspire the curiosity of children to wonder “why are we doing all these different things.”

For some, it can be difficult to be open about their faith. Jewish people make up 2.4% of the American population according to a Pew Research survey conducted in 2020.

“I think sometimes, especially right now, you have to be very careful with what you say. And I mean that’s always been the case. I’ve been dealing with antisemitism for a long time in my life. It has always been there. It’s always been a thing that’s been there. And you kind of learn to stop caring, because when you care too much, then it just feeds into the hate,” Miriam Frank, a freshman at Granite Bay High School said.

Though the liberation of the Israelites occurred thousands of years ago, the holiday is still celebrated today because it means more than that to people who celebrate.

“In today’s time, each person in their own situation is able to find an opportunity to be free and liberated to serve God, which is our mission here in this world,” Rabbi Yossi Korik said. 

This story was originally published on GraniteBayToday.org on April 19, 2024.