Reflections on Passover
By Jon Henes, Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer
April 15, 2022 · 3 min read
This evening at sundown, Jewish families across the world will tell the story of Passover, a commemoration of the Jews’ liberation from slavery. Jews gathering around Seder feasts will express the importance of freedom and how we must welcome all who are in need, because we “know the feelings of a stranger, for [we] also were strangers in the land of Egypt.” We share the story of Passover every year with our families—most importantly, with our children—to remind ourselves that freedom is fragile and must be ardently preserved, community is indispensable, and compassion is strength. In the words of Rabbi Heschel, “morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.”
In today’s America (and far beyond), the lessons of Passover are more consequential than ever: as many political leaders and others are attempting to preclude us from telling America’s true origin story rooted in slavery and the devastating impact that systemic racism has had on Black Americans; as Russia advances an unprovoked war against Ukraine; as women’s reproductive rights are under attack; as Florida enacts, and other states attempt to follow, the horrific “Don’t Say Gay” law; and as the epidemic of gun violence persists without corrective measures; we need to tell the story of Passover, which reminds us, in the words of Maya Angelou, “freedom is never free.”
If tonight, I could share the lesson of Passover that resonates most with me, it would be this: in the words of Vice President Kamala Harris, which stay with me every day, “we have so much more in common than what separates us,” and our differences should be celebrated, as they have the power to enrich all our lives. Once the humanity in another is truly realized, it becomes impossible not to stand up for others—to advocate for everyone to have a seat at the table and the freedom to be their authentic selves.
The story of Passover makes sure we never forget what can happen when people are deprived of freedom. The truths about our country, both the inspiring and the shameful, are a testament to what we can accomplish when we make certain that freedom is accessible to everyone. We must tell the Passover story as we fully appreciate that even today many people in our country are not truly free. We do this to protect our future from the mistakes of our past and to advance our march toward a country grounded in diversity, inclusivity, equity, and belonging.