Passover, Then and Now
Yasminah Respes, African American, Diversity, family, holidays, Passover, Practices, Seder, April 18, 2016
Pesach is my favorite holiday. I enjoy reading about the journey from slavery to freedom and the journey of spiritual growth. I connect with Passover, or in Hebrew Pesach, because I've gone through my own journey.
My mother is a convert to Judaism and my dad was born Jewish. We were traditional, observed all of the holidays, kept Kosher, but we did drive on Shabbat. Though we belonged to a Conservative synagogue in Southern New Jersey, we periodically attended my family's synagogue, which is Orthodox. Our family synagogue was founded by my paternal grandfather, Rabbi Abel Respes. Prior to relocating to Hammonton, New Jersey it was originally based in Philadelphia. My brother and I received a Jewish education, we were involved in USY, and we both made Aliyah-to moved to Israel. There I married and became Orthodox. Today I live with my husband in Canada.
I have great memories of celebrating Pesach with my family. There are so many Passover traditions that come to mind when I think about the holiday; the matzah pizza that we as a family really have perfected over the years, the pre-Pesach shopping with my mother where she'd always find things to incorporate into our seder, and taking a break to the couch after the meal, but being called back to the table in order to finish the seder.
A few of my cousins, and sometimes our close family friends, would come to our house to spend the first seder with us. We usually went to another cousin's house for the second seder. One of my favorite memories is singing "Who Knows One" with my family. It was always one of my favorites songs to sing in school. My family gets very animated during that song, and I guess it helps that we sing it after drinking 4 cups of wine.
Another great memory is spending the second night at my cousins, Chai and Tonia. He snuck out periodically to put on various costumes and came back into the dining room in character. He often spoke in different voices and asked the children questions. It was a creative way of keeping adults and children alike engaged.
Now that I'm married Pesach has changed for me. I've gained another family through my husband's relatives who have fully accepted me. Marriage brings with it various challenges like learning how to live with another person. It also brings with it many positive learning experiences and the knowledge that you're building a foundation with someone else who has similar values, goals and dreams.
Getting married meant living far away from my own family. While it can be difficult, since I miss my home and family, I am fortunate in that we live in an age of many technological advances. I look forward to the day when my husband and I can host both sets of families so that we can create many more Pesach memories together as one big family.
My family believes strongly that the Pesach story is a classic story of "dream, struggle, victory." The dream starts with a vision that a person or individual has for the future. Through the struggle one experiences challenges along the way to achieve that dream. After some time, the people accomplish the dream and get their victory. The dream of the Jewish people was and has been to live in our homeland. However, under the Pharaoh, the Jews weren't able to return home. They went through many years of struggle in the desert and finally, they entered the land of Israel. Today we have a different form of slavery where people trade their time for money. This system offers many benefits in that we have steady income and keeps us busy, but it is limited in that we can never have both. Many people are in debt with almost no way out and many of our governments are in debt burdening us and future generations. Pesach means having the freedom to spend our time living our priorities. It means maximizing our finances so that we can get out of debt and help our nations do the same. It means freedom from oppression of a taskmaster. Pesach means being able to find a way to leave a legacy for our future generations. It means waking up in the morning knowing that I'm fulfilling my purpose in life. Pesach means freedom to be Jewish and to practice openly. Finally, it means being free to return to the land that is our home.
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