“In These Times”

Adar/Nissan/Iyar 5778

VOL. 51 NO. 2


Aliza Goland, Executive Director Marcy Goldberg, Director of Education Donna Becker, ECC Director

Sandy Greenstein, President Alan Greenbaum, Rabbi Emeritus

Andrew Straus, Rabbi David Shukiar, Cantor

From the Rabbi’s Desk My Family Left Egypt

T he first Seder this year will be celebrated on Friday night, March 30. Fittingly, March 31, the first day of Passover, is my family’s personal crossing of the Sea of Reeds. On March 31, 1939, my mother landed in New York City having escaped Nazi Germany right after Kristallnacht (The Night of Broken Glass November 9 - 10, 1938). My father landed in December of 1939, having spent nearly a year in England. My parents came here as refugees. My father was a teenager and just a few years later he was back in Germany, aiding the United States military. A few weeks ago, Karen and I were in an Uber in Oakland. We began talking with our driver, Mkhtar, who was a refugee from Somalia. Mkhtar told us that he had spent six years in a refugee camp, waiting to come to the United States. He said, “I would not wish the refugee camp on my worst enemy. In fact conditions were so bad that the rest of my family chose to go back to Somalia, thinking that if we die there it will be better than being in the camp.” Today, besides driving an Uber, he is in college pursuing a degree in criminal justice. He wants to become a police officer, and said, “I owe this country so much; being a police officer and protecting its citizens is one small way I can thank America for all that she has given me.” Over 3000 years ago, our ancestors left Egypt as refugees and wandered for 40 years until they came to the Promised Land. On their way, over and over again, by some counts 36 times, God reminded them “Do not oppress the stranger, the widow and the orphan, for you were slaves in the land of Egypt,” therefore you know what it is like to be oppressed. At our Seder tables we will repeat the ancient line that forms the heart of Passover, “b’chol dor v’dor … in each and every generation an individual is required to see him/her self as if they came out of Egypt.” ‘Egypt’ is not only the place from which our people escaped over 3000 year ago, ‘Egypt’ is the place from which my parents escaped in 1938 and Mkhatr escaped approximately 10 years ago. Today so many are fleeing their own ‘Egypt.’ Each of our families has its refugee story. Our families were inspired by the Statue of Liberty:

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” – The New Colossus , Emma Lazarus The Reform movement has taken a leadership role in advocating for the Dreamers and comprehensive immigration reform, as stated by our movement’s Religious Action Center, “Today, we face the enormous challenges posed by our nation’s broken immigration system. Over eleven million undocumented immigrants live in the shadows of our communities across the country. Families face up to decades-long backlogs in acquiring visas; workers are left without protections; children are left behind as parents are deported, and LGBT Americans cannot sponsor the visa of a spouse. We can no longer delay comprehensive reform of our immigration system based on streamlined processing, a commitment to obey the rule of law, payment-of-taxes owed, family reunification, and a path to citizenship.” Passover calls upon us to see ourselves as if we have come out of Egypt. The Hebrew word Mitzrayim, which is normally translated as Egypt, can also be translated as “a narrow place.” What are the places of narrowness, or restriction, that we need to escape? Nachman of Bratslav, one of the great Hassidic teachers, once wrote: “The Exodus from Egypt occurs in every human being, in every era, in every year, and even in every day.” Think of the many “exoduses” during our lives, whether from one place to another or from an experience of slavery and narrowness to one of freedom and openness. As you celebrate Passover with your family, I encourage you to discuss how you see yourself coming out of Egypt this year. How has your life been enriched by refugees? How has our country been enriched

by the refugees that we have welcomed over the centuries? The Seder should not be just the reading of the Haggadah, but rather should

engender a rich conversation about freedom and oppression, about the narrowness within ourselves, our lives, and our nation; and how we can all work to redeem those who are still oppressed and welcome the refugee. L’Shalom, Rabbi Andrew Straus

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she, With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

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