As Passover approaches, we prepare to recite the story of our exodus from Egypt with our friends, families, and communities. On this occasion, we are commanded to “know the feelings of the stranger, having [ourselves] been strangers in the land of Egypt.” We are obligated to see ourselves as though we personally fled slavery - to embody the experience of finding liberty and freedom after being oppressed for so long.
In this spirit of Passover, ADL — an organization founded by immigrants and children of immigrants, and dedicated to protecting the interests of religious and ethnic minorities — organized Nation of Immigrant Seders bringing together community members, families, and leaders from all corners of the world, representing different races and religions, to reflect on the story of the holiday and to celebrate the diverse people and cultures that make up our nation. At these seders, in Boston, Las Vegas, and San Diego, we joined with friends to recommit to our values of liberty and equality and to stand with immigrants and refugees across our country who face fear and bigotry every day.
Many who attend ADL’s Nation of Immigrant seders have never attended a seder before. But all, especially immigrants and refugees, hope to be a free people in a free land one day, and that unites us all in the story. Unfortunately, our government has not honored our nation’s noble ideal as a haven for immigrants and refugees; we have seen this before. The narrative is all too familiar for those of us in the Jewish community. And we, of course, are reminded of this because the Passover story is the story of immigrants and refugees.
In just over a year, the Trump administration proposed four different versions of a “Muslim Ban” on entry to the United States. The president used his first State of the Union address to equate immigrants with “criminals,” and his administration’s policies have unnecessarily disrupted the lives of young immigrants and put them in limbo by taking away legal status for hundreds of thousands of Dreamers, most of whom have lived in the United States for most of their lives. Deportations continue to violate traditional norms of respect for safe spaces, including schools and courthouses, sending shockwaves of fear and anxiety through communities. And the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the government agency whose duty is to provide immigration services, just dropped language from its mission statement describing the agency’s role as “securing America’s promise of a nation of immigrants.”
These policies and actions threaten to undermine the very essence of our nation’s core values of equality, diversity, and inclusion. They also belie our history as a nation of immigrants and a future where all can celebrate freedom.
As we gather around the Seder table this week and tell the story of the Exodus as if we were fleeing Egypt, let us take inspiration and motivation from ADL’s Nation of Immigrants Seders. May we have compassion for our country’s immigrants and refugees who live in a state of fear every day. Let us reflect on the modern plagues that still oppress so many and do everything in our power to forcefully fight them. ADL encourages you to bring the sentiment, message, and action from Nation of Immigrants seders to your own Seder table and to never forget what binds us all together — that we, too, once were strangers.