As Passover approaches, we prepare to recite the story of our exodus from Egypt—but in a different context this year. Most of us will not be sitting down at our Seder tables with loved ones. Perhaps more than ever, we can relate to the commandment to “know the feelings of the stranger, having [ourselves] been strangers in the land of Egypt.”
In the past, ADL — an organization founded by immigrants and children of immigrants, and dedicated to protecting the interests of religious and ethnic minorities — has organized Nation of Immigrant Seders. These events bring 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, which have previously been held in Boston, Las Vegas, San Diego and New York, we joined with friends and family to recommit to our values of liberty and equality and to support 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, understand what it is to be a stranger in a strange land. While we cannot sit together this year, we must still extend a hand of allyship and support to our immigrant and refugee neighbors facing hardship during this time.
Unfortunately, our government has not honored our nation’s noble ideal as a haven for immigrants and refugees. Its policies and actions threaten to undermine the very essence of our nation’s core values of equality, diversity and inclusion. The narrative is all too familiar for those of us in the Jewish community.
With the outbreak of COVID-19, immigrant and refugee communities face even greater threats than before. DACA recipients face potential deportation during this crisis, with the Supreme Court case pending. Many undocumented individuals and mixed status families have been excluded from federal emergency aid and are not able to access life-saving medical coverage and financial assistance. And, many DACA recipients and undocumented immigrants are serving on the front lines of this pandemic as health care workers, custodians, and providing other essential services. The future of our country’s economy, health, and values remain at risk if these communities continue to face such existential threats. We must not allow our government to disregard the lives of immigrants and refugees, nor must we enable our leaders to undermine our country’s foundation as a safe haven for those in need.
This year, as we tell the story of the Exodus as if we were fleeing Egypt, let us take inspiration and motivation from ADL’s past Nation of Immigrants Seders. May we have compassion for our country’s immigrants and refugees, who face new dangers with the outbreak of COVID-19. 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 past Nation of Immigrants Seders to your own Seder table and to never forget what binds us all together — that we, too, once were strangers in a strange land.