This Passover, Think of the Modern Plagues

Next Year May We All Be Free

  • April 10, 2017
The Messengers artwork by Yadesa Bojia

Yadesa Bojia

As Jews celebrate freedom, let’s reflect on modern plagues that still oppress so many—and what we can do to help.


For many in the American Jewish community, anti-Semitism feels closer, more pervasive and more threatening this year. Jewish cemeteries have been vandalized. More than 160 Jewish institutions have received bomb threats. Online, Jewish journalists have been bombarded with anti-Semitic tweets, targeted because of their religion.

Take Action: Thank your Senators for creating a strong federal response to anti-Semitism. Visit ADL’s Action Center to send an email to your Senator.


Racism still plagues America. In approximately six out of ten hate crimes, the perpetrators target the victims because of their race or ethnicity. Although Brown v. Board of Education officially ended segregation more than 60 years ago, more than 15,000 schools in America are still considered segregated. Systemic racism courses through our education system, our criminal justice system, and other institutions.

Take Action: Read White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh and talk about it with your family and/or friends. If you have time for a longer read, read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Discuss it at a book club or with a group of friends.

Anti-Muslim Bigotry

Anti-Muslim bigotry has spiked in the United States. Threats, violence and acts of vandalism have targeted Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim around the country. Last year, the FBI reported a 67 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes. In the first two months of 2017, vandals burned four mosques to the ground in America. Some women report being afraid to wear a hijab in public.

Take Action: If you see someone being targeted because they are Muslim, do not become a bystander—learn how to become an effective ally. This cartoon from the Maeril Art Blog explains step by step what you can do if you see Islamophobic harassment.


Despite some progress in laws and attitudes, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community still faces very substantial discrimination and harassment. In too many states, sexual orientation is not included in hate crimes laws; there are no laws barring employers from firing people because of their sexual orientation; and anti-bullying laws do not include protections for LGBTQ youth.

Take Action: Learn more about the hate crimes laws in your state, and sign up to help ensure that hate crimes laws protect the LGBTQ community.


Worldwide, a trans person is murdered every three days. Already in 2017, eight transgender women of color have been murdered in the United States, targeted because of who they are. In too many places, there are discriminatory laws and policies targeting the trans community. In some places, including some school districts, transgender people cannot use the restroom or other facilities that match their gender.

Take Action: Learn about transgender and gender-nonconforming identities and issues and, if you have a connection with your local school—as a student, a parent, a teacher or a community member—share the guide with the school.

Anti-Immigrant Bigotry

Anti-immigrant rhetoric that was once confined to extreme fringes has now become common-place, even in the highest government offices. Policies once championed only by the anti-immigrant movement are now becoming law. After immigration raids at courthouses, hospitals, schools and other sensitive areas, immigrants are now afraid to turn to police for protection, doctors for medical care, and others for basic human services.

Take Action: Tell the Trump administration and your members of Congress that you support refugees and immigrants, and they should too. If you are on Twitter, tweet a message of support for immigrants using #LetMyPeopleStay.


In 2017, on average women take home 80 cents for every dollar that a man receives in a comparable job. The numbers are worse still for women of color. In the last few years, legislators have passed countless measures to regulate women’s bodies, often with no women in the debate. Studies have shown that nearly one in three women has been sexually harassed at work, and many more have experienced sexual harassment while walking down the street.

Take Action: Pay attention to sexism at your workplace, in your school and in your community. If you feel comfortable, start talking to your employer about equal pay, or talk to co-workers about addressing the issue together. If you are a man, take the pledge to never speak on an all-male panel.


Xenophobia—an intense or irrational fear of what is foreign or strange—can appear as anti-immigrant bigotry, but it can also manifest as bigotry against people that are different or unknown for other reasons. On Passover in particular, we are called on to welcome the stranger, for once we were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Take Action: The Anti-Defamation League has partnered with the Creative Action Network, a group of 10,000 artists from around the world, to create artwork about the refugee story. Look at the artwork and, if you feel inspired, create your own piece of art around refugees or write an op-ed for your local newspaper.

Bigotry Against any Group or Individual

Bigotry and bias exist throughout our society and our lives—whether conscious or unconscious. People are targeted because of their race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, age, appearance, and many other factors. Whether in the form of hate crimes, hate incidents, bullying, systemic discrimination or unconscious bias, each can have a lasting impact.

Take Action: ADL has partnered with MTV’s Look Different Campaign to combat bigotry and bias. Learn about your own biases and steps you can take to challenge them.

Silence: The Failure to Challenge Bigotry

When we fail to challenge bias and bigotry, it can become acceptable or “normal.” Each time a stereotype goes unchallenged or non-inclusive language becomes part of the conversation without comment, it builds on itself. Bias unchecked can lead to individual acts of prejudice, which in turn can set the stage for discrimination. When discrimination becomes normal, bias-motivated violence can follow.

Take Action: Learn about the Pyramid of Hate and commit to the people at your Seder table that you will work to challenge bigotry and bias when you hear it, see it or know it is happening.