From Egypt to Ukraine – the Story of Passover

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בְּכָל־דּוֹר וָדוֹר חַיָּב אָדָם לִרְאוֹת אֶת־עַצְמוֹ, כְּאִלּוּ הוּא יָצָא מִמִּצְרָֽיִם

In every generation, everyone is obligated to see themselves as though they personally left Egypt.

It is the act of telling and retelling the exodus that allows us and each generation to see ourselves as an undeniable part of our community’s evolving story.

In the Haggadah* we read of four children, each of whom learns in a unique way. This year, we hear the questions they ask with new ears as we work to make sense of the modern-day exodus caused by the war in Ukraine.

1. Our wise child: What does all of this (today) mean? It means that even in the very worst of times, you can see the best in humanity.

We traveled to the Ukraine/Poland border a few weeks ago with a small group of Jewish leaders from North America. We went to meet with Ukrainian refugees to hear their stories and to let them know that our Jewish community is – and will continue to be – there for them.

We witnessed heroism in the refugees, volunteers, staff of the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), and countless others. Thanks to the ongoing support of community members like you, JAFI and JDC were able to respond immediately to the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II – working around the clock to help the millions of people crossing the borders into neighboring countries secure emergency accommodations, as well as provide them with food, blankets, medication, clothing, and personal hygiene supplies. At the same time, they were helping to evacuate and care for individuals under immediate threat within Ukraine.

We’ve also witnessed the immense generosity and compassion that defines Jewish Clevelanders. Together, we have already raised close to $3.5 million to help the rapidly growing needs in the region, as well as in Israel as it provides a new home for so many refugees. We are able to be there in Ukraine at a moment’s notice because you have been here for good year after year.

2. Our wicked child: What does all of this mean to you?

It means that the freedom we enjoy as Jews and Americans comes with a great responsibility to act. Whether responding to the war in Ukraine, navigating the past two years of a global pandemic or combating the unrelenting rise in Jew hatred, we are forever interconnected. We share a collective fate and, as a result, a collective obligation to one another – even as children.

3. Our simple child: What is this?

The story of the exodus out of Ukraine is proof that together we can do more than any of us individually. Together, we can make a difference in individual lives and in the history of our time.

4. Our last child is unable to ask. To them we share: We are all responsible one for the other.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (z”l) taught that the four children are a vignette of the Jewish people. There is a message of hope in this family portrait. Though they disagree, they sit around the table, telling the same story. Though they differ, they stay together, each learning from the other. Much like Jewish Cleveland – we differ in many ways but remain committed to working together to ensure a better tomorrow.

As we celebrate our freedom this year, let us hold those who have lost theirs close to our hearts. Chag Kasher v’Sameach – Happy Passover. Next year in peace – with families reunited. Next year in Cleveland and in Jerusalem.

J. David Heller
Board Chair

Erika B. Rudin-Luria

p.s.: For those of you who have already contributed to Jewish Cleveland’s Ukraine Emergency Relief Fund, thank you. If you haven’t yet done so or would like to do more, you can do so here.

*This year, the JDC has created a special Ukraine reading for your seder. You can access a free copy of it here.

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