I believe that each of us has an obligation to fight anti-Semitism, just as we should stand up to any other deeply ingrained prejudice that we encounter. To do this, we must combat the ignorance that feeds the disease of prejudice. I’d like to suggest that the task is not as daunting as it would seem. There is something simple each of us can do as a start this Passover — which commemorates the liberation of Jews from Egyptian slavery. This year, invite non-Jews to your Seder.
—“Fight anti-Semitism by inviting a non-Jew to Seder” by Nadine Epstein, New York Post, March 29, 2015
Happy Passover! I don’t know about you, but I really miss bagels and donuts.
Anyway, I’m kind of stuffed from last night’s seder anyway, which was fun and a little different from years past. In addition to me, Daniel, and Maya, and Dad’s brother Mike and Aunt Liora, and Mom’s Uncle Herb, Dad decided to invite a non-Jewish man from work and his wife. Dad and Mom sort of had a fight about this, because Mom thinks with the extra leaf the dining room table takes up too much space, but Dad said if we didn’t invite Tom and Cynthia (that was their names) we’d be ducking our duty to increase understanding between Christians and Jews. Then Mom yelled something like, “Stephen, you work at a medical office. Have these people never met a Jew?” And then Dad went out to the garage, saying he had to clean the cars for Passover.
Anyway, Tom and Cynthia came to the seder, and Dad got real explainy about everything, which made it even longer than usual. He told everyone that matza is the “bread of our affliction,” and that the maror represents the cement the Jewish slaves used to make the pyramids. And then Uncle Mike said, “There’s no historical proof that the Israelites made the pyramids — in fact, it’s an anachronism.” I think it might have been a dirty word because Uncle Herb got all red in the face and yelled, “What are you, an apikoros?” (which may be another dirty word) and then Uncle Mike said, “The historical details are suspect, although I am not disputing its power as a mythical narrative.”
Tom and Cynthia sat there looking a little uncomfortable, and then Dad cleared his throat and said, “Now we remember the 10 plagues that God sent after hardening Pharaoh’s heart.” And then he showed everyone how to dip their fingers in the wine and then to put a drop on the plate for each of the 10 plagues and pretend it is blood. And then Maya asked, “Is that because we are happy that God killed the Egyptians?” And Dad looked quickly at Tom and Cynthia and said, “No, honey. The blood is a reminder how sad we are that some Egyptians had to die so we could be free.” And then Maya asked, “If God didn’t want the Egyptians killed how come he hardened Pharaoh’s heart?” And Dad said, “Well, that’s just an expression in the Bible.” Uncle Mike gave a snorty laugh and Uncle Herb gave Uncle Mike a dirty look.
And then Dad held up the horseradish and said it was the bitter herb, so Uncle Mike said, “Hey, Herb, they named it after you” and there was a little more yelling, and then Tom looked at his watch and Cynthia said, “Well, this has been special but the babysitter, you know…” And Dad said, “No! We haven’t even eaten yet!” So Tom and Cynthia stayed.
Dinner was delicious, and afterwards we sang the grace after meals. And then we got to the part where we open the door for Elijah and Uncle Herb said the prayer and Mom said, “Don’t read the English!” but it was too late because Uncle Herb read in a loud voice, “Pour out Your wrath on the nations that don’t recognize You and on the families that don’t call on Your name.”
And this time Tom and Cynthia looked REALLY uncomfortable, and Dad turned redder than the horseradish and Uncle Mike did that laugh-snorty thing. “We don’t take that literally,” Mom said, and Dad said, “It’s figurative,” and then Mike said, “Do you mean to tell me that over the centuries this didn’t express a legitimate impulse for revenge among the Jews?” And then Cynthia said, “That’s okay, we know the Bible can be kind of harsh.” And Uncle Herb said, “Harsh, I’ll tell you harsh! Try surviving a winter in Siberia because the anti-Semits took everything you own!” And then Mom said, “C’mon, Uncle Herb — you grew up in White Plains, not Minsk-a-pinsk,” and then everyone was yelling.
So Dad said, “Hey kids, we need something to lighten the mood — how about a Passover song!” Daniel suggested “Had Gadya,” and Dad said, “Great! Start us off!” So we start to sing, and it was really fun, but when we got to the part where the butcher kills the ox, and the Angel of Death kills the butcher, and God kills the Angel of Death, it suddenly got real quiet. “That’s a famous, um, Jewish … children’s song,” said Dad, in kind of a tight voice.
Finally, Mom brought out the jell rings and the chocolate-covered matzo, which everyone seemed to like. We got Tom and Cynthia their coats and Cynthia said to Mom, “Thank you so much. This was lovely. It reminded me of the seders when I was a kid.” And Dad said, “You’re Jewish?” and Tom said, “I didn’t convert but we plan on raising the kids Jewish.” And then Mom glared at Dad, and Uncle Mike snorted.