This month our Rising Voices Fellows explore their relationships to Passover traditions. Be sure to check theJWA blog each Tuesday for a new post from our fellows—and check out the great educational resources provided by our partner organization, Prozdor.
When I was younger, if you had asked me which of the many Jewish holidays is my favorite, I would never have said Passover. The restrictions that Passover requires made it hard for me to enjoy the message behind the Passover story. Plus, the drama that Passover created in my family, with my parents running around the house cleaning, only added to the stress. My grandmother changed this feeling for me.
Every year during the Passover season, we all come together. My grandmother used to host the whole family for the first Seder—she cooked and enjoyed watching us kids act out the plagues.
Then, when I was in the third grade, my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. But before she passed away two years later, she created Passover traditions that remain with me even today. She not only loved the story of freedom, but relished the idea that she too went out of Egypt. She taught me to tell my own stories, much like the Passover story. Many Jewish stories are told from a man’s perspective, but Passover requires each of us to tell our own story. Every Seder we all participate in mini-skits—all of the kids act out each plague and the adults always chime in as well. It has become a Passover tradition for our Seder tables to be covered with toys and knickknacks that represent the plagues.
Now that I look back on it, I can understand why she valued telling her own stories. She felt a lack of control when she was sick. She often felt defined by the medical records and the cancer itself. Cancer took so much away from her. Telling her own stories, especially those of Passover, gave her back her own voice.