Making Peace the priority for Passover

Each week, Friendship and Faith publishes a story encouraging cross-cultural friendship. Sometimes we publish a personal story (and we’d like you to share your story with us). Sometimes we share a great idea for making new friends. This week, interfaith peace activist Brenda Rosenberg shares a great idea:

Making PEACE the priority for Passover

By Brenda Naomi Rosenberg

Passover is one of my favorite Jewish Holidays. I have precious memories of celebrating the Holiday as a child with my brother, parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents. My grandparents were orthodox and our Seders lasted until almost midnight. As much as I loved staying up hours past my bed time—and hearing the amazing story of our exodus from Egypt—helping my mother arrange the flowers and set the table with our special Passover cloths, napkins, silverware and dishes, was my favorite part of the holiday. So I was delighted when Elyse Foltyn called and asked me to decorate one of  the 23  holiday tables for Temple Beth El’s first ever “The Passover Table.” That’s what Beth El calls this creative showcase of ideas for families decorating Passover tables, which also is a popular fund-raiser for the religious school.

As a passionate peace activist, I wanted my table to speak to the concepts of Passover that are the most meaningful to me. Passover is not meant to be merely a celebration of a Jewish victory in our past; the observance also inspires us to extend that liberation to the whole world. Each year, as we move through the ritual meal, the readings and the spirited discussions around the Passover table, we are reminded that we have that power to liberate and bring peace to our world.

One of my favorite passages from the Haggadah (the book that tells the story) asks us to “remember that you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Indeed, it commands us positively: Thou shalt love the stranger. As I prepared for this event at which so many people were sharing Passover ideas, I thought: What could be more fitting than incorporating Peace into the table we would design together? Maybe someone else will carry this idea into their home and the wider world. Today, with the publication of this story, I’m sharing the idea even further.

Not having children of my own, I enlisted my extended family; my niece Marlo Scott, her son Aiden 11 and daughter Ava 13 (the only person I know who has a lager collection of peace signs than me) and Carrie Doelle, my adopted daughter, her son Anthony 4 and daughter Gigi 5.

We called our table PASSOVER for PEACE. Everything was in colorful paper and plastic—a real kids table. We transformed nine feet of white paper into our table cloth and began drawing peace signs and printing the word peace in ten different languages. The kids personalized the pillows used to recline at the Seder table with their names. Ava drew a new cover for our Rosenberg family Haggadah. We cut out doves for napkin rings. Shiny white plastics plates were layered on angles to form a Star of David and placed on top of lime green paper placemats. Plastic frogs (representing one of the plagues that infested the Egyptians) surrounded the dish that holds the salt water used to dip vegetables. Carrie added white doves, Marlo quince branches and her beautiful candlesticks. I added my Kiddish cup filled with PEACE wine, and a Seder plate purchased in Jerusalem. We even created a new tradition: a matzo for hope.

We are deeply concerned about our world, and feel nothing is more needed than peace, so we are recreating our table for this year’s Passover celebration with the hope that others will join us in dedicating their Passover tables, Easter tables—all holiday celebrations and even weekday dinners to bringing peace to our world. You’ve heard the story today. You’ve seen the images.

What can you create as a sign of peace?

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