A message from Adam Silver, CEO Calgary Jewish Federation

Calgary Jewish Federation CEO Adam Silver

(Calgary) – Shalom Chaverim, In the next few weeks, Pesach  (Passover)  will  be upon us, along with days or weeks, for some of us – of anticipation and preparation. Our time planning for the chag (holiday) is both orchestrated and at the same time full of chaos. Many of us envision exactly how we would like our kitchens, homes, and dining room tables to  transform, and we  also  have done this work year after year. However, often it seems that no matter how much time we have or how much planning we do, our preparations still come down to the wire. In the end, all gets done, the stress disappears as we sit down at our seder meal and see the smiles around our table and on our Zoom feed.

Pesach is a multi-generational story, and the chag and seders are, in most homes, multi-generational experiences. We retell the story of the harsh times and forced labour of the Israelites, and we share the events and meaning of the Exodus from Egypt. Interestingly, each year, even though we know how the story progresses, we still try to find wonder and relevance as we make our way through the Haggadah (the guidebook we use for the seder with a literal meaning of ‘telling’). All Haggadot lead us through the traditional prayers and rituals, with many” “of them connecting the Passover story to contemporary issues.   Generation after generation, we recount the past while we acknowledge challenges, inequities, and opportunities observed in present day. It is a chance for us to maintain the legacy of our tradition, people, and culture, while demonstrating relevance to current and future generations.

Our family table makes a practice of incorporating current events and issues into the timeless Pesach story, prayers, and songs. We talk about issues of poverty and social justice, we reflect on kindness, care, and good citizenship, and we wrestle with issues of equity, fairness, and the presence and absence of G-d. We ask: What can we learn from the Passover story and themes? and How do these learnings translate to today? We also make efforts to explore how others around the world celebrate, and then note the global connections from community to community.  There might be differences in traditions, foods, and stories, but it is remarkable that Jews across the globe are similarly grounded in the experience of the seder. We are all, in our own ways, preserving history and tradition by ensuring the story is retold so it can carry forward under the stewardship of future generations.

As we approach Pesach this year, let’s not simply retell the story, sing the songs, say the brachot (prayers), and enjoy the company and food. In addition, let’s choose to connect the story to contemporary issues. Let’s retell the story as inspiration for action. And, certainly, let’s imagine the amazing Jewish community we can build and steward here in Calgary and beyond.

From my family to yours – wishing you a Chag Pesach Kasher v’Sameach.

Adam Silver is CEO, Calgary Jewish Federation

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