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Every year, on the 15th of the Hebrew month of Nisan, Jews the world over gather with family and friends to celebrate Passover. Like all Jewish holidays, Passover is filled with centuries-old traditions, special foods and commitment to heritage.
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It is easy to get caught up in the customs of the holiday. Cleaning the house of food and things that have accumulated since last Passover is a great idea. It is an easy observance to adhere to. Not eating leavened bread is a bit harder, but the time frame is not so long that going without is going to be a severe hardship. Celebrating with friends and family in attendance, singing the songs we have sung for generations, remembering the Passovers of our childhood and creating memories for our children are all part of the celebration. That is the easy part.
What about the requirements of Passover that are not so easy to fulfill? Passover, the celebration of freedom, reminds us that none of us are free until everyone is free. How do we deal with hunger and starvation, war and brutality? What do we do when the problems are enormous and our own ability to solve them seems impossible? Do we give up, or do we go at the problem in a different manner?
At every Seder (Passover meal) all the participants recount great plagues and the hardships they brought. Many families, like ours, add our own societal plagues to the recitation. At last years Seder as we went around the table participants responded with concerns so immense just the sheer mention of them brought sighs of despair. Others mentioned concerns that may have seemed trivial, but were monumental to the person posing them. How could we, a small group of 20 or so people in Juneau, have an impact on these problems? The solution came from Becca Freer who simply stated that "we had to do what we could do and not give up."
"Everything, even the small stuff matters" she said.
And she, in her then 15-year-old wisdom, was right. We must make a commitment to make a difference. The tasks we can accomplish is what eventually gets the job done. Individually we may not be able to stop the famine in Darfur, but we can send a check for famine relief, write letters to law makers for aid, educate our friends to the problem and encourage them to get involved. The effort it takes is small, and the result could very well mean the difference between life and death.
But what of our own community? What can we do here to make a difference? Look around you. Juneauites are helping and giving with open hearts. A commitment I will make this year, and I hope you consider as well, is to give to the food bank set up by Shepard of the Valley Lutheran Church. Even in the midst of their own tragedy, Pastor Rorem and his congregation have not given up on feeding people who are hungry. There are no forms to fill out, no low requirements to reach and no verification of starvation. If you ask, you will receive. These generous souls have made me remember that each of us can make a difference.
Juneau resident Chava Lee is a member of Congregation Sukkat Shalom.