Moving Out of Mitzrayim: Each of Us and All of Us

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As we enter fully into this month of Nisan, we will have opportunities to celebrate and wrestle with the ideas of oppression and liberation in the larger world, while not diverting energy from our own backyard -- especially as they pertain to civility in the Public Square and our national discourse. We not only have an historic narrative of moving from slavery to becoming a liberated people for whom “a mixed multitude of all who wished to leave” were welcome to join us, we also must confront modern Pharoahs in Mitzrayim/Egypt (“a narrow place” in Hebrew)

In our work through POWER this month, there are a number of actions and activities that will help draw attention to the urgent need for an actual budget in this state. These actions include a Full, Fair Funding Formula for our schools (that doesn’t come disproportionately off the backs of middle and low-income families), racial justice and “Living Free”- ending mass incarceration in particular of people of color in our country, and Economic Dignity with a stand for a fifteen-dollar living wage, public banks and green jobs here in Philadelphia.

On Thursday, April 14, there will be a National Day of Action for a Living Wage, with a Philadelphia action through POWER. In addition, Lynne Iser. Rabbis Arthur Waskow, Phyllis Berman and Mordechai Liebling and other Mishkan members are helping organize an ELDERS STANDING for DEMOCRACY SPRING of Activism in Washington as part of a four-day faith community gathering in the D.C. area.

We also have the honor to host the Friday evening program and participate in a subsequent North American conference, “Wrestling with Jewish Peoplehood.” Rabbi Deborah Waxman, the President of our Movement and Rabbinical College, will be the keynote speaker after services led by Rabbi Yael levy, Rabbi Jeff Eisenstat of Shirenu in Gladwyne and myself, followed by a kosher catered dinner.

From the mid-20th century to the present, the terminology of "peoplehood" has reigned supreme in communal and individual descriptions of Jewish life.  Yet, in the last few decades, some of the factors that may have once made this language useful have markedly shifted.  Not only are Jewish communities more diverse along axes of ethnic and religious origins, but also our knowledge of this diversity is greater than ever before as historians, sociologists, and anthropologists explore the breadth of Jewish life. This conference aims to explore the extent to which “peoplehood,” in its variations, remains a language of utility and significance to Jewish life. 

Unlike conventional academic conferences, this conference will examine Jewish “peoplehood” as a phenomenon that lies at the intersection of ideology and experience.  We are bringing together scholars who view the idea of “peoplehood” from a variety of perspectives (historical, sociological, theological) with people whose professional and personal experience provide valuable insights into the topic.  These interlocutors will include Jewish communal professionals, philanthropists, and Jews whose experiences intersect in different ways with conventional narratives/portraits of American Jewishness.

With our spring community meeting, Sunday morning, April 3, 10:00 a.m,, and Pesah beginning Friday night, April 22, with the first Seder, service led by Rabbi Yael the first Shabbat morning and going through the end of Shabbat Saturday, April 30, when Julie, Rabbi Simcha and I additionally chant Yizkor and Hallel in the morning and end Passover with an afternoon Pause and Refresh Your Soul at our home, there will be many opportunities to connect in ways that connect us to our mission as a congregation and the greater community.

I will be heading to Cleveland with Simcha to join her side of the family for the first night, and then to Toronto to lead my Canadian family’s second night Seder. I offer you in a renewed spirit of opening our tables, homes and hearts to all this Passover, an alternative take to the moment in our Passover Seder where we historically called out of a place of persecution for God’s Power to intervene. Now, at a time of relative privilege, we enjoy in North America, and with the divisiveness being sewn in sectors of the public arena, it is a timely offering:

This remarkable passage, which is quoted in the Haggadah entitled A Different Night, by Noam Zion and David Dishon, is said to have first appeared in a medieval (1521) Ashkenazi Haggadah from Worms. This inclusion may have been due to the fact that there is known to have been close contact at that time between Jewish and Christian mystics and a sharing of mystical traditions.


שְׁפֹךְ אַהֲבָתְךָ עַל הַגּוֹיִים אֲשֶׁר יְדָעוּךָ

וְעַל מַמְלָכוֹת אֲשֶׁר בְּשִׁמְךָ קוֹרְאִים

בִּגְלַל חֲסָדִים שֶׁהֵם עוֹשִׂים עִם יַעֲקֹב

וּמְגִנִּים עַל עַמְּךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל מִפְּנֵי אוֹכְלֵיהֶם.

יִזְכּוּ לִרְאוֹת בְּסֻכַּת בְּחִירֶיךָ

וְלִשְׂמֹחַ בְּשִׂמְחַת גּוֹיֶיךָ.

Pour out Your love on the nations that know You
And on the kingdoms that call upon Your Name
For the loving-kindness that they perform with Jacob
And their defense of the People of Israel
In the face of those that would devour them.

May they be privileged to see
The Sukkah of peace spread for Your chosen ones
And rejoice in the joy of Your nations

I pray each of you finds new meaning, joy and deepened connections with those who gather with you for our annual pilgrimage out of the narrow places, even as we rekindle our commitment to the liberation of all people and the planet.

Rabbi Shawn Zevit

4101 Freeland Ave. Philadelphia, PA 19128 - ph: (215) 508-0226 / Site map