More Jews will gather together tonight than on any other night of the year to retell our ancient and increasingly more relevant Exodus story. Pesach is a transcendent holiday that connects us all, cutting across every religious, geographic, communal, and socioeconomic line. It touches us deeply as Jews and as human beings. I have countless haggadot — from the classic Maxwell House version to others containing commentary from Elie Wiesel, Jonathan Safran Foer, and Rabbi Shlomo Riskin. I have participated in so many unique, rich, and diverse Seders here and across the country. They have each inspired me, and I have learned a tremendous amount from all of those with whom I celebrated.
On Wednesday night, our Federation held our annual Community Leaders Passover Seder with 100 community and civic leaders from all faiths and backgrounds. It was obvious that night that the Pesach story truly connects us all. We all have our own personal Exodus stories in which we have gone from slavery to freedom. We have all battled our personal Pharaohs and, hopefully like the Jewish people, we have become stronger by facing and defeating them.
Our Exodus narrative defines us and our community. It also defines our Federation and our work.
- Poverty is a Pharaoh, enslaving thousands of Israeli youth living in the country’s most impoverished neighborhoods. Our Federation helps them find freedom by providing them with the skills and mentorship that will lead to success.
- Physical, emotional, and learning challenges are Pharaohs. Our Federation empowers almost 3,600 Jewish adults with special needs through our Los Angeles Jewish Abilities Center.
- Disconnection and alienation are Pharaohs. We guide 4,200 young adults through that Red Sea and bring them to the Promised Land of a warm and embracing Jewish community.
These examples are personal and powerful and speak to what the Israelites experienced at the end of the Pesach story — the power of community.
My favorite Pesach song is “Dayenu,” which translates to “it would have been enough.” It’s a reminder not to forget the miracles in our lives. Tonight, at your Seder tables, I hope you will sing “Dayenu” and take in the miracles we do together to help heal our community and touch those who need us the most.
I wish you and your families a meaningful Seder and an enriching Pesach,
President & CEO