Passover began early this year, with Black Americans singing songs of freedom to a Soviet Jewish refusenik and Jews reciting the prose of a jailed Black activist in South Africa.
The occasion was the Freedom Seder, conducted here last night at the Religious Action Center of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), one of many being held in Reform synagogues all over the country this week under the sponsorship of the Kivie Kaplan Human Relations Institute. The seders are a joint project of the UAHC, the congregational branch of Reform Judaism in America, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Washington area Jews and Blacks gathered to take note of their common legacy of slavery and to reaffirm a shared pursuit of universal freedom in the spirit of the Passover holiday.
The co-hosts were the Rev. Benjamin Hooks, executive director of the NAACP and Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the UAHC. They led a group of about 30 Blacks and Jews in a celebration of freedom gained and in solidarity with those still oppressed.
They sang and recited an assortment of traditional liturgical pieces and folk songs and the writings of such activists as Anatoly Shcharansky, imprisoned in the Soviet Union, South African Nobel Peace Laureaute Bishop Desmond Tutu, and the jailed antiapartheid leader, Nelson Mandela.
"This holiday is particularly appropriate as a unifying symbol between the Black and the Jewish communities," Schindler said, "because it goes to the heart of what the Black movement is all about–the quest for freedom."
In that spirit, the Passover Haggadah used at the Freedom Seders here and elsewhere this year provided a "Matza of Hope" to Soviet Jews and South African Blacks and listed 10 "modern plagues" to be fought rather than celebrated, such as war, discrimination and world hunger.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.