The week-long celebration of Passover ends on Sunday. With the New York City mayoral race in high gear, we asked the major Democratic candidates ahed of June’s primary if they have ever been to a Passover seder, and which if any of its themes or messages resonate with them.
Their answers are instructive, and a reminder of the various themes that animate the holiday: perseverance, liberation, human diversity, social justice and new beginnings. Their answers also demonstrate how the candidates meld constituents’ particularist beliefs and customs into their own campaign messages.
The réponses below are taken from a seven-question survey we sent to the field of what is now eight major candidates; we are still waiting to hear back from the campaigns of Andrew Yang and Ray McGuire, and will add their responses when we do.
We’ll publish their responses to the other questions — on fighting hate, combating homelessness, the economic future of New York City and other topics — next week.
Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough President
I’ve been to several Passover seders over the years, and enjoy the ritual structure, stories and melodies. The particular message of the four sons, the four children resonates with me most. The four sons represent all different kinds of people, individuals of different viewpoints and perspectives, who must be told the story of Passover pursuant to their own abilities, talents and capacities to understand. In a diverse and representative democracy, you have to recognize that every person is different, with unique characteristics, yet everyone deserves to be heard, has rights, and is entitled to services. That is the challenge, to listen and deliver despite everyone’s different characteristics.
Shaun Donovan, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama Cabinet
Yes, I have been to a Passover seder before! The theme that resonates with me most is perseverance. Despite the slavery, despite the plagues, despite the fear, the Jews still made the decision to leave Egypt in search of Israel — a feat that would take them 40 years in the desert. They persevered through these hardships because they knew they were commanded to do so and that the fight for justice was more important.
Kathryn Garcia, former NYC. Sanitation Commissioner
On Passover, we think about resilience in spite of hardship, we think about freedom, we think about revival. This year, I have shared video messages for virtual Passover seders, but I am not attending in-person Seders due to COVID. I’m taking a moment to be thankful for my fellow New Yorkers. Over the past year, New Yorkers stuck together, supported each other, stood up for neighborhood food pantries and cheered on our essential workers. New Yorkers sacrificed to save our city so that tomorrow can be a healthier, more livable city for all of us. It’s what makes this city so great, and why I chose to raise my family here. I want to pay back that sacrifice by rolling up my sleeves and getting us that tomorrow. As mayor, that’s exactly what I’ll do.
Dianne Morales, former Executive Director and CEO of Phipps Neighborhoods
I have not been to a Passover seder, but the themes of justice and liberation truly resonate with me. It is a beautiful way to celebrate both the freedom that the Israelites gained, and remember the hardships that came before and after liberation. I also see many modern parallels to what Moses did and our current day social justice struggles. Moses stood up to an oppressive ruler in order to liberate his people. So many marginalized people are constantly subject to oppressive systems, and I hope to fight alongside these New Yorkers to create a more just and equitable city.
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Scott Stringer, New York City Comptroller
This Passover was the first without my mother, Arlene Stringer. Telling the story of Passover, and the Israelites’ escape from violence and oppression to freedom, is a critical part of the Seder. The story reminds us to look at our world today and recognize how many of our neighbors are facing oppression so we can stand with them and find freedom together. Right now, our Asian neighbors are experiencing hatred, violence and horrible tragedy. As a lifelong New Yorker, I’ve seen these kinds of tragedies too many times – and as a Jew, I know how it feels when my community is targeted with violence.
This year, Passover is the reminder that we will never tolerate hate in New York City. It’s also a reminder that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Maya Wiley, former Counsel to the Mayor
I grew up in a Civil Rights family and freedom seders were an annual tradition. I have seen the role the Jewish community played in fighting alongside Black people for civil rights. I know what’s possible when we work together for our communities. The Passover Seder is a time to think about freedom, perseverance and new beginnings. It is a time during which we tell the story of our struggle and our redemption. The Passover story always resonates. But this year, as we are on the cusp of recovery from the fear and hardship that the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought, it is particularly relevant. Just as the Jewish people escaped from Egypt and set out to reimagine life as a free people, so too must we, as New Yorkers, come together to come out of the twin pandemics of coronavirus and racial injustice to reimagine a better New York, in which we can all live with dignity.