Excerpted from Celebrate! The Complete Jewish Holiday Handbook. Reprinted with permission of the publisher (Jason Aronson Inc).
Jews in the Warsaw ghetto observed a modified seder on erev Pesach [Passover eve] 1943, the night of the start of the ill-fated heroic uprising. Even concentration camp inmates somehow scrounged up the barest essentials and prayed for the deliverance of their people and vanquishing of their oppressors.
In the post-World War II era, the theme of freedom became linked with the fate of displaced Soviet, Ethiopian, and other endangered communities of Jews whom we prayed would be liberated.
It is no coincidence that the most famous of the ships bringing refugees to Palestine after the war was named Exodus ’47, and that the powerful metaphor was used for the name of the dramatic clandestine airlift that brought close to ten thousand Ethiopian Jews to Israel in 1984-1985 (Operation Moses) and the campaign to fund immigration and settlement of Jews from the former Soviet Union (Operation Exodus).
With its universal messages of freedom from oppression for all people, and its particularistic promises of protection for the people of Israel, Passover remains the most observed holiday among Diaspora Jews.
Pronounced: SAY-der, Origin: Hebrew, literally “order”; usually used to describe the ceremonial meal and telling of the Passover story on the first two nights of Passover. (In Israel, Jews have a seder only on the first night of Passover.)