Keshet is a national organization that works for LGBTQ equality in Jewish life. The organization equips Jewish leaders with tools to build LGBTQ-affirming communities, creates spaces for queer Jewish teens to feel valued and develop their own leadership skills, and mobilizes the Jewish community to fight for LGBTQ justice. Keshet’s blog spotlights this work, as well as the voices of LGBTQ Jews, our families, and allies.
This year, I will be spending most of Pesach (Passover) in a small town in southwestern Missouri. I will be with people I love dearly, but not a whole lot of Jews.
If I have enough time before I leave, I’ll grab a box of matzah to take with me, but otherwise, I’m not sure exactly how Pesachdik (kosher for Passover) my holiday will be this year. What I do know is that when I ask myself the question: “Why is this night different from all other nights?” at least part of the answer will be that I’m not at a seder table surrounded by LGBTQ Jews and allies, which has been my Passover practice for most of the last eight years.
For many of us, as LGBTQ Jews, Passover is a holiday that can have unique resonance.
It is a holiday that speaks to our histories of oppression and liberation, and of a commitment to work for justice in our own times. It is a holiday with themes of coming out, of taking risks to be fully ourselves, of feeling small and unworthy of the task in front of us, but stepping up anyway. It is a holiday ripe for queer exegesis!
And yet, for LGBTQ Jews who are not spending their seder around a table of family and friends who embrace us as fully ourselves, that disconnect can be fraught. Keshet has compiled resources for bringing an LGBTQ lens to your seder, and I’d encourage you to check them out and share them.
I’d also like to offer a few personal questions this year:
For those of us who will spend our seder in the warm embrace of families and communities that largely reflect our lives and values, how does that sweetness prepare us for continuing the work toward freedom?
For those of us who will spend these holidays feeling in some way set apart from the people around us, like the Israelites wandering through the desert, how do these moments of wandering, of feeling lost and unsure, prepare us for liberation?
As we sink into our own stories of displacement, wandering, exile, and freedom, we are also turning our attention to the global refugee crisis. If you are in Boston for Passover, I hope you will join with Keshet, HIAS, and Repair The World for an evening of conversation and learning about the global refugee crisis, how LGBTQ people are impacted worldwide, and how the Jewish community is responding.
May this season of rebirth and remembering carry us forward to liberation and freedom.
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Pronounced: PAY-sakh, also PEH-sakh. Origin: Hebrew, the holiday of Passover.
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.)