I join the rest of the Jewish world in celebrating Pesach, aka Passover, the celebration of the liberation of the ancient Hebrews from slavery in Egypt, the crossing the Red Sea, and the marching through the wilderness to get to the Promised Land.

The Hebrew word for Egypt is “Mitzrayim,” the place of narrowness, of limitation; where do we face limitation in our lives? Where do we limit ourselves? Where do we find ourselves stifled and repressed? What are the rivers we have to cross is order to find our fulfillment, to attain our fullest potential? What would our “promised land” look like, our place of fulfillment?

Let us ask ourselves these questions as we enjoy our Pesach.

JLC Labor Seder

Just about every Jewish movement you can think of has its own variation of the Pesach Seder, which updates for modern times while being loyal to the Pesach message of the liberation of the Jews from “Mitzraim,” the Hebrew name for Egypt. (“Mitzraim” literally means “the narrow place,” the place of few opportunities and no where to move, the place of limitations.)

On Thursday, April 9, I went to the Labor Seder of the Philadelphia chapter of the Jewish Labor Committee (JLC), an organization of Jewish trade unionists, organized in the 1930s to combat the rise of Fascism. This took place in the Calvary Center for Culture and Community, 48th and Baltimore Avenue. They had the traditional Seder place with the Maror, the Haroset, the Karpas, lamb bone, the salt water, and the Matzah, and the traditional blessings were said. But contemporary issues were addressed in the Seder, like the poor relations between law enforcement and minority communities, and police shooting unarmed African-American men.

The Haggadah also dealt with labor struggles earlier in American history, such as the Triangle Shirtwaist fire in 1911, the organizing of farm workers, and the problems on inequality in this wealthy nation. “Mitzraim” is not something in the past, there are still places and problems with people stuck in narrow, limited situations; and there will always be people fighting to get out of them.