Passover is about storytelling and action.
Most of the storytelling flows in one direction. The leader, ideally, brings to life a story, message or experience, and the receiver listens.
Stories can move us, resonate personally and create new inspiration. They can also fall flat and leave no lasting impression. As they say, “in one ear and out the other.”
A unique holiday, Passover is a time when multiple generations sit around a table to tell and retell the same story. At its best, it is never a one-dimensional flow. From youngest to the oldest, anyone can ask and answer questions.
The retelling of the exodus has appropriately evolved into calls for religious freedom and an end to contemporary forms of bondage. New customs are added all the time, from a Dr. Seuss Haggadah to placing an orange on the seder plate. (The orange was introduced years ago by Dr. Susannah Heschel, a Jewish scholar and daughter of the late Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, as a symbol of inclusion. “I chose an orange because it suggests the fruitfulness for all Jews when lesbians and gay men are contributing and active members of Jewish life,” she wrote.)
As we celebrate Passover, what is different about this night this year? For me, it is finding a way to incorporate or acknowledge the powerful voices of our teens and their cry for gun control and safe schools.
Teenagers across the country have stories to tell. They are seeking active listeners who will act. Our teens are not just listening to the stories, they are creating rallies, walkouts and marches, becoming social justice advocates. We know Judaism teaches that to save one life is to save the entire universe. This Passover is the right time to really hear and engage with our teens.
The Jewish Federation of Louisville and The J are a constant reminder that we believe in our teens. We give them the platform to find their voices, strengthen their identity and flourish as human beings through their engagement on Israel trips, High School of Jewish studies, BBYO, as counselors at summer camp and as social justice advocates.
Next month, six Louisville teens will travel to Poland and Israel on the March of the Living. Last week, Rosette Goldstein, a child survivor of the Holocaust, visited Louisville to share her story. Our teens are immersing themselves in Holocaust education and will visit where the atrocities of genocide took place. Traveling with survivors, they are accepting the lifelong responsibility of sharing the stories of the Shoah and becoming the voices that will ensure the world learns from the past.
Why is this night different from all other nights? Let’s take time to add to the rich legacy of freedom and justice and allow a new generation to add their powerful message.
(Sara Klein Wagner is president and CEO of the Jewish Community of Louisville.)