message from rabbi ayelet s. cohen

Passover is coming, and with it the time for spring cleaning. Of course the practice of spring cleaning is hardly exclusive to the Jews. Whether or not we observe Passover, spring is a time to scrub ourselves clean both literally and metaphorically, cleansing our homes and ourselves of the gritty residue of winter as we prepare to greet the new season.

After a particularly bitter winter, we yearn for the warmth of spring. This is the season for new growth and beginnings. Sometimes in order to move forward we must let go of that to which we are accustomed. There is nothing wrong with chametz, the bread and leavened foods traditionally prohibited on Passover. Those foods sustain us throughout the year. But for the week of Passover we try to live a different way, as if to adopt the experience of our Israelite ancestors who fled Egypt in such haste there wasn’t even enough time to let the bread dough rise.

We prepare ourselves for the journey as best we can, knowing that whatever enslaves us—work, unhealthy relationships, addiction—we can never be fully prepared for the final flight from slavery to freedom. That moment when redemption is actually in reach will be unexpected. We need to watch carefully for the signs of its approach. Even then, for all of our planning, we will not know the moment until it is upon us and then we will have to hurry. Something will be left unfinished, the dough not yet risen. But if we do not prepare at all we may not be able to leave. We must prepare ourselves for redemption, to leave the narrow places that enslave us, or else we risk carrying too much of Egypt with us.

The first Mishnah of Tractate Pesachim instructs us to search for chametz by candlelight before first light on the fourteenth of Nisan, the night before Passover. As if preparing for Passover was not difficult enough! We are told to clean our homes of all chametz, all leavened bread or foods. Now we must check for any remnants. Would we not do better to search by the full light of day? Can we really be expected to take so much time on the night before the Seder searching one dimly lit circle at a time?

Searching our darkest corners for the crumbs of whatever is holding us back isn’t pretty. So our tradition has us spare ourselves the bright spotlight of inquisition. We examine one bit at a time, by a gentler light that causes us to look all the more carefully. We will find chametz by candlelight that we never would have seen in brighter light. After Passover we will eat bread again (or most of us will), and things will go back to the way they were. But hopefully we will be different—lighter for the crumbs we have emptied from our pockets and ready to greet the spring.

Passover also challenges us to look beyond ourselves, to the people and systems today perpetuating oppression and slavery; to celebrate movements of freedom and liberation; and to commit ourselves to using the freedoms we enjoy to help extend that freedom to others. This Passover, we continue our tradition of highlighting the work of some of the remarkable organizations in our community whose mission it is to lift the yoke of oppression and bring freedom to those who seek it. I encourage you to actively join in the work of liberation by telling these stories at your seder table and supporting one or more of these critical efforts.

A zissen Pesach—Chag Sameach—Happy Passover,
Rabbi Ayelet S. Cohen
Director of The Center for Jewish Living


A Broadway Karaoke Passover: There’s No Seder Like Our Seder
Wed, Apr 2, 2:30-4 pm

An Italian Passover Seder
Wed, Apr 2, 7-9:30 pm

Delectable Parve Passover Desserts + Confections
Fri, Apr 4, 10 am-12:30 pm

Matzah Baking Workshop & JCM Tour for Russian Speaking Families
Sun, Apr 6, 10:30 am-12:30 pm

20s + 30s Volunteer Corps: DOROT Package Delivery
Sun, Apr 6, 11 am-2 pm

Ma’yan 20th Anniversary Seder at the Museum of Jewish Heritage
Sun, Apr 6, 2-5 pm

Exotic Sephardic Vegetarian Seder
Mon, Apr 7, 7-9:30 pm

Special Holiday Bereavement Program: Empty Chair at the Seder
Mon, Apr 7, 6:30-8 pm

French Macarons
Tue, Apr, 7-9:30 pm

Lotsa Matzah: Easy Passover-Friendly Dishes for 20s + 30s
Wed, Apr 9, 7-9:30 pm

Passover Workshop
Thu, Apr 10, 11:30 am-12:30 pm

Passover Celebration for children with special needs and their families
Sun, Apr 13, 11:30 am-1:00 pm

Second Night Seder with Romemu
Tue, Apr 15, 7:30-11:00 pm

Questions in Motion: An Evening of New Choreography and Music Inspired by the Passover Story
Thu, Apr 24, 7:30-9:30 pm

Focus on the Omer through Meditation
Weekly on Thursdays in Makom, Apr 17-May 29
7:30-8:30 am and 5:45-6:45 pm
Free ($5 donation suggested)
During the Omer period from Passover to Shavuot, our Thursday meditation sessions in Makom will be inspired by a teaching about the Omer and the mystical meaning ascribed to each week. Counting the days during this special period of remembering the time between leaving Egypt and receiving the Torah is a very powerful experience of mindfulness. With Bernice Todres.

Shabbat Shabbang Mimouna
Fri, April 25, 7 pm

jcc passover slideshow 2014

social justice on passover

Passover is, above all else, a holiday that celebrates freedom. The seder provides an opportunity to rejoice in our transformation from slaves to a liberated nation, to live as free people in a land of our choosing

A TOMATO ON THE SEDER PLATE from T'ruah: Standing with Farmworkers in their Struggle to Uproot Modern-Day Slavery

Passover and Comprehensive Immigration Reform

After the Exodus from Egypt the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for another generation. As Jews we have a long history of wandering. Just as we have experienced slavery in Egypt, we have known what it is to be unwelcome residents in a new country, and how our community has been transformed when we have achieved full and equal citizenship.
Were you born in this country? Were your parents? Your grandparents? Tell your own family's immigration story around the seder table. How does the Jewish community relate to the current national conversation on comprehensive immigration reform? For generations, HIAS has worked to protect refugees and the most vulnerable immigrants.

African Asylum Seekers in Israel

The seder recalls our people's most ancient refugee past--that of Jacob the wanderer and of the Exodus from Egypt. We recreate this experience each year in part to savor our own freedom and in part to sensitize us to the needs of today's refugees. Download this Refugee Seder Supplement and bring the voices of some of these asylum seekers into your family's dining room.

passover treats

Modern Day Plagues Seder Supplement
The reframing of the plagues by Rabbi Ayelet S. Cohen read at the 20th anniversary Ma'yan Seder is now available for download.

Passover prep:
If you are getting ready for...
A seder with kids: Kveller's How to Survive a Seder With Kids

Your more observant cousins coming for seder The No Tin Foil, User-Friendly, Going Kosher for Passover Guide

How to eat healthily, sustainably, and responsibly on Passover

How to do it like Martha Stewart: Martha Stewart's Haute Cuisine for Pesach

Learn from the experts: Jewlicious Annual Passover Recipe RoundUp

The JCC is a distribution site for the Yiddish Farm's local organic shmura matzah. read more here: Even Matzo Is Going Local

Music and more:

For the younger set: Seder Plate - The Macaroons

For those seeking refuge in the screen: Kveller's Passover Movies

End Passover North African style: Mimouna Revelries Mark End of Passover