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Enjoy this new Haggadah supplement from Netzer Olami, compiled by Rabbi Jordan Helfman for the World Union of Reform Judaism, celebrating its 40th year of empowerment and leadership.

Download and share with your family and community seder this Pesach!

Growing Towards Redemption

What is the single most important thing we can have at our Passover table?

My father would argue that it is my Bubbe – my late Grandmother’s Wine Cake.  When I was little, I might have said that it was the maror to go on top of the gefilte fish.  A gardener might focus on the karpas- the greenery and sign of spring.  My rabbinic colleagues might say it is the Matzah.

But, upon reflection, the answer is hidden within the seder itself – from the Four Questions to the Four Children’s teaching of V’higad’ta L’Vincha וְהִגַּדְתָּ לְבִנְךָ  “Tell your children”  make the answer clear.  The most important thing we can include at our Pesach seder is our children and grandchildren. The next generation of those who are perpetually walking towards an idea of a Promised Land.

Earlier this week, I had the chance to learn from Brazil’s Student Rabbi Andrea Kulikovsky.[1]  She emphasized Miriam the Prophetess’s role in our people’s redemption – especially a story from the Talmud where Miriam places her hopes for the Jewish people upon the children.[2]

While many of us live in different countries from parents and children – all of us invest in the next generation through our involvement in the Union for Reform Judaism, the World Union of Progressive Judaism, and our Holy Blossom Temple community.  Though our branch of the World Union’s youth movement has been in existence for eighty years, the birthday of the international coalition of youth movements is also celebrated this year. The World Union for Progressive Judaism gained its youth movement, Noar Tzioni Reformi נוער ציוני רפורמי  Netzer forty years ago.   If you are a graduate of any branch of our youth movement, please fill out this form to stay in touch.

This past Shabbat, in an amazing first-ever event, many of the young adults from our international movement who are spending time in Israel gathered together, and some contributed to the Seder Supplement below, which has readings for your Passover table.

As we know, the Passover seder takes us on a journey from avdut עבדות slavery to heyrut חירות freedom.  But as our children remind us, there are many who still feel like they are captive in this world, and we need to help them march along a path to happiness – We cannot end with heyrut חירות freedom, but with achrayut אחריות responsibility.

This is the message that appears again and again in the supplemental below, written by the Shabbaton attendees and by graduates of our youth movement who are now serving as rabbis in our communities, including our own Senior Rabbi, Yael Splansky, who is a graduate of NFTY.

  • Sitting with Netzer teens in South Africa last week, Rabbi Greg Alexander asked what it might mean to leave Egypt, today.  He passes on a challenging idea that came out of his discussion – In the modern context “Mitzrayim is alive and well, and sometimes it is actually ourselves that is the Pharaoh.”
  • Rabbi Yael Splansky links the karpas with seeds of redemption. She turns to us with this challenging question: “what ‘seeds of kindness’ should be celebrated in this season of rebirth?”
  • Rabbi Haim Shalom emphasizes how the themes of Passover are linked deeply to the mission of our youth movement, “One of the themes of Passover is to free oneself from one’s usual surroundings and step into the unknown. To make ourselves a tiny bit vulnerable as we are in a place which is neither here nor there. Journeying makes us vulnerable and opens us up. That opening up is how we learn. This central lesson of Jewishness is also the primary thinking behind Netzer as a youth movement. … Jewishness and Netzer are a journey – an eternal Exodus from closed spaces to freedom, inquiry, and, we hope, to finding yourself (הגשמה hagshama).”
  • And at the end of our seders when we say “Next Year In Jerusalem, Rabbi Lea Mühlstein asks that we add the word ha’bnuyah הבנויה ‘rebuilt’ to our to the last line of our seder, “The final words of the seder must be a rallying call as we embrace our freedom: a call to accept that with freedom comes responsibility, that the fact that we are empowered to act places a duty on us to help shape a better tomorrow.”

There are real questions of freedom in our world today.  Many of those questions are linked to those who experience the power of freedom abdicating the necessary companion of responsibility.

When we look around our seder tables, not all of us will have children there.  [Those that do have children are most likely the least able to read through additional materials at the seder.]  Even without children present, we know our circle of responsibility extends to teaching our community’s children our values – the values taught through Netzer and through our synagogue and our day school – that freedom is not an end goal, but rather freedom must always be paired with responsibility.

Chag Sameach!

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