Passover: Community For the Sake of Justice

 

Passover: Community for the Sake of Justice

By Rabbi Stephanie Ruskay, AVODAH Director for Alumni and Community Engagement 

Maimonides teaches in Hilchot Teshuva 3:11, The Laws of Repentance, that someone who separates themselves from the community, even if they commit no sin but merely show themselves to be indifferent to the plight of their community, has no place in the world to come. 

At AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps we place great emphasis on doing anti-poverty work in an intentional community. This type of community can be residential, as in AVODAH’s year-long service program, or it can be a group of alumni that commits to each other that together they will reflect on their work, the lessons they learn from it, and the ways in which it is rooted in or related to their Jewish identity. Our theory is that social change requires leaders who are skilled at working together in community. Talented as they may be, none of them is going to make social change on their own. 

We have all seen social change movements that broke down because people couldn’t work together—well-meaning groups that splintered into multiple factions addressing the same issue but run by different people who couldn’t get along. AVODAH is committed to training Jewish social change agents who can work together, even if they are not the best of friends. We take Maimonides’ teaching that you may not separate yourself from the community seriously. 

There is a similar lesson for us in the Passover seder. We begin the telling of our story by proclaiming: “Let all who are hungry come and eat, let all who are needy come celebrate Passover.” We welcome anyone who wants to be there, even if they are not the people with whom we might usually work or socialize. 

This Passover I offer you, the reader, a challenge. If someone in need of your food, your company, or your opinion does not simply present themselves to you, go out and look for them. Follow Maimonides’ teaching: attach yourself to the community, build bridges, expand your boundaries. This year, with so much turmoil in the world, with such a need for civic engagement, make this the Passover that you both welcome in and pursue community for the sake of justice. 

 

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