This year, Passover takes place during a historic time. According to the United Nations statistics, the current refugee crisis involves 60 million people — more than has ever been recorded before.
The first night of Passover is the Seder meal, which took place Saturday night. It is a time when Jews retell the story of their people’s exodus. For many, this story has become reality. “We can see this is actually happening now to many people, including the Syrian refugees,” said Rabbi Eric Greenberg, a spokesman for the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees.
Shadi Martini, Syria’s advisor for the Multifaith Alliance and Muslim Syrian refugee himself, admitted he was surprised to learn that one of the pillars of the Jewish faith was to welcome and come to the aid of the stranger, having no exposure to Jews in Syria. After coming to the U.S. and leaving his position of hospital manager in Syria, he began supplying humanitarian and medical supplies to Syrians in need, and some of the non-governmental organizations offering help were from Israel, which is in conflict with Syria.
Both the American Jewish World Service (AJWS) and HIAS, formerly the Hebrew Aid Immigrant Society, have emphasized the connection between the ancient Israelites and the refugees today during the Seder meal.
As a supplement to the list of the plagues visited upon the Egyptians, HIAS has come up with their own list of “10 Plagues Facing Refugees in the U.S. and Worldwide” accompanied by facts and figures. This list includes violence, dangerous journeys, poverty, lack of access to education, anti-refugee legislation, loss of family, and more.
The AJWS has also supplemented the Seder practice this year by adding supplemental lyrics to the Dayenu, a song that focuses of the individual miracles leading up to the Hebrew exodus, saying that any one of them would have been dayenu, or enough.
The AJWS added to the song of appreciation, highlighting the ongoing need of support for those still in flight:
If the world responds only to the cries of the wounded, but does not stay to help them heal…
It will not be enough.
However, if we sustain our support until stability, peace and independence have been attained…Dayenu! Then it will be enough.
These are only a couple examples of suggestions that the two groups have made for the Seder this year in light of the refugee crisis.