By David Leopold and Eleanor Pelta
This week Jews all over the world celebrate Passover. Extended families, friends, and strangers gather together and relive the story of the exodus from the bondage of the Pharaohs of Egypt. It is a holiday of freedom and hope. And also a celebration of springtime and renewal. At the Seder table we not only tell the story of the exodus from Egypt, we relive it. In fact, the Haggadah (“the story telling”) which we read at the Seder table, and which recounts the story of redemption from slavery, instructs that the history of liberation be remembered as a personal experience, commanding that parents tell the story to their children in the first person; a recounting of what happened when “I myself went free from Egypt.”
Unfortunately, that is not hard to do.
Our parents, for example, need only describe their experiences growing up in Germany and Poland. To us, Passover is not the recounting of an ancient biblical story, it is personal family history.
Passover is also about welcoming the sojourner; the stranger in our midst. Abraham, we are reminded, was a stranger in a strange land. Today, in America, there are millions of undocumented “strangers” who, regardless of how they came here, also deserve to be welcomed with kindness, compassion, and respect. They are not faceless “illegal aliens” as some would label them, but mothers, fathers, children, uncles, aunts, neighbors, and friends.
They include thousands of undocumented youth who grew up as Americans, but lack the papers necessary to take part in the American Dream. Many of them grace the high end of their class honor rolls and dream of working toward a higher education. Others long to serve our nation in uniform. But their lives and futures are put on hold once they finish high school. Their lack of immigration status makes it impossible for them to study or serve their country.
It is thus fitting that today President Obama will convene a summit on immigration reform, the day after he too retold the story of the exodus from Egypt at the White House Seder.
This spring, as many of us celebrate Passover or Easter, we should all hold in our hearts those among us who are bound by the injustice of a broken immigration system. Let’s hope that next year they too will be able to celebrate a new life in America governed by a safe, orderly, and fair immigration policy.