Our Seder reflects family traditions and the priorities of our present day Jewish experience. This year, mine will include a banana.
As a child growing up in a progressively Jewish household, our Seder was a tzimis of Jewish activism.
My maternal grandparents were from the American South and active in the Civil Rights movement, so we sing “We Shall Over Come” during the Maggid portion of the Seder.
My mother is a Jewish educator and UC Berkley alum. She teams up with my brother, a Deadhead, to lead us in “Blowing In the Wind,” which we sing in a profoundly nasal Bob Dylan-ese.
In the early 1980s we added an Orange to our Seder plate as a symbol of inclusion of gays and lesbians, and others who are marginalized within the Jewish community. Around the same time, we added place cards with names of Soviet Refuseniks and an extra candle for the 6 million who died in the Shoah.
In the mid-1980s we acquired an afikomen bag with an image of Ethiopian Jews boarding an El Al flight to Israel as part of Operation Moses, the covert evacuation of Ethiopian Jews from Sudan during a famine in 1984.
Miriam’s cup showed up in the early 1990s, and every possible Internet Passover parody song was added to our song sheets when a new generation of grandchildren joined the table. By the way, we have no kids’ tables at our Seder. You spill your Manischewitz or Kedem Grape Juice in equality at the big table like everyone else.
This year there will also be a single banana on our Seder plate.
It was just this past August, less than a year ago, that the world was awakened from our slumber of indifference to the plight of Syrian Refugees with the image of a little boy lying lifeless in the gentle surf of a Turkish beach.
We are a people commanded every year for 3,000 years in the Hagaddah to “see ourselves as we had once come out of Egypt as refugees,” and we saw ourselves.
In that little boy in a t-shirt, shorts and little blue shoes, we saw even more than ourselves: we saw our own children. And we wept.
This little boy was not another nameless victim amongst thousands in the Syrian Refugee Crisis, the greatest humanitarian crisis since WWII. Over 10 million people have fled from chaos…into chaos. There are 360,000 refugee children under the age of 11 in Turkey alone.
But this little boy was not a number, because human beings are not numbers! Human beings are never numbers. This tiny child had a name. His name was Aylan Kurdi (age 3). He drowned along with his older brother Galip (age 5) and their mother Rihan on a tragically failed exodus to freedom’s distant shore.
Aylan and Galip’s father Abdullah survived the harrowing journey – though how does a parent survive the death of their children? Can we as Jews relate to that? Ask Otto Frank, Ann Frank’s father.
Wracked with grief, his father reminisced that his precious boys both loved bananas, a luxury in their native war torn Syria.
Every day after work, Abdullah would bring home a banana for his sons to share. A sweet little treat; a sign of his enduring love for them and a reminder that across oceans and cultures we are not so different.
Did our ancient Hebrew ancestors on their own exodus coax their children along that harrowing journey with sweets or precious fruits? Maybe. Mark Twain once wrote, “History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes.” No two eras or events are the same, but many, if not all, have rhyming similarities.
So this year I will place a banana on my Seder plate and tell this story. It will remind me and those seated around me of Aylan, Galip and children everywhere who are caught up in the agony of this modern day exodus.
Our banana will occupy a place of intentional discomfort alongside the Orange and Miriam’s cup. It will cry out to me like the drops of wine from my Kiddush cup, that we spill for the Egyptians who died pursuing our ancestors through the parted sea. The Torah records that God cried for them too, the drops of wine are God’s tears.
Our banana will motivate me, like the civil rights-era spirituals and the anti-war protest songs, reminding me that the road is long but we must keep marching forward.
And maybe one day soon, like the refusenik name plates and the Ethiopian Afikomon bag, it will be retired to memory, but never forgotten. How could it be? As our Seder reminds us, it was not so long ago that we were the ones who came up out of Egypt seeking safety in a distant land.
For a ritual, poem and blessing connecting to, “A Banana On Your Seder Plate”, visit:
Rabbi Dan Moskovitz
Temple Sholom Refugee Resettlement Project
~ Love the Stranger
SAVE THE DATE: May 17, 2016 7:30 pm
Special event to update and thank volunteers, donors, and all interested Temple members about the Syrian Refugee Resettlement project, to include guests from Kurdish House. An evening of information and entertainment. Watch for details in the May Shofar.
CALL FOR HOUSING
Congregational support for the Refugee Resettlement effort has been generous and enthusiastic – thank you!
Our applications to sponsor both families have received the first of several required approvals – that of the Centralized Processing Office in Winnipeg. The documents have been sent on to Amman, Jordan, and the next step is for the families to pass security review and obtain positive disposition. All family members will need to pass background checks, security checks, document checks, health checks, and visa issuance – all of which will likely take months.
Despite the drawn-out timeline, there’s a strong possibility that we’ll receive notice that the families are due to arrive in Canada on very short notice. We therefore anticipate the need to have short term accommodation lined up for them – anything from a couple of spare bedrooms for several nights, to a furnished suite for a couple of months – as well as long-term accommodation. Our sponsorship commitment includes provision of housing to both families for the first year of resettlement.
Please help us to identify temporary and permanent housing (a home, apartment or basement suite; either with reduced rent or donated outright), preferably in proximity to the following:
a. Public transportation
The particular needs of each family are as follows:
Family #1 is comprised of two parents, two young boys, and a baby (due in May!). Three bedrooms would be ideal. The family has relatives living near the Renfrew Collingwood neighbourhood, so while ANY location in Greater Vancouver in proximity to public transit will serve their needs, that neighbourhood is ideal.
Family #2 is a young couple. A 1-bedroom home will accommodate them nicely. They have relatives living near Metrotown, so while ANY location in Greater Vancouver in proximity to public transit will serve their needs, that neighbourhood is ideal for this couple.
(Should we receive a donation of housing, then proximity to public transportation becomes less of a priority).
If you know of accommodation that meets these criteria and/or if you’re interested in contributing housing for the benefit of one of our sponsored families, please contact Rochelle Garfinkel at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for your continued support!
Temple Sholom Refugee Resettlement Committee