By Gen Slosberg
Passover is coming up and I could not be more excited. As someone who grew up without Jewish community, Passover was one of the meaningful access points that brought me deeper into my Judaism. Passover invites us to reflect on our story of exodus from Egypt, and how the themes of liberation and justice relate to our own lives.
This year, I’m overjoyed to be celebrating with the youth I work with in Jewish Youth for Community Action’s program for Jews of Color, Sephardi, Mizrahi (JOCSM) youth, Jews Against Marginalization (JAM). In JAM, we are always exploring how to uplift and celebrate our JOCSM identities. Passover is a great time for not just JOCSM folks to come together and bring our full selves to the (seder) table, but for multicultural Jewish families to celebrate all of their identities.
Below are four ways I personally find meaningful to adapt Passover plans and invite in my full identity.
- Add a fusion twist to traditional eats. One of the best things about Passover is always the giant feast! Passover foods are incredibly flexible to fusion adaptation. For example, check out these recipes for a beautiful meld of Asian and Jewish foods – Japanese BBQ brisket by Kristin Eriko Posner and matzo ball soup dumplings by Justin Cucci. Also consider incorporating foods from Sephardi and Mizrahi cultures, such as this Sephardi take on charoset or this Persian stew.
- Incorporate your multicultural staples onto the seder plate. A few years ago, I attended a Jews of Color seder which used wasabi instead of horseradish as the maror (bitter herb). Even though that choice was largely due to what was available around us, it still made me feel deeply seen as an Asian Jew. It gave me permission to incorporate my heritage into the ways I connect with Judaism. You could even consider using staple sweet ingredients in other cuisines as part of your charoset!
- Spend some time exploring what’s behind the traditional four questions. Why do we ask ourselves these questions, other than to highlight how Passover is different from other times in the Jewish calendar? What do the practices we highlight in those questions represent to our history, and what do they teach us about our present? Reflect on whether the themes of the four questions come up in your other identities. For example, remembering our suffering through bitter herbs resonates with my Asian American identity — I’ve continued to honor the historic and ongoing exclusion and discrimination Asian Americans have faced despite our perceived present success as a group.
- Incorporate writings by Jewish Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) creatives into your Haggadah. Passover is about exodus and the ability to be free at last. But in 2021/5781, marginalized communities, including Jews, are not free. Explore artwork that uplifts the meaning of freedom and hope to BIPOC Jews. You can read this poem by Sara Greenhalgh, this poem by Aaron Samuels, or the writings and voices of Black Jews in Jews for Racial and Economic Justice’s Black Lives Matter Haggadah. Name why it’s important to incorporate these voices – not just to celebrate multiculturalism, but to recognize that we all must commit to fight for true liberation for BIPOC in our community.
As a Jew of Color, it’s incredibly meaningful when I get to bring my multiple identities into Jewish settings, especially one as infused with tradition, ritual and culture as Passover. Cultural fusion will look different for every family and community. There’s no right or wrong way to adapt traditions, other than whatever feels right and authentic to you personally. This being said, I still urge you to bear in mind the history and context behind the traditions you’re thinking of adapting, and educate yourself on how to avoid cultural appropriation. For communities with predominantly white and Ashkenazi folks, I encourage you to adapt your Passover plans by inviting in the leadership of diverse families in your network.
So have fun, bring in your cultural identities, and most importantly, find ways to commemorate this historic moment for our people that reflect who you are.
JAM is hosting a Passover celebration for Jews of Color, Sephardi, Mizrahi youth (ages 13-18) on Sunday, March 28th at 12:30-2PM via Zoom. Youth can sign up and parents can sign youth up here. Sign up by March 26th to receive a free meal!
Gen Xia Ye Slosberg is a writer, organizer, and community builder. She is the Program Manager at Jewish Youth for Community Action and the Co-Creator of LUNAR: The Jewish-Asian Film Project. She is passionate about increasing visibility and advancing equity for Jews of Color and mixed-race folks.