On Pass-Over, the traditional question for a Jewish person to ask during the ritual part of the meal is, “Why is this night different from all other nights”
by Sue Hirsch — Shlomite Gershona
How is this night different from all other nights?
This is a traditional Pass-Over question, and it’s asked four during the ritual meal on Pass-Over and answered a little differently each time.
I’m starting with this question, because it is where I come from, and you really need to understand that, in order to understand my take on today, and the current immigration policy of the US.
Remember the question. We’ll be getting back to it.
Also keep in mind, that I was a sheltered Jewish girl who never learned about the Trail of Tears and very little about Japanese Internment Camps in my Jewish day school. If I had, I would have died of shame in the first decade of my life.
Instead, I watched the Muppets before bed, with my brothers. Bubby came to stay with us during the worst of the Winters in Missouri, and baked us Mandlbrot and Pesadika bagels, and in the Summers we went to stay at our home on the beach in North Lake Tahoe.
Pesadika bagels were kosher for Pass-Over, but they never made it that far. We ate them all up, lying in front of the fireplace, Winter evenings, reading the funny papers and mushing silly-putty down on the pictures.
So Pass-Over came along, and we were out of Bubby’s bagels. That just left the rest of the ritual meal, called the Sedar.
We would say some blessings, then point to a few symbolic foods one at a time, read aloud from the Haggadah what each of those foods represented from the bible story of Moses rescuing the Jews from bondage in Egypt. Near the end of the meal the youngest kid would get to go on a scavenger hunt for a special piece of matzah.
That piece of matzah was called the Afikoman and without it, we couldn’t finish the meal so the kid would ransom it for a dollar or two to the adult that had hidden it, and then we’d all get to have dessert.
I’m going to honor my elders, today, and ask the traditional question that was answered in 4 different ways, throughout the ritual part of the Pass-Over meal, called the Sedar. The thing is, I’m probably going to ask in different ways than they ever imagined.
So let’s ask, “how this day is different from all other days?”
Today is different for me, because on most other days, I don’t speak, I write. I’m honored to be given the opportunity to speak Today and I intend my words as a gift of sharing. If I say all the right things, then maybe you will see the hope for California as a nation, that I see.
For those who don’t know me, my name is Sue Hirsch. It used to be Shaw, before I was married, and Shaw used to be Tcherniss, before we immigrated from Prussia. My Hebrew name, is Shlomite Gershona, and I’m a San Francisco native.
Jews and the Making of San Francisco is the epic story of the pioneering Jews of San Francisco, their rise to prominence, and how, freed from discrimination, they reinvented themselves as a distinctly new kind of Jew: they weren’t just American Jews — they were San Francisco Jews.
I’m a daughter, a Mom blogger, a wife, an author of children’s books, a retired child care worker of 10 years, a Renaissance Faire player of a few years, a retired massage therapist of over 20 years, a retired radio talk show host of a few years. Most recently, I’ve become an activist pushing for an independent nation of California that provides equal opportunity and representation for all her people. I helped to found an organization intent on that same end, a few years ago.
I was asked to speak, Today, on how the US immigration policy of this current administration is just like policy of WWII in Germany, and just like the Japanese Internment Camps of Pearl Harbor.
I think that we can all agree that there’s no difference. The definition of Concentration Camp is over crowded incarceration. Usually the incarceration is based on one’s ethnicity, politics, or religion.
George Takei can tell you what the Japanese Internment camps were like, because he was there. I learned in school, very briefly, that if you had any Japanese blood, you were tossed in there, because Uncle Sam was sure that you had it in for us, because of Pearl Harbor.
I can tell you that I would have liked a chance to know my several great aunts and uncles who were killed in the Nazi concentration camps. My Dad’s parents escaped barely in time. My Mom’s Dad headed a M.A.S.H unit near the camps, when the war was over. He went inside a few of those camps and saw evidence of the horrors that had been visited on the people there.
Since times haven’t changed as much as we’d like to believe, we need to go back to the traditional Pass-Over question, and rephrase it for present times. It should go something like this:
“How are we going to be different from our invading, conquering and colonizing ancestors?”
Let’s ask ourselves that one again, in a minute. First let me clarify who I’m talking about when I mention our invading, conquering and colonizing ancestors.
Columbus wasn’t the first to discover the Americas. He just took the credit for the discovery, then the Europeans started really colonizing the Americas. In order to do that, we killed a lot of Native Americans.
During that time of genocide we kidnapped and put Indigenous children into boarding schools to “Americanize” them. We cut their hair, changed their names, and told them “You can’t speak your native languages anymore. Only English”.
Those genocidal ancestors of our’s, are the ones that I’m talking about, in this instance.
There’s no getting around it, they behaved atrociously toward our Indigenous brothers and sisters from the time they landed here. We’re just now seeking to learn how we can make amends.
Germany made amends in the form of reparations for her war crimes for over 60 years. They started admitting and making reparations for their crimes quickly in contrast to the US, in relation to her crimes against her Indigenous population.
California had a Listening Round Table, expressly for the purpose of finding out how to begin to make amends to Native Americans about a month ago. We seem to be the first ones in the world to be trying to start this conversation and to ask them how we can make amends for the genocide we committed.
I’m sure that others will mention the Listening Round Table again, and tell you more about it. I’ll just tell you this: The Native Americans would like some of their land back. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of unused Federal land to go around.
I think that we can all see the pattern of conquest and colonization and crimes of the US, against humanity. To our credit, we were on the right side of history, in the 40s, when the Jews were in desperate need of our help.
So back to our Pass-Over question, again: How is this budding nation of California going to be different from Nazi Germany and the US?
We can try to emulate England, when she opened her arms and homes to the 669 parent-less children that Sir Winton snuck out of the concentration camps during WWII.
We can remember the over 500 treaties that were made by the US with the Native American population, only to be broken, and do a whole hell of a lot better in our own dealings with our Indigenous brothers and sisters.
And finally, we can vow to close down the California Concentration Camps and never allow another concentration camp on California soil!
All those actions, taken together, will be a beginning. Every story has a beginning. Mine began with Bubby’s bagel, the Muppets and a Pass-Over question. Let’s make sure it has a happier ending than babies in cages, mass deportations and AMERICANS having to choose between their medications and food.
From: Sue Hirsch Date: Tue, Sep 3, 2019, 6:11 PM Subject: Re: On Pass-Over,
You did a beautiful job on it. I’m honored. Thank you.
On Tue, Sep 3, 2019 at 1:58 PM Marcus Ruiz Evans wrote:
DO YOU APPROVE