It’s April. I’m
Jewish. I’m a college professor. It’s the final three weeks of the semester;
it’s two weeks before Pesach. Oy! I’m exhausted. So on Wednesday, April 13, during my 40-mile
commute to work I ask: why am I making myself so crazy taking on yet another thing
to do in April tonight? I do so because
I’m taking students to the Freedom Seder - a genuine oasis of joy and
inspiration smack in the middle of one of the two most hectic months of my year
(don’t even get me started about September!).
For the fourth time, students from my Intergroup and Ethnic
Relations course are to tour NMAJH and participate in the Freedom Seder. After the umpteenth text and phone call to
finalize carpools, we are finally touring the museum with a docent echoing much
of the same information I shared with the class about Jewish immigrants. And now
my students are witnessing the maps and documents in English, Hebrew, Yiddish,
and other languages that reveal the challenges, the pain, the suffering and the
joy. Laborers at sewing machines, the tragedy
of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, the lynching of Leo Frank, and Henry Ford
speak to my students through faded photographs and memorabilia. From swastikas and propaganda we proceed to the
visceral moment of Martin Luther King and Rabbi Avraham Heschel arm-in-arm. Everyone is quiet.
We enter the Seder. My
students are still processing what they have learned and are a bit anxious to
be in this unfamiliar space. But there
is music playing. A woman at the table
stands up to greet us. We sit. We
listen. We talk bitter herbs and charoset. We discuss the bitter and the sweet
and the commandment to remember both. We
eat, we clap, we sing.
So why do I add
this event to my overstuffed April calendar? I do so because I teach at Cheyney
University, the first historically black college in the U.S. and this is the
very first Seder for my students. At this
Seder I get to share what is so very familiar to me, enabling others to
better understand my history and some major tenements of my faith. We find our commonalities.
My student Najeebah answered this question better than I: I learned that hate is truly
caused by ignorance. You cannot hate another race or culture once you
understand their past.
that is what the Freedom Seder is all
-Lynn H. Green, PhD
Associate Professor of Sociology
Cheyney University of Pennsylvania