This year, above all others, we should turn our thoughts and deeds to the millions of refugees fleeing from war and violence, a reincarnation of our great-grandparents fleeing from pogroms, conscription into the army of the czar and abject poverty. HIAS, our agency for resettlement of refugees in the United States, has prepared a Hagaddah supplement with striking photos and drawings of what it means to be a refugee today.
The full 10-page booklet is available for free use. Here is just an excerpt:
At the beginning of the Passover Seder, we are commanded to consider ourselves as though we, too, had gone out from Egypt. … However, for the world’s 65 million displaced people and refugees, these words can be a literal message of hope that they will be able to rebuild their lives in a safe place.
After experiencing unimaginable trauma and often making harrowing journeys out of danger, refugees across the United States are finding liberation after oppression. For Mohammad Ay Toghlo and his wife, Eidah Al Suleiman, the dream of ‘Next year in Jerusalem’ has become a reality in Buffalo, New York.
After war came to their village outside Damascus, they witnessed the murder of their pregnant daughter and the kidnapping of their son. They sold their car to pay a large ransom and then ultimately escaped to Lebanon. After a lengthy vetting process, Mohammed, Eidah, and their youngest son, Najati, received word they would be resettled by HIAS through the Jewish Family Service of Buffalo.
Mohammed says that when he found out, he thought he was dreaming because ‘the United States is such a big thing for us that I don’t even see that in my dreams; I was so happy.’ Najati is learning English and enrolled in school, and he says that when he finds himself on the street on the way to school or to an appointment and he needs assistance, people go out of their way to communicate with him and help, even reading his body language to try to understand what he needs. While the family’s move is bittersweet because their oldest son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren remain in Lebanon, and they worry constantly about their safety, Najati says that here, in the United States, ‘wherever we go, we find helpful, loving people.’ …
The family’s life in Buffalo is not free from difficulty, but they are beginning to pick up the broken pieces of the trauma they have experienced to fulfill new hopes and new dreams here in America.
The HIAS Haggadah also discusses the traditional Passover song “Dayeinu” (“It Would Have Been Enough”) in the context of the plight of today’s refugees, focusing on gratitude for the little they do have. Here is a sample verse:
For Magboola, the cooking pot that was small enough to carry but big enough to cook sorghum to feed herself and her three daughters on their journey to freedom — Dayeinu: it would have been enough.
The Haggadah ends with a prayer for freedom:
Blessed are all those who yearn to be free.
Blessed are we who commit ourselves to their freedom.
Blessed are You, Adonai Our God, source of strength and liberation.