One of my fondest memories as a child was the excitement that permeated our home on the night of the Passover Seder. The fast paced, action packed family Seder conducted by my father, enhanced by my mother’s delicious Passover delicacies and an array of colourful and entertaining guests, creating an evening of fun, fascination and education. A truly wonderful experience! Every seat was taken.
I’ve always been fascinated by the rich history of the Jewish people, and especially enjoyed hearing the inspiring stories of those participating at the Seder table, recalling their own personal exiles, their own journey’s from slavery to freedom. Like the woman who fled Egypt during the Suez crisis in the 1950s and the man who experienced his Seder in Vichy France escaping from the Nazis.
In the 1970s at many Seder tables across the globe, a new custom began to gain momentum. A seat at the Seder table was left empty for the Jew of the Soviet Union – the Jew whose freedom had been robbed from him under a wicked regime - a regime that outlawed the religious practices of our brothers and sisters behind the Iron Curtain, who were thus unable to celebrate and observe Passover. Each year, whilst engaging in the Seder, many would speak of the plight of the Soviet Jew, look over at their empty seat and pray “next year in Jerusalem”! This year they are slaves…but next year…! And then… the miraculous happened. Our dreams came true! The seats were filled.
Will there be empty seats at your Seder this year?
There could well be, not as result of anti-Semitism but because of assimilation and a lack of inspiring education means that sadly many, many Jews have simply never experienced a meaningful relevant traditional Seder.
Perhaps you can help fill the empty seats by inviting a Jewish friend, a work colleague, or a distant cousin? Or perhaps you yourself would like to join the Exodus experience this year. Please speak to a JLE member of staff, they would be delighted to help.
No more empty seats at the Seder table!