On Sunday, April 10, 2016 board members, friends, and staff from the Winchester Multicultural Network attended the Anti-Defamation League’s “A Nation of Immigrants” Community Seder held at UMass Boston. As the sun poured into the large ballroom where over 250 people gathered to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Passover (actual date April 22nd), Congressman Seth Moulton and City Council President Michelle Wu made welcoming remarks, sharing their personal stories. Congressman Moulton talked about serving in the Iraq war and the lessons he learned about false perceptions. Councilor Wu talked about overcoming obstacles as an immigrant and giving back to the community. Rabbi Sokoll, President of the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Boston led us, explaining the symbolism of the food items on the Seder plate. The word “seder” (say-der) means “order” in Hebrew and is used to describe the holiday meal at which the story of the Passover is retold using a text called the Haggadah. The Passover story follows a prescribed order and participants take turns reading sections aloud. He reminded us that, like the Jews escaping slavery in Egypt, our country was founded by immigrants seeking freedom, safety, and a better way of life.
With a backdrop of two large screens projecting images of Emma Lazarus’ famous quote on the Statue of Liberty, graphs of immigration waves throughout our country’s history, and the faces of the many ethnicities that make our country great, Rabbi Sokoll encouraged us to think about what we could do in the midst of the current political rhetoric of intolerance. Hayfaa and Hameed from Iraq, Yarden Fanta-Vagenstein from Ethiophia, and others shared powerful stories of leaving their native countries to come to America.
Their stories can be found on the ADL website.
An enlarged poster of the ADL letter to Congress calling on representatives “not to turn your back on the refugees and immigrants who seek the freedom we once sought and . . . adhere to our proud history as a nation established by immigrants and refugees . . . ” was on display which attendees were encouraged to sign. To put sentiment to action, the ADL’s “3-2-1 Go!” initiative was explained: Donate 3 goods to an immigrant/refugee organization, get involved with 2 advocacy campaigns, and volunteer 1 hour of your time. The Winchester Multicultural Network, as an ADL community partner, is listed as one of the organizations at which one can volunteer time.
WMCN board members, staff and friends, some of whom were attending a Passover Seder for the first time, really enjoyed learning more about the holiday. An important moment in the Seder occurs when the question is asked “Why is this night different from all others?” This prompts us to reflect on the deeper meaning of the holiday. One of the powerful highlights of the afternoon was listening to a long line of participants as they passed the microphone down the line, each reciting this question in the language of their heritage. Languages that were spoken included: Hebrew, Arabic, Urdu, Hindi German, Swedish, Italian, Spanish, Latin, Russian, and Romanian. We were treated to Peri Smilow leading us in traditional Passover songs, to the New England Sikh Study children and teens performing liturgical Sikh music, to ZUMIX’s Latin Ensemble and Arab-American Rania’s beautiful singing, to Mamadou’s commanding African poly-rhythmic music and, finally, to the Soloman Schechter Day School Choir and their inspirational songs of peace.
The event ended with over 250 people singing “America the Beautiful,” a moving experience as we looked around the room at the sea of diverse people gathered together and sharing in a common aspiration to promote the value of inclusion and to celebrate that which makes this country great.