It has been said that Jews have a 6th sense, thesense of memory. There is not doubt that
our most common denominator as Jews is our bond to certain watershed events in
our people’s past. A bond that travels through our religious identity, for it
makes no difference whether someone was born Jewish or converted in; our
ancestors are their ancestors, our stories and their stories. We all have
certain memories, photographs in our own minds, or smells take us back, if only
for a moment to a different time and place.
While these memories are our own, as Jews we also have memories of
events for which we were not even present. On Passover we are told to remember
the day we left Egypt and act as if we too were redeemed along with our
The directive we are given in the Haggadah tell us “In each
and every generation a person must see himself as if actually coming out of
Egypt… It was not only our ancestors who the Holy One redeemed, but all of us
as well were redeemed along with them.” [Passover Haggadah]. As Jews it is our
moral responsibility to remember those who came before us, for if they had not
endured the hardships that took place in Egypt, we would not be able to sit
Yet how do we do that?
How we remember an event that we can only read about in books? One way is exactly what we are told to do
during the seder, that is to tell the story, to sit around the seder table and
tell the story in a way where it becomes part of our own narrative. By telling
the story, year after year, almost by osmosis, the story becomes our own and we
become part of the journey that started over 3000 years ago.
At its core the story of the exodus is about our journey
from slavery to freedom. Just as we tell
and re-tell our own story, so too must be listen and learn from others who have
been on journeys that have led them from injustice to freedom. As Jews, perhaps more than any other group,
we have an obligation not just to treat the stranger as our own, but to stand
up and act when we see an injustice taking place.
This year at our Beth El Community Seder I am thrilled that
we will be joined by Mr. Bidong Tot. Mr.
Tot is a first year teacher at Bryan High School where he teaches US and World
History. In addition to his other accolades, Mr. Tot is also the first ever
Sudanese teacher to work the Omaha Public School System.
“Tot grew up in the small town of
Akobo in what is now the country of South Sudan. His father was a farmer, and
he helped by taking care of cattle and goats. When he was about 7 years old he
left with his father to go to school in neighboring Ethiopia and ended up
living in a refugee camp there for several years.”
“In 1999 he and his siblings —
three brothers and one sister — were approved to leave the refugee camps and
travel to the United States, ending up in Manchester, New Hampshire. Several
months later they joined an uncle who had settled in Omaha years earlier.” (http://www.omaha.com/news/metro/first-year-faculty-member-at-bryan-high-once-a-refugee/article_cba2fb44-2cf3-11e4-997e-001a4bcf6878.html)
During the seder,
Mr. Tot will talk about his journey, he will share with us his story. At
Passover, more than any other time of the year, we open up our homes to guests. I am honored that we can host Mr. Tot and his
wife and become a bit more familiar with the growing sudanesse community in
The Passover Seder
is a time for us to reflect, a time for us to be thankful for our freedom and
to realize that while we may be free, there are others who are not.
Chag Kasher v’Sameach