Welcoming the Stranger

Passover is one of my favorite Jewish holidays. The Seder table with its silver kiddush cups brought over from Argentina and Russia before that, the hand crocheted matzah covers from my great aunts, the charoset with chopped apples, walnuts, cinnamon, honey, and spiked with my holiday favorite—don’t cringe—Manishewitz wine. There was always so much wonderful food ready to stain my once white tablecloth—from the matzah ball soup and vibrant red horseradish to the brisket juices. I finally had to retire that white tablecloth and now use a dark blue one that hides all the stains.

Passover has become one of the most popular Jewish holidays—even with those who self-identify as “cultural” Jews. According to USA Today, more than 70% of American Jews take part in a Seder.

That statistic doesn’t surprise me. In addition to the deep connection it gives us to our Jewish history and traditions, regardless of how we define our connection to our Judaism, the Passover Seder is a very special time to gather with friends and family around the dinner table.

Passover represents the core values that we as Jews believe in: empathy, social justice, fighting for the rights of the marginalized. And on Passover, we are reminded that it is a mitzvah—a commandment—to welcome the stranger, for we were strangers in the land of Egypt.

The Seder begins with the words “Let all who are hungry come and eat.” By inviting a stranger to our Seder table, we give people a place to belong, and we open ourselves to new relationships and new conversations. We have the opportunity to learn more about others by asking questions and hearing their stories, and we learn more about ourselves and our place in the world. And Passover is all about asking questions.

This Passover, think of who you can invite to your table. Don’t assume everyone has received an invitation. Ask around. And if you don’t have a place to go, you should ask around as well. Don’t be shy. Many people I know, myself included, have found themselves without a place to go for the Seder at one time or another.

Passover is about community and making everyone feel welcome. We are fortunate that there are many places in our community that will happily open their doors to a stranger on Passover. Our website has a list of community Seders that are being offered, and if you are in your 20s or 30s, OneTable is hosting Seders on the first and second night.

From my family to yours, I wish you a Passover overflowing with the blessings of peace and the spirit of community. And may your tablecloth be so stained with great food, great wine, and great memories that you too will one day need to retire it and try a darker shade of blue.

This article was written on behalf of another.