This Pesach, have a Seder seat for a hostage

The Board’s initiative is to show solidarity with Israel and the hostages

April 11, 2024 15:20

Passover is a time of year when Jews traditionally focus on freedom. We tell the story of the Exodus - our forebears being rescued from Egypt and journeying towards the land of Israel. Families will come together around the seder table and celebrate being led out of captivity. We will recite aloud the phrase “Next Year in Jerusalem” – once a distant dream, now an wonderful possibility.

Children at the Seder table are always encouraged to ask questions about the festival – most famously, the Four Questions of the Mah Nishtana. But this year is different from all other years, because more than a few people, young and old, may be asking themselves a question of their own: How can we celebrate our freedom while we know that there are those who are not free? Because there are more than 100 men, women and children who are being held captive – who were taken from us, six long dark months ago, on the terrible day of October 7.

Earlier this year, the Board of Deputies organised a solidarity visit to Israel. We visited the Nova Festival site, an area of great beauty transformed by hideous terrorism into a site of unspeakable anguish. We met family members of some of those who were murdered, and the loved ones of others who had been taken captive. Again and again, we were told how much it meant to them to know that Jewish communities around the world were grieving for those who were murdered and praying for the safe return of those so cruelly taken.

In the last few months, the Board of Deputies has held twice-weekly vigils outside Westminster while Parliament is in session, so that those who walk the corridors of power are not able to forget the plight of the hostages. We initiated an “Adopt a Hostage” campaign, encouraging communities around the country to shine a spotlight on a specific hostage and their plight, campaigning for their safe return. This week, together with a number of organisations, we also held a larger vigil opposite Downing Street to commemorate six months since those awful terror attacks and to call for the hostages’ safe return.

We have also now launched a specific Pesach initiative, Seder Seat for a Hostage, which encourages people to set aside a special place at the Seder for a hostage. Posters of the hostages are available via our website for downloading and printing. We would encourage people to post a picture on social media of their prepared seder table on the afternoon of Monday 22 April  just prior to the festival, showing their own Seder Seat for a Hostage.

We are pleased that both the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs in Canada and the South African Jewish Board of Deputies are taking part in this campaign, making this a truly international initiative. In the UK, we have partnered with the Union of Jewish Students and Hostages and Missing Families Forum.

Moses famously demanded of Pharoah to “Let My People Go”. Those in captivity in Gaza – mostly Jews, but also Christians, Muslims and Buddhists – are all “our people”. And on Pesach, a festival which is also known as “The Time of our Freedom”, we need to remember those who are captive – and hope that next year, we will be able to celebrate together with them in Jerusalem.

April 11, 2024 15:20

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