Thursday, March 29, 2007

8th Annual Solidarity Seder: A Celebration of Diversity

On Wednesday, March 28, 2007, the Anti-Defamation League celebrated its 8th Annual Solidarity Seder with over 100 guests at the Trenton War Memorial in Trenton, New Jersey. The event was truly an expression of the diversity of America as it allowed for the promotion of understanding and community from representatives of many faiths and cultures.

"When we recognize our differences,
and acknowledge our similarities,
we appreciate how rich a culture we are.
That alone is reason to celebrate
diversity in New Jersey."
From the ADL's 8th Annual Solidarity Seder Program

The Passover Seder celebrates the exodus of the Jewish people from slavery and is a universal message of liberation, hope and freedom. This year's Seder entitled "Strangers in a Strange Land: Building a Family of Immigrants" focused on stories of immigration and how an interfaith community celebrates the unique stories and journeys that create our American family. It was profoundly fitting for this event to be held at the Trenton War Memorial, a National and State Historic Site that was built as "a great community center" dedicated to the memory of American soldiers and sailors who died fighting World War I.

Prior to the Seder, Etzion Neuer, the New Jersey Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League, spoke about the belief of the ADL,

"Injury to any one person is an injury to all."
He shared a quote from Elie Wiesel, concentration camp survivor, world renowned author, Nobel Peace Prize and Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient:
"Indifference reduces the other to a distraction."
Mr. Neuer explained that this philosophy reduces neighbors to individuals of no consequence and he warned of the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan whose hatred is fueled by an intolerance toward immigrants.

It is my heartfelt belief that all who walk this land must heed the treasured words of Emma Lazarus inscribed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty:

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door"
Testimonials were given by various young men and women. One young man spoke about the heartbreak of seeing his mother arrested as he and his family attempted to enter the United States from Mexico. This young man went on to proudly become an American citizen and has applied to become a member of the United States Army. Another young man reminded us that there are no complaints about immigration as we enjoy the fruits and vegetables which were harvested through the labor and sweat of immigrants working on American farms.

A young woman eloquently spoke about the challenges her family and so many families experienced in coming to America after being victimized by so many regimes in Europe. And individuals from many countries shared their admiration and pride for America throughout the celebration.

During the Seder, the recital of the Haggadah with the Ha Lakhma Anya, "The Bread of Affliction," was personally inspirational. The leader lifts the plate for all to see the matzah and all participants recite:

"Ha Lakhma Anya. This is the bread of affliction which Israel ate in the land of Egypt. It is a symbol of days of slavery and pain, endured by the Jewish people for centuries. It is a symbol also of the slavery and pain of so many in the world today. It is our hope that next year we will be free, that next year all people will be free of all oppression."

Undoubtedly, the most moving moment of the Seder was the testimonial of Holocaust survivor Shelly Zeiger who spoke passionately about "The Town's Fool."

This man, lovingly referred to as Anton by Mr. Zeiger, was looked down upon as a misfit by his townspeople in Western Ukraine and considered a fool because of his seemingly obsessive respect for all life. Anton was a Catholic who would not eat meat, fish or even drink milk because in order to obtain them, a living creature would have to experience pain. Yet Anton, the "Town's Fool", became, according to Shelly, "the savior of our family." Anton risked his own life to hide Jewish neighbors in his home. He hid Shelly, his father and mother and two girls from the Nazis in the Zbrow ghetto for 27 months beginning in 1942. Shelly explained that this man Anton was truly a hero who teaches us to respect each human being, for courage can be found in the most unlikely of persons.

Afterwards, I was privileged to speak privately with Shelly Zeiger who revealed to me a mystical element of this inspiring story. Shelly stated to me that prior to possibly being arrested by the Nazis, his deceased grandmother appeared to his mother in a dream and told her to "Go to Anton."

After the war, Shelly and his family came to America. Years later, he mustered enough courage to go back to his home town in the Ukraine to find Anton. He found him and brought him to live with him and his family in America.

From the Event Booklet


"Blessed are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe; you have given us life; you have kept us alive that we might live to this time."


Holocaust Survivors Project Click here to visit site
New Jersey Commission on
Holocaust Education
Click here to visit site

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home