What makes this year different from all other years?

The Jewish calendar reminds us that this is an eventful time from Passover through the Season of Independence, including Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), Yom HaZikaron (Israel Memorial Day), and Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Israel Independence Day). It is with all these events in mind that we spend time with family and friends, reflecting on festivities or sharing our collective memories.

Passover, the Festival of Freedom, alludes to more than just the Jews’ freedom from enslavement in Egypt thousands of years ago. It invokes the true freedom of each and every Jew in all times and places. The current situation in Israel has been like nothing before in her short history. We stand with Israel as it faces an unprecedented crisis.

Can we say “dayenu” (it’s enough) this Passover? According to American-Israeli poet, Marty Herskovitz, “It’s clearly not enough.” The prospect of singing “Dayenu” at the seder since Israel was attacked didn’t sit right with him. As long as people are trapped in Gaza, it’s not enough. As long as our soldiers are still risking their lives, it’s not enough. This year, it may be difficult to say “dayenu.” (See the article “Can Jews sing ‘Dayenu’ while there are hostages?” on page 6 of the pullout Passover section.)

Our hearts are with Israel and our Partnership2Gether community, Yoav, at this challenging time. Many seder tables will have empty seats representing October 7 victims, hostages, and soldiers who are unable to return home for the holiday. As we mark the Festival of Freedom, we pray for the freedom of all hostages to return to their families and escape the cruel bondage of Hamas.

Passover also teaches us to make the world a more compassionate place. It is because of compassionate people like you that during this time, we’ve been able to offer innovative programs that provide meaningful connection and involvement. And while doing this and more, we continue to connect with our extended family, and to help our brothers and sisters in need locally, in Israel, and around the world.

Passover leads us into the Season of Independence beginning with Yom HaShoah. The Holocaust played a significant role in the founding of the modern Jewish State of Israel. On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion, announced the establishment of the State of Israel, saying, “The Nazi Holocaust, which engulfed millions of Jews in Europe, proved anew the urgency of the reestablishment of the Jewish State, which would solve the problem of Jewish homelessness by opening the gates to all Jews and lifting the Jewish people to equality in the family of nations.” We hope you will join us as we commemorate Yom HaShoah on Sunday, May 5, at 7 p.m. as we present the book, “Evitchka,” the Eva Levitt z”l story of survival, hope, and love.

One week later, Monday, May 13, at 6:30 p.m. we will observe Yom HaZikaron, Israel Memorial Day. The modern Jewish State of Israel exists because of the sacrifice and heroism of the fallen as a result of war and unthinkable terrorism. This year, we will remember the fallen soldiers, and those killed as a result of terrorist acts, specifically those massacred on October 7.

According to Rabbi Professor David Hartman z”l of the Shalom Hartman Institute, the placing of Yom HaZikaron—the day of remembrance—and Yom Ha’Atzmaut—the day of our independence as a state—one right after the other reveals a profound characteristic of Israeli value systems. Only as one grasps the way we move so uniquely from weeping to celebration does one understand what memory, history, and the hope for a better future life means for the Jewish people. However, this year there’s still a question of what the celebration of Israel’s independence will look like. While all attention is focused on getting the hostages released, it’s hard to imagine a celebratory atmosphere in Israel.

Our tradition teaches that tzedek and mishpat (divine justice) demands the protection of all. As American Jews, we hear, care, and pray for a peaceful resolution to this horrific war and welcome conversations that will lead toward a stable resolution that will be faithful to the democratic ideals upon which the state was founded.

As Jews the world over watch the current events in Israel unfold, it’s a sobering reminder of the fragility of global Jewry—and a reminder of the interconnectedness of the Jewish world. So, too, should this be a reminder within our own community that our strength is in our connectedness. We are at our most vulnerable when we are divided.

Let the celebration of Israel at 76 be a day of thanksgiving. A day of hope.

Wishing you and your families a zissen Pesach and a meaningful Chag Ha’Atzmaut!

Looking forward to seeing you at our community events. #bringthemhomenow