Beset By Pharohs

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We celebrate Pesach by telling the story of our ancestors' journey out of Mitzrayim. This story, thousands of years old,  has never been more relevant to our lives or our work.

Mitzrayim - Egypt - literally means the Narrow Place. It’s a word that evokes slavery, and our history with it: bondage and tightness. Constriction. A place where we are not free. 

Though it feels like half a lifetime, it’s been less than a month since we decided to cancel the 2020 Freedom Seder. Just a few days later, life changed dramatically. Quarantines and shelter in place orders. Social distancing. Stories of death and sickness.  With so much physical distance between us, this pandemic feels a lot like Mitzrayim. We’re bound to our homes. Our social lives are restricted, and our days are marked by fear and uncertainty. This new normal is our new Narrow Place. That we’re in Egypt now, at the receiving end of a plague, is a stark reminder of the journey ahead of us.

And what’s more, we’re still beset by pharaohs. First, government officials and political commentators told us this virus was no big deal. Then, it was a political plot by shadowy adversaries. By the time it was taken seriously, it was too late to stop it, and we’re still paying for that today. Our Asian American friends and family have been targets of increased racism and harassment at the hands of these pharaohs, too. 

We have been the targets of hate, and violence, and terror, as have our friends and neighbors in other communities. Politicians and pundits stoke our fears and insecurities and encourage us to embrace the worst parts of ourselves.

But here’s something: we actually know how this story ends.

We know because we’ve lived it before. Our ancestors passed through Mitzrayim. And at the end of the terrible journey was the promised land, and freedom. This story teaches us that, like the enslaved Israelites in their mixed multitudes, we too can escape bondage and reach a better place. The world may feel narrow now, but, through the wilderness, there is a Promised Land. The world as it should be.

And we are already embarked on this journey.

A few weeks ago we hosted a digital Freedom Seder with our sister organizations. More than 250 people joined us in joy and solidarity. Tears were shed. Our organizers are still working tirelessly in community with our friends and allies to push local, county, and state governments to protect the most vulnerable. We've helped to raise more than $20,000 with the Minnesota Freedom Fund to get detainees out of ICE detention.

As long as there are pharaohs, we will be there to stand up to them. As long as there are people in chains, we will fight for their freedom. And as long as the world we live in is Egypt, we will keep traveling through it to get to the Promised Land. Our ancestors made it out of Egypt. We will, too.

Together.

Chag Sameach.

Carin Mrotz

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