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Happy spring, happy Passover

Passover is the festival of freedom, when Jews remember the historic Exodus, the founding story of Jews everywhere. This biblical story was so powerful that it inspired other people seeking freedom, not least African Americans for whom Exodus inspired their own struggle to imagine, and then to achieve freedom. As he Haggadah says it is to be told in every generation, and each generation endows the Passover with new meanings: imagine the diminished and secret Passover meals of those Jews forced to convert during the violence that spread through Catalonia in 1391, or those attempted in the meager conditions of ghettos and camps. Yet Passover lifts the spirits, with the accumulated wisdom of the Haggadah, and the reassurance of being among family and friends. For many friends and families in Israel this Passover will have the added resonance arising from the struggle to defend hard-won political rights.

When circumstances allowed, and in times of comfort and prosperity, Jews celebrated Passover in style, and commissioned beautiful Haggadot. I like in particular this German Haggadah, made by Michael Jacob May Segal (d. 1768) for his parents in 1731. His was a well connected family, yet Michael painted this Haggadah, with ink and paints on parchment, and guided by the style developed in Amsterdam:

I like in particular his order of the Passover meal, like a set of family photos:

Whichever is the style of your Seder, wherever and however you mark Passover, and for those of you who celebrate Easter, I wish you a safe, joyous, interesting, flavourful celebration of tradition, history, family, and friendship.

Hag Pesach Sameach.

Miri Rubin, President of the Jewish Historical Society

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