Passover Resources - Slavery in Our World

From David Waksberg,  CEO Jewish LearningWorks

We had not even left Egypt before Moses passes along the commandment to "Remember this day, on which you went from Egypt, the house of enslavement..."

Passover bombards our senses to remind us of this seminal moment of liberation. The maror, the haroset, even the matzah evoke the bitterness, the harsh labor, the affliction of slavery. The Torah instructs us to explain to our children - "It is because of what the Lord did for me when I went free from Egypt." The Haggadah calls upon us to see ourselves as having personally gone out from Egypt.

With this heightened awareness - we are instructed not to oppress the stranger, for we were once strangers in Egypt. And Passover helps us REMEMBER WHAT THAT FEELS LIKE.

How strange then, to be at a Seder, celebrating our freedom, and realize we are eating chocolate, drinking coffee, and wearing clothing produced by slaves.

Slavery remains very much alive in our world and in our lives. In fact, abolitionists assert that there are more than 20 million people in some form of slavery today - more than at the peak of the slave trade two centuries ago. In collaboration with our partners at Fair Trade Judaica, we began to learn how to make our Passover Seders slave-free. And then we realized - as educators, we strive to empower our students to apply the wisdom of our tradition to the reality of their lives. Passover offers a wonderful opportunity to shine a light on contemporary slavery. Just as Passover calls upon us to feel as if we ourselves were slaves, it calls upon us to not avert our eyes to the trafficking and bondage that surround us.

Therefore, we have compiled some slavery-free resources to help us learn and teach. They include:

  • Curricular materials for educators about contemporary slavery through a Jewish lens;
  • Texts/source material related to slavery/trafficking/unfair & exploitive labor practices
  • Supplementary material for Seders dealing with contemporary slavery/trafficking;
  • Information on Fair Trade products
  • Background information on contemporary slavery and trafficking in our world, our products, our community, and our lives, and what we can do about it.

We are indebted to our friends at Fair Trade Judaica for their partnership in preparing these materials. We hope you find them useful.