EDITOR'S NOTE: Just as with any other posting on this website about different holidays of different religious traditions, we share with the knowledge and admittance that people are different, believe differently, and celebrate/observe holidays in different ways. This article is not intended to give a full, in-depth theology, but instead to enlighten about certain prominent aspects of a holiday and the basics as to why it is celebrated. Readers are encouraged to seek additional information and resources; several links are included at the end of this article. - JSC
Pesach, or Passover, is an eight-day celebration marking the liberation of the children of Israel from bondage and their flight from Egypt as told in religious text and historical documents.
In 2022, Passover began at sunset on April 15 and ends on April 23.
Observing the Holiday
The Seder is a key part of Passover and is a meal following a specific ritual order, retelling the story of the exodus. It includes prayers (including a liturgy found in the Haggadah), songs and special food. The foods are consumed to symbolize the story of the exodus.
Many Jews also observe Passover by not eating chametz - bread or wheat/grain products - during the holiday. This includes cleaning out chametz, leavened bread and anything from major grains that have not been completely cooked within 18 minutes after coming into contact water.
This commemorates the part of the Passover story where Jews fled Egypt in such a hurry that they did not have time to let their bread rise.
Resonance of the Exodus Story: Liberation and Opening of the Heart
There is a profound meaning of the exodus story for people around the world, including those not of the Jewish faith.
It is a journey to freedom, through moving from a narrow place - in Hebrew, the word for Egypt means narrow straits or constriction - into the openness of uncertainty but a place full of possibilities. It is a journey of freedom, a universal process of the opening of the heart, and awareness of the truth of our experience.
And for enslaved and formerly enslaved people in the United States, the exodus story has been used as a way to understand identity, ideology, and purpose in a nation that denied them humanity, freedom and future - a key part of theology in the Black American church today.
Adding Cultural Food Traditions to the Seder
For Black Jews in the United States, some are taking the story and meanings of the foods from the Seder and bringing foods of their own cultural traditions into the mix. Michael W. Twitty, author of the upcoming book Koshersoul, is bringing in pecans and molasses, sweet potatoes, and collard greens, to represent the symbolism of each of the ritual foods eaten during the Seder.
It is away of reflecting both faith and ethnic background, while also reaffirming their identity and place in Judaism in American - of which Black Jews' authenticity is sometimes questioned.
Work Restrictions and Supporting Others
This guide is included here to help explain important holidays in Judaism - which are observed by many Georgia State students, faculty and staff - that have restrictions on work that may necessitate accommodations:
Vanderbilt University also offers these suggestions to persons not of the Jewish faith or cultural tradition:
- Ask community members in observance how they celebrate and how they can be supported and encouraged.
- Be sensitive to eating situations during Pesach and consider providing a Kosher for Pesach meal or option for those observing.
Georgia State Resources
Department of Religious Studies
Research Guide to Encyclopedias, Books, Articles, Databases and More for Religious Studies
- Jewish Cultural Studies
Religious Life at Georgia State
Georgia State faculty, staff and students are also reminded of the university's policy on religious observances and related student absences and accommodations due to religious holidays. You can find the policy at https://dei.gsu.edu/religious-observances/. Policy on employee accommodations is available at the DEI Resource Library here: https://dei.gsu.edu/document/religious-accommodation-documents/.
This guide is included here to help explain important holidays in Judaism - which are observed by many Georgia State students, faculty and staff - that have restrictions on work that may necessitate accommodations.
Brandeis University. (n.d.). Judaism. Center for Spiritual Life.
Hill, T.E. (2013). In search of the Promised Land: Tracing the evolution of the Exodus narrative in African American rhetoric. Purdue University e-Pubs (Libraries & School of Information Studies). https://docs.lib.purdue.edu/dissertations/AAI3591246/
Stewart, K. (5 April 2022). Blackness Deserves a Seat at the Seder. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/05/dining/black-jews-passover-seder.html
Vanderbilt University. (2019). Pesach (Passover). Equity, Diversity & Inclusion. https://www.vanderbilt.edu/diversity/pesach-passover/
— Jeremy Craig, Communications Manager for the Office of the Provost,