Tonight, at sundown, Jewish communities across the globe will mark the beginning of Pesach/Passover. Over the next eight days, in the UK and around the world, Jewish people will commemorate the liberation of their ancestors from slavery in ancient Egypt.
The story of Passover teaches that freedom is coming, our current situation will not last forever, and out of our trauma grows new strength
However, this year’s Passover will be like no other in recent memory.
As a global community, we are all grappling with the outbreak of COVID-19. Social distancing and other emergency measures mean that our daily lives have been interrupted in ways that would have been unimaginable just a few months ago. And I know that this will impact Jewish customs, which centre so much around coming together with loved ones.
Typically, families, friends and even strangers gather at the Seder table to share festive meals and to recount the story of the Exodus. However, this year many Seder meals will be held over video calls, and many people will find themselves weighed down by the emotional, physical and mental burden of this pandemic. Thousands have lost loved ones, and many more face financial insecurity.
Although we are separated in our individual homes, we must never lose our sense of community
However, at times like this, I am reminded that Passover carries a message of hope. The story of Passover teaches that freedom is coming, our current situation will not last forever, and out of our trauma grows new strength.
Let us all, therefore, move forward with kindness and generosity. Although we are separated in our individual homes, we must never lose our sense of community. When the storm passes - and it will pass - let us value our families, our communities and our freedom even more.
This year let us also recognise the hard work of Britain’s Jewish communities, many of whom work in our NHS and other frontline services. Thank you for all you do.
I wish the best for everyone celebrating Passover. Chag sameach!