"Ma nish-ta-nah ha-lai-lah ha-zeh…."

By Joan Kurtz

If you recognize these words, you know that you must be at a seder, celebrating Passover. I heard these words, as well as read them, at a community seder held in my town of Easthampton, Mass. The director of the local community center and I offered a min-seder to anyone in the community who wanted to learn, participate and sample the foods that are on the seder plate. We used a haggadah I created for my fifth grade class when I taught at a Jewish secular school on Long Island, N.Y., more than 15 years ago.

There were 16 people who attended our mini-seder, including one Jewish family who could not hold their own seder since the mother just had a baby. All deemed it a success, with the charoset being chosen as the best and the maror (horseradish) the least favorite food, though "It did clear my sinuses," stated one of the participants with a smile.

The director said that she would have had more attendees if we had also offered a full meal with the mini-seder. Maybe next year...?

Jewish Community Building as Resistance

By Adam Beardsley

Upon moving to Washington, D.C., I made an effort to find a Jewish community to be a part of. I was able to find one pretty quickly. I joined a group called If Not Now, which focuses mostly on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and creating a discussion within the American Jewish community that will hopefully change the American Jewish attitude towards Israel.

While If Not Now has done some great stuff to help start this conversation, I think one of the most important things If Not Now has done is give a few thousand (mostly young) Jews across the country a liberal Jewish community where they can talk about politics. We have joined each other for weekly Shabbat dinners where we have discussed everything from job searches to politics to comparing our own Jewish traditions.

During these dinners, we have built a community: a community that has already proven willing and able to fight for what is right; a community that welcomes Jews regardless of gender, race, sexuality, or how religious one is; a community that just by existing — by being a stable, accepting community in a time of such hatred and confusion — is resisting in a wonderful way.

This type of community is not unique to If Not Now. I have felt it at the Jewish Children’s Folkshul in Philadelphia, and I have felt it at CSJO. I hope you all have found this type of community, whether it is at your shul, with a group of friends, or just for a few hours around a Seder table this past week.

I look forward to seeing, and resisting with, all of you at the 2017 CSJO Conference in June.

A Sad Repeat of History

By Joan Kurtz

Winter is my most favorite time of year. I love the crunch of frost under my boots and the quiet of the woods when it starts to snow. December is the beginning of winter and, of course, the holiday season. Sadly, this is not a happy time for me.

This Hanukah will be the first time in the past 30-plus years when I will not put my electric menorah onto my window sill. In my town here in western Massachusetts, we have recently seen racist graffiti on boulders on our local mountaintop. There have also been reports of swastikas and racist slurs found on school buildings.

So … do I really want to show people in this town that I am Jewish? Should I just light my candles behind shuttered windows or should I proclaim it to the community with a menorah on display in the window?

My husband and I have decided to err on the side of caution for at least this year. We are hoping that this will all change over the next few months and we can return to what was our normal way of living.

But with reports throughout the U.S. of an increase in racist, religious and xenophobic displays of hate and intolerance, one can only hope ...