PJC’s Rabbi Resnick writes Passover Haggadah for refugee stories

Everyone deserves a voice and a chance to tell their story, both of their triumphs and tribulations. Through the Westchester Jewish Coalition on Immigration, a group of rabbis that included Pelham Jewish Center Rabbi Ben Resnick created a Haggadah that gives refugees the opportunity to do just that.

A Haggadah is a guide to the Passover seder that includes storytelling, prayers and song.

“When I first arrived and learned the lay of the land, I met with a lot of groups, one being the WJCI,” said Resnick. “This is a coalition of lots of different Jewish people and synagogues around Westchester to organize about issues of immigration. In one of these meetings, the leader, Holly Fink, was floating around an idea of creating a Haggadah and I immediately raised my hand and said, ‘I’ll do it.’” 

Resnick’s Haggadah shares similarities with a traditional Haggadah in the structural sense, and they are both centered around the act of storytelling. This new Haggadah is titled “Let the Maggid Speak, A Haggadah to Inspire the Sharing of Our Refugee Stories.”

“In a normal Haggadah, the central section is called the Maggid, which means to tell the story, and the story in this section is Exodus, but it has a very specific structure,” Resnick said. “However, this Haggadah is not a full Haggadah or something you would use if you are putting together a seder since it does not have a lot of the traditional elements and only borrows some of the structure and ideas.”

This issue of refugees is one that is important and authentically Jewish to Resnick. “It is such an orienting part of Jewish history. Jews wander of their own volition sometimes but more often not, so I feel like Jews need to respond to this,” he said. “The Torah says 36 times don’t oppress the stranger because you were a stranger in the land of Egypt—way more than the Torah says any other single thing, so when the Torah says something this many times, it really means we are supposed to pay attention.” 

When taking on this project, Resnick envisioned the refugee Haggadah as having a specific impact on the communities which use it. “I hope that it inspires people to hear stories they would not hear otherwise, specifically refugee stories since it is such a pressing global issue,” he said. “It does not really outline a traditional Passover seder, but is more like a story-slam about the refugee experience.” 

He said he hopes that with this Haggadah, people feel invited to hear the stories of refugees and feel moved by them.

With the intent of encouraging all to share and listen to the stories that need to be told, “Let the Maggid Speak” is free to download for Passover and available to all.

“This process took a lot of time and effort,” Resnick said. “I am very proud of the end result though and am happy to know that this thing that WJCI and I created was sent out and will be used for years to come, since unfortunately the refugee will be a pressing issue for a while longer.”

WJCI is planning to put “Let the Maggid Speak” into use in a Westchester-wide seder to honor refugees.

Download the Haggadah here.