From the First Tuesday newsletter
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I recently attended a very special interfaith seder. Part of the Jewish faith, a seder is a ritual in which a community or a family retells the story of the Israelites’ liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt. While seders are always a powerful experience for me, this one was particularly poignant.
That’s because this was a “Hunger Seder,” following materials developed by Mazon, a Jewish organization dedicated to ending hunger. Instead of the traditional focus of celebrating the Jewish people’s freedom, this seder also looked at the people who are still struggling today, in particular veterans, and what we can do to support them. The program for the Hunger Seder said it best, “We come together today with them in mind, determined to realize our vision of a day when we will all be truly free from the oppression of hunger.”
On Passover, the Jewish people read about the 10 plagues unleashed on the Egyptians. Instead of locusts, frogs and boils, there are many modern plagues like hunger, poverty and abuse and neglect affecting those around us. And we need to change that.
At the Hunger Seder, we read aloud in unison each of these 10 plagues that are all very real today:
- A single mother who gives the last bits of food to her toddler while she goes hungry.
- A brother and sister in a rural community who live too far away to participate in the summer feeding program and miss meals during the summer months.
- A military family who struggles to make ends meet on the salary of a low ranking enlisted soldier and resorts to anonymously getting a monthly food bank at the local pantry to feed their children.
- A middle school student who doesn’t take the free school breakfast because he is ashamed of being poor.
- A senior who makes painful choices between paying for medicine or food, but doesn’t apply for SNAP because he finds the application process overwhelming.
- A recently unemployed mom who is worried about getting a new job that pays enough to cover her child care costs.
- A recent veteran facing difficulty transitioning back to civilian life and making ends meet, but isn’t aware of nutrition assistance benefits to help him.
- An American Indian family living on a reservation who faces many barriers to healthy eating, including severe poverty and unemployment, limited options for fresh produce, and exceptionally high food prices.
- A young family that lives in an urban neighborhood where there is no full-service grocery store, only fast food and convenience stores.
- APATHY, the greatest plague of all—the failure to make ending hunger a state and national priority.
Whatever the tenets of your spirituality and morals, religious or otherwise, we all should believe in helping others who are in need. And we all must be particularly vigilant against the plague of apathy and losing our compassion for others. Working at the helm of the Michigan League for Public Policy, I am proud to be part of an organization that is committed to doing this work, and as a supporter, you should be, too. But we also have to remember that we still have a ways to go. Most importantly, we can all take action to make things change.