Two blocks west of our synagogue is Bristol Harbor which, 80 years before the founding of United Brothers, was one of the most active ports participating in the slave trade in the United States. Although most Africans were brought to Southern slave markets, Northern ports, including Bristol, served as points of entry. Bristol served as one of the points of the triangular slave trade and our town flourished because of it.
Deuteronomy tells us the reason we celebrate Passover with the passage, “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt…” and we must remember our liberation. Passover, to me, is not a holiday that only remembers events that occurred in the distant past over 3000 years ago. It is a holiday that celebrates freedom and liberation in all contexts.
The fact that we are located in a spot where, less than 200 years ago, slaves were imported and traded, illustrates the fight for basic human rights did not end with the Passover liberation but is a battle that needs to be continually fought.
We, as Jews and as members of a Jewish congregation must always be a force for freedom. Our history and tradition demands this. During our Seders, we should remember not only we were slaves but others were slaves too. We should take time at our Seders to remember all oppressed people and we should not view oppression and slavery as some ancient concepts from 3,500 years ago. In Exodus, God said, “I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers and I am concerned about their suffering.” If someone was standing on the very grounds of our synagogue 200 years ago, they would most likely have heard the same cries.
Have a Zissen Pesach,