Our Liberations Are Connected: Passover’s Meaning in 2016

Thursday, April 28, 2016 - 5:00 pm

Our Liberations Are Connected: Passover’s Meaning in 2016

Passover is a chance, an opportunity to discuss liberation, hope, about what exodus means, and freedom. Our lives and all our liberations are connected. The holiday is eight days and seven nights long. Matthew and I make postcards of his pictures and my poems, to celebrate.

First Night
How we can help Syrian refugees is what we discuss this year.

At our meal this year
no one is unwelcome
all Elijahs
every one of us
walking through the door
we are all Syrians now
3 million refugees
liberation means
each person
everyone single
one of us

Second Night
Across the street from my apartment there used to be a Druze restaurant, with delicious lamb and fish. We’d always have a Passover meal there. And the owner, a woman from a village in Northern Israel, would come and sit with us.

One of the Passover nights
we usually go
to a private room
in a Druze
friend’s restaurant. Born
in Osfia, near Haifa,
she knows about Passover
meals. Ten years ago
she came to New York
with her religious husband
two children. Wanted
to cook, opened a small
restaurant. Syrian
businessman came to eat
and he
opened a second place
with her. Big enough
for us to have
our own private Passover room.
Israeli customer entered
her restaurant one year later
He ordered her lamb. She
closed the big Syrian place.
Next year, she said, next year
on the Upper West Side.

Third Night
People sometimes like to hold an extra Seder. A Third Meal. To have another
chance to get together. I always like to have dinner with friends.

Some people hold
a third Seder.
Annie suggested
we all eat
the third night
at Café Espanol.
Vaya Con Moses
she said.

Fourth Night
Jews came to Astoria in 1935, and years later, beginning in the mid-1970s, the neighborhood’s Arab population grew. Early immigrants were from Lebanon, then Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria. In the 1990s, Steinway Street between 28th Avenue and Astoria Boulevard saw the establishment of many Arabic shops, restaurants, and cafes, which is unofficially called “Little Egypt.”

Astoria, Queens
Arab home
Egyptian restaurants
on one street named Steinway
for piano factory
163 years old
300 workers
made 1200 pianos
each year
two best
Egyptian restaurants
cardamom
sumac zatar
two brothers
Ali and Mombar
Ali is thinner
both grill
St. Peter’s fish
across the street
from one another
haven’t spoken
in years.

Fifth Night
What Hope Looks Like

We all look for a hope. Especially at holidays. A few days ago The New York Times told the stories of the ten New York high school seniors who will win ,000 and a laptop. Every single one of these students went through sadness and terror. Next year they’ll each go to a very good college, and have a chance to dramatically change their lives. Besides the ,000 they got separate scholarships from college. Winners are Jada Fitzpatrick, Wilson Zhang, Eileen Cruz, Shania Sinclair, Jia Ying Mei Adenique Lisse, Ajifanta Marenah, Leonel Martinez, Sunpreet Singh, and Daniel Collins Jr.

Wilson Zhang
eight years old
only eight years old
Sunset Park
not China
very small boy
young boy only
eight years old
no mother
one little sister
father died
of cancer
when he was
eight years old
new to Sunset Park
Wilson Zhang
and his sister moved
to the home
of another family.
He has always
had a job
taken care
of his sister never
gotten anything less
than A
Wilson Zhang
will go
to a famous college
always have
a job he will
work hard
knowing
hope is there
if he works hard
he will always
work hard
Wilson Zhang

Sixth Night
For ten years, I was a partner in a publishing house, called ADAM in Hebrew and ADAMA in English. We had an office in Jerusalem, and one in New York. Aryeh Mor was one of my partners.

Last night
I met Hanan my old friend
Aryeh’s stepson
Aryeh moved
back
to Israel
three years ago
I haven’t seen him
since. Hanan
asked how Aryeh
and I became
friends.
At the Frankfurt
Book Fair
we decided
to drive
to Strasbourg
to visit
the Guttenberg Bible.
A woman named Myrna
came with us too.
She slept
in the back seat
Tell me
about your first
divorce
I asked Aryeh.
Eight hours later
we had long passed
Strasbourg he was
still describing
the first year of
his marriage.
I wanted
to hear
the rest.

Seventh Night

Holidays are times when we think about who we want to
sit with us at our table.
For many years
I’ve been thinking
what family means.
My mother moved
to a small town
without family
to marry my father.
Two of his Official
Family Members
were around our corner,
not people to see
too much.
We made our own
family
who we saw who
we loved it wasn’t
an Every Sunday
kind of thing
more I like you
so I want to see you
blood didn’t enter
the equation
I know
about blood
loyalty
of history
still
don’t like
the usual
configuration
even now
so many people
are in
my funny
family now.

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Contributor

is a novelist and poet living in New York City. She’s the author of several books, including Book Doctor. Read more of her writing on her blog I Am and I Am Not.

is a professional photographer who lives in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn with his wife, two children, dog, cat, and the various birds he feeds in his backyard. See more of his work at matthewseptimus.com.

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