From liberation to responsibility
By Rabbi Mordechai Harris
Telling stories is a powerful tool for creating lifelong connection to learning and communal identity. The Passover story holds a special place in the hearts of the Jewish community as it is a story of liberation from slavery in Egypt and the formation of the Jewish people. This story is retold and passed down through generations, reminding us of the importance of empathy, caring for others, gratitude and recognition of our responsibility to help those in need.
On Passover night, one way we retell this story is through the lens of questions and answers offered to four children: the wise, the wicked, the simple and the one who does not even know how to ask. The four children represent different levels of engagement and understanding, attitudes and assumptions, and it is crucial to approach each one with patience, understanding and individually tailored education.
Just as the Passover Haggadah recognizes the unique personalities and wants of the four children, the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas recognizes that our community members have varying needs, perspectives and vulnerabilities. We are dedicated to serving the community through strategic investments in security, education, senior care, youth, local and global Jewry, all with a goal of helping to ensure that all members of our Jewish community feel valued and connected and have their basic needs met.
For the wise child, we assist to remove barriers and improve the quality of educational resources such as day schools, afterschool programs, Sunday schools, Jewish camps and youth groups. Aware that the wicked child is often acting out of their own insecurities, we address security issues through advocacy and partnerships to fund and support security in places of worship, daycares, preschools, community centers and partner agencies. For the simple child, the Federation strives to ensure that all those who lack financial means have a dignified way to access food and celebrate the holidays through our support of the Jewish Family Service food pantry and the Joy for the Holidays program. For the child who does not know how to ask, we convene the tapestry of incredible partner agencies within our community to help us identify gaps in services, reach new individuals and otherwise invite in those who may not feel permission or even know where to ask for help for themselves.
But what about the fifth child, the one who does not show up? This child represents those in the community who may feel disconnected or excluded. The Federation also works to address those who feel disconnected or excluded by fostering a sense of belonging and connection to Jewish values and traditions, laying a foundation for lifelong learning and connection to Jewish identity.
By embracing the spirit of responsibility at the heart of the Passover story, the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas actively engages with and listens to the diverse voices and needs of our community. Through acts of kindness and sharing with those in need, we uphold the values of empathy, care and responsibility, and strive to repair the world in accordance with the principle of tikkun olam. By pooling our community resources, advocating and working together, we can make a greater impact toward a more compassionate society — a fundamental aspect of Jewish identity and values.
As we celebrate the Passover holiday, we share a “Prayer for Unity,” emphasizing the importance of unity and responsibility among the Jewish people, reminding us of the challenges our ancestors faced as slaves in Egypt and calling for a commitment to caring for the community and working towards peace and harmony. “May the Merciful One restore to us the Temple that served as a house of prayer for all people, gathering our exiles from the four corners of the earth. May God unite our hearts to serve in truth and may we merit to witness the day when all Israel will be united in peace and harmony.”
If you would like to learn more, get involved or donate, please learn more about the Federation by visiting www.
We look forward to continuing to serve with dedication and compassion. Chag kasher v’sameach, next year in Jerusalem.
Rabbi Mordechai Harris is the chief impact officer and rabbi-in-residence of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas.