Honoring cherished traditions during a pandemic

by Beth Margolis Rupp, Director of Folkshul
Posted 3/25/21

Across our community and the globe, many different challenges have emerged during the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Honoring cherished traditions during a pandemic


Across our community and the globe, many different challenges have emerged during the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Degrees of suffering have varied, but we all have missed the direct human connection that comes from in-person communication and physical proximity.

As a secular humanistic Jewish community, Folkshul creates a space for honoring past and present, with a focus on the social justice work that we as Jews must do to work towards  “tikkun olam,” repairing the world for all people. Like many educational institutions, Folkshul has had to be resourceful and innovative in order to pivot to offering youth and adult classes and celebrations virtually. By focusing on equity, gratitude and appreciation, Folkshul has created several opportunities that reflect our values as a community. We share them here to invite your learning and participation.

Earlier this month, thanks to the generous partnership of the Jewish Federation of Philadelphia and Partnership 2Gether, Folkshul co-hosted a free, online Sephardic Passover Cooking Class. Haim Damari and Chen Cohen, two Jewish chefs living in the city of Netivot Sdot Negev, were our online hosts, bringing us culinary traditions and recipes from North Africa. During an engaging hands-on demonstration, they shared with our participants stories about Tunisian traditions and practices while preparing beautiful bonatage (Tunisian potato pancakes) and the Sephardic version of a Passover staple, charoset. The free class attracted more than a hundred participants from all over the world and each was sent the recipes following the class. The engaging and joyful presentation was a reminder that while rituals may differ by country and culture, we share a common love and commitment to unite as family and friends to mark our people’s dramatic freedom from bondage and exodus from Egypt.

Folkshul empowers its middle school-aged and older students to develop meaningful service-learning projects driven by our “Folkshul Kavanah Approach”: we encourage conscious and intentional understanding (kavanah) and implementation of time, talent, and effort to transform our communities and ourselves. During the pandemic, our 5th and 6th grade classes decided to focus on food insecurity in Philadelphia and surrounding communities.  Their research included meeting with a representative from Mazon, the national Jewish hunger relief organization. In order to engage with a trusted community partner, Folkshul approached Weaver’s Way to host our Folkshul Passover Food Drive at all three Weaver's Way locations:  Weaver's Way Mt. Airy - 559 Carpenter Lane, Weaver's Way Chestnut Hill, Weaver's Way Ambler - 217 E. Butler Avenue in Ambler, PA. This Passover Food Drive is in partnership with the Share Food Program (sharefoodprogram.org). We are grateful to Weavers Way for enabling our  5th  and  6th grade classes to inspire others to share their relative abundance during Passover.

Our 7th grade students are exploring food insecurity and social justice through the lens of the Holocaust. In addition, two of our high school assistants will meet with the national anti-hunger advocate, Joel Berg, who is Executive Director of the New York-based Hunger-Free America, to understand deeply the trauma and reality of food insecurity for many Americans.

The greater Folkshul community will join together for one of Jewish life’s most beloved ritual celebrations - our Pesach or Passover Seder (pronounced say-dur) - on Sunday morning, March 28th at 10:30 am EDT on Zoom. Our Pesach seder is an inclusive program that engages our entire community and allows our youth to take a leadership role. Focusing on the past and present realities of our people as well as the obstacles facing many others, we will retell the story of our Exodus out of slavery in Egypt and consider the traditional ten plagues as well as modern equivalents from a social justice perspective.  Inspired by Jewish traditions, thinkers, leaders, poets, and activists, our kavanah (deep intention) is to honor all people. We look forward to celebrating Passover together as part of our commitment to justice and tolerance for all. Please join us!

You must register for this virtual event here:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/145666007951

For more information about our community and programs, please visit our website: https://www.folkshul.org/


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