Siegel: Next year at the same table

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My son and I sat on our deck with a Seder plate, grape juice, eggs and salt water, parsley, Matzah, candles, Charoset and a computer. We looked at our family through the monitor on the biggest holiday of the year for Jewish folks. For as long as I can remember, we have made Passover happen, we have been together with family or at least friends. This was better than nothing, but, it was not the same. There have been many challenges to this time for me, but, the distance from my family has been one of the hardest parts. I am very fortunate to have a home that I am not afraid I will lose and a yard. Fear of not being able to keep up with the amount of food my family is going through has been ever present, as well as general fatigue from endless dishes and sanitization mixed with fear whenever we do get groceries.

In the times after loss in our family, we still have been together. We have congregated at my father's or mother's house. We have hugged. We have drank tea. We have walked. That stability has been a constant. I have found ways to create those constants in our lives since we have been home for nearly a month now. My niece and I go to an isolated place, park no closer than 18 feet apart with our trunks facing each other and we sit in our trunks and have coffee together. We long for the day that we can hug again. We miss our family and our chosen family. I worry about one of the children whose upbringing I was a huge part of, I call her one of my fids (fake kid) as she is an essential worker. I worry about the mental health of my son as he loses the end of his senior year and potentially his graduation. I feel fear when I am in a store. I miss human contact.

As we stared at our family and laughed and enjoyed each other's company, I thought about the historical nature of this moment in every way. As it relates to Passover especially. A holiday that celebrates our freedom at a time when we feel trapped. That sheds tears that symbolize the pain of slavery as people in prisons and many neighborhoods across the country do not have the privilege to socially distance themselves. A holiday that speaks of a plague, while a plague has changed our way of life. This holiday also speaks of rebirth and hope. We remember, because remembering allows us to recognize our privilege now. Hope and rebirth inspire us to build a new world. A world that is built on a much more stable foundation for people, animals and the earth.

We can't forget that there were policies that would have made this blow much softer. Policies that could have ensured that we had protection without as huge a bailout in a crisis. We must remember that while it is exceptionally beautiful to see us all rise up for each other, it is also true that crisis management as a reaction, instead of a proactive plan is both more painful and costly to all of us. We have to rise out of this prepared to build stronger with people- and earth-centered policy.

Passover and many holidays ask us to remember the history of the people that came before us. They ask us to observe their struggle so that we might understand our own privilege. We are now and have been living that history. The parts that will be remembered long after we are gone when we are the ancestors that are spoken of. What will we do with this moment? Will future generations remember the suffering alone? Or will we give them the rise from this that allows them to remember the shift, the change, the hope that comes with crisis? It is up to us. What will we do?

We have now sat at two family zoom Seders. We have said the prayers. We have shed tears for both now and then. We have done what we can to make a special holiday in the circumstances and we have reflected on this moment. At the Passover Seder we say, "Next year in Israel." With tears in my eyes, I have said more than once this year, "Next year together again at the same table." This moment is an act of love. We must act with the same love when we choose how we will move forward from here."

Brenda Siegel is a former Democratic candidate for governor, founder and director of the Southern Vermont Dance Festival, vice chair of the Newfane Democratic Committee and delegate to the Windham County Democratic Committee. She is an anti-poverty activist and single mom from Newfane. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.

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