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Bringing Work Home

Posted: April 17, 2013

Every year right before Passover I get stressed out. Not because I typically host 25 people each night at my house. [Nor because I am charged with changing over my kitchen to my Passover dishes, pots, pans, and utensils.  And not even in anticipation of ridding my diet of wheat products for a week.  No, I get stressed because of a family tradition that my mother started years ago and continues to this day.

She requires that anyone who comes to the Seder, the traditional meal in which we retell the story of how the Jews left Egypt, must come with a comment, story, or something interesting to say regarding Passover.  In theory, it was a nice tradition, and ensured that we had lively discussions at our Seders over the years.  But right around the time of the first sight of the crocuses, I began to worry that I would have nothing to add to the Seder. And as old habits die hard, I continued to worry about this even when I “took over” hosting the Seders as an adult.

This year, of course, was no different.  My family and I traveled to Florida to spend Passover with my parents. My boys were excited to see their grandparents, spend some time in the sun, and enjoy a holiday together. But I was stressed. I didn’t have time to prepare something for the Seder. At night, when I come home from work, the last thing I want to do is sit down at a computer and do research on Passover!

And then it happened. Work saved me.

Twice a month a Rabbi and her students from Prozdor Hebrew High School come to the Coleman House during their free hour to discuss different topics. A week before Passover the Rabbi brought a beautiful story with her for the class to read and discuss. The story was about how a slave became the king of a nation and the importance of never forgetting from whence you come. It tied into the story of Passover, and was a jumping point for meaningful conversations amongst the group about their own lives.

The program solidified a lesson I already know.  There are few things of greater importance than learning from the past, embracing our history, and making meaningful connections to the past through sharing ideas with someone outside of your own generation.

What a privilege it is to have the opportunity to provide this to people both at JCHE and outside JCHE every day, AND to personally benefit from my work’s mission.

As my family sat around our table for the Seder, I was able to share with all three generations what I learned from work.

I impressed my mom, until next year…

 Jessica Hamermesh is the Director of JCHE's Generations Together Program.

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