Letter: A very special Passover
Soon, Jews around the world will be celebrating the holiday of Passover. It is a holiday that celebrates the Jewish people’s liberation from slavery. For the most part, Jews around the world will be observing this holiday in a similar manner following traditions that have been handed down for centuries.
But traditions are not just relics from the past. At Temple Bat Yam, old traditions are morphing into new practices, as efforts are underway to make Jewish teachings and values relevant to today. Therefore, following in our commitment to support those less fortunate and our belief in greater inclusion and strong community activism, Temple Bat Yam once again opens its doors in welcoming all to join us at this year’s Passover Seder at Harrah’s. In addition to a traditional Seder being held on the evening of Monday, April 25, at 5:30 p.m. at Harrah’s, TBY is hosting a very special Passover event. On Wednesday, April 13, at 6:30 p.m. at the temple, TBY will be joining with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) to offer a night of education about mental illness and resources here in South Lake Tahoe. Our message this year is straightforward — oppression takes many forms, physical as well as mental. Our message this year is clear — it is time to overcome the guilt and shame associated with mental illness. Our message this year is universal —we must collectively stop “passing over” those afflicted with mental diseases.
As a parent of children with mental illnesses, I applaud Rabbi Yakar’s openness and willingness to support this cause for social justice. From my perspective, I see a host of similarities between the story of Passover and the plight of the mentally ill in this country. Imagine what it must be like to be enslaved by a mind that you can not trust, never knowing for certain that what you see and hear is real?
It is my contention that for too long we have passed over this segment of our community coping and struggling with mental illness. In some instances we have preferred to just ship them off to another state. For too long we, the family members, loved ones and community have silently suffered along with our loved ones, feeling guilt and shame; often we feel like helpless victims of a legal and health care system that seems uncaring and of a medical establishment years behind in research and treatment. Mental illness is more than just a biological affliction; it’s a social disease that affects everyone and is far reaching. How could it not? What individual (parent, sibling, nephew or even neighbor) could possibly “hold it together” at they witness their loved ones descend into such dark places. Yet, with more awareness, knowledge and education we know a new reality can be reached.
If Passover is about overcoming, then it is time that we overcome the stigma associated with mental illness, too! Please come and join us as we liberate ourselves from our lack of knowledge and awareness surrounding mental illness. Coffee and desserts will be provided for what plans to be a very lively and informative discussion open to the entire Tahoe-Carson Valley community.
A story about the importance of not passing over: There once was a young boy who every day would go down to the beach, picking up starfish stranded on the sand and flinging them back into the sea.
An old man, seeing this, approached the young boy and chided him saying that there were millions of starfish on the beaches, and that he — the young boy — was wasting his time, that the boy couldn’t possibly hope to make any kind of meaningful difference. The young boy just looked at the old man, politely smiled then picked up another starfish and flung it into the sea. “Well” he said, “I made a difference to that one.”
South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
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