Passover: A new “Christian Festival of Freedom”

This is a guest post by AKUS

Those who have read my comments from time to time may recall that each year we celebrate the exodus by emulating it in our own way – making the long drive from Washington, DC, to Toronto, Canada for a Seder with our family there. Equipped with passports to prove our US identities in this age of terrorism, we humbly pass by the Canadian customs officials at the border who grill us about the possibility that we might be bringing wine into Canada before letting us pass dry-shod over the Niagara River like the Children of Israel crossing the Red Sea. Apparently, they fear we may be intent on destroying the entire basis of that country’s economy by bringing in a bottle or two of Manischewitz grape juice.

We always have a great time with our extended family there, but what also invariably catches my attention is one or other example of the extraordinary relationship that Canada has with its Jewish population. At a time of year when the American President has a new tradition of holding a Seder in the White House, there always seems to be, in Canada, some little bit of nastiness connected to Passover. This despite heroic efforts by some of its leaders, including the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, to oppose anti-Semitism in Canada (per capita, about 10 times more prevalent than in the USA) and his support for Israel reflected in his government’s policy towards Israel.

This year, one of my relatives, a teacher at a school with a very large proportion of Moslem students, showed me this extraordinary message sent to students and parents for Passover:


The historical significance of Passover is the quest for freedom in the face of oppression, bondage and slavery. This is a fundamental precept in the historical context of the birth of Christianity and in a multitude of religions.

One of the hallmarks of freedom is the notion of opportunities for individual self-fulfillment and human flourishing. As Canadians we enjoy many freedoms – hard won freedoms – freedoms that should be treasured, maintained and sustained. This is an opportune time to reflect on the freedoms and benefits that we enjoy as part of public education.

We wish those observing an opportunity for time with loved ones, time for reflection and time to enjoy.

In the message to these students and their parents we see an attempt to ignore the very fact that Passover is a Jewish festival. There is an attempt to co-opt Passover as a Christian festival since that was the occasion of the Last Supper, writing the Jews and even the mention that Jesus was a Jew out of their own history – hence “the birth of Christianity and in a multitude of religions”. My relative believes that it may have been written in this fashion to avoid upsetting Moslem students.

The United Church of Canada is, to a large extent, the home of activists of the BDS movement dedicated myopically to boycotting Israel while ignoring far greater conflicts. Unable to get a BDS resolution passed at its 2009 National conference, the conference still encouraged member churches to boycott Israel: No National Boycott but Churches Encouraged to Act. Brian Henry wrote about this at Harry’s Place: The United Church has a Jewish problem.

This school’s Passover message to the students seems to indicate that the vicious attacks on Israel orchestrated by the United Church among others are bearing poisoned fruit. Just as we see daily on the Guardian’s website, there is an attempt to write Jews out of their own history. What we can deduce from this Passover message is that it is becoming a global phenomenon.

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