Passover: The Festival of Freedom

Nissan 15 – 22, 5781 | Evening of March 27 through Sunset on April 4, 2021

Passover Programs

Passover Seders and Events for All!

Virtual Family Seder with the PJCC, PJ Library, and Peninsula Temple Beth El
Sunday, March 28 • 5:00 pm
Join us for a FREE playful, interactive and meaningful virtual Seder led by Rabbi Lavey Derby, Alison Faith Levy and Jeni Markowitz Clancy. Explore the Passover traditions with a family-friendly virtual haggadah, singing, puppetry and storytelling. This Seder is best for families with children ages 10 & under or those young at heart. All are welcome! Registration required.

Past Events

Multicultural Passover Freedom Seder
Tuesday, March 16 • 6:00-7:30 pm
We are thrilled to be cosponsoring JCRC’s Multicultural Passover Freedom Seder to celebrate our community as a bastion of freedom. Be part of this participatory, cross-cultural, interfaith exchange, and honor one of the most important Jewish holidays of the year! This is a critical moment to come together because we are living through a time of racism and xenophobia, and this event will inspire us to action in the year ahead. Now more than ever, the story of Passover is resonant with the systemic injustices and inequities of our era. This year we will hear the important civic and elected voices who are in solidarity with our community at a time of rising antisemitism.

How to Host a Virtual 2 for Seder
Thursday, March 18 • 4:00 pm
Fight anti-Semitism with love and matzah while building bridges with your neighbor. We’ll show you how with this short class. Invite a friend, neighbor, or co-worker to their FIRST Seder. This special and positive Jewish experience will be a counterweight to negative stereotypes, tropes, and jokes against Jews.

This is 2 for Seder’s third year and we’re asking you to stay safe during COVID with a virtual Seder. We’ll help you make it engaging and fun, especially for your guests who are experiencing it for the first time.

Let My People Dough: Baking and Advocacy with Challah for Hunger and Tkiya
Friday, March 19 • 2:30 pm
Let’s enjoy one last loaf of challah before Passover! Join Challah for Hunger and Tkiya for a family-friendly virtual challah bake and activity hour. We’ll demonstrate how to make the perfect loaf of challah, then participate in some fun musical and advocacy activities together! This event is open to anyone, but activities will be designed for children ages 4-12 and their loved ones. Learn more about Challah After School, Challah for Hunger’s programming for young children and their families.

PJ Library All-Star Musical Passover
Sunday, March 21 • 10:30 am
An interactive Passover program with an unbelievable line up of the very top artists in Jewish kids music including Nefesh Mountain, Rabbi Josh Warshawsky, Eliana Light, Shira Kline, Ellen Allard, Rick Recht, Joanie Leeds, and Elana Jagoda! During this highly-interactive seder experience, we’ll sing traditional and contemporary songs, tell the Passover story, and explore the foods on the seder plate, the blessings, the questions, and the highlights of the Exodus – from slavery to freedom.

Organized by PJ Library Bay Area.

Yoga for Passover
With Julie Emden of Embodied Jewish Learning
Sunday, March 21 • 2:00 – 4:00 pm PST/5:00 – 7:00 pm EST

When Moses first saw the burning bush, he said “I will turn aside now and see this great sight”—Exodus 3:3

Join us for an extended practice of “turning” in this gentle Iyengar-based yoga and movement practice as a resource for noticing and finding amazement in our everyday movements. Learn about and experience the wonder of the skeletal structures that allow our bodies to twist and turn.

No previous experience with Yoga or knowledge about Passover is required.

Offered by Embodied JewishLearning, in partnership with Shalem, the Jewish Wellness Initiative of the Peninsula JCC, the Addison-Penzak JCC, and the Oshman Family JCC.

ArtBash Live Passover
Sunday, March 21 • 4:00 pm (Kit Pickup: Thursday, March 18 at 2:00 pm)
Join the art-making festivities at The Contemporary Jewish Museum’s ArtBash Live inspired by Passover in partnership with PJCC! Drop by one of several Bay Area locations to pick up a FREE art kit filled with all the supplies you’ll need. Then, gather with us on Zoom to celebrate bookmaking and intergenerational storytelling through hands-on art projects.

Catered Passover Meal Pickup with Ladle & Leaf
Friday, March 26 • 4:00 pm
Offering full kosher-style Passover meals for two to five people as well as full Seder plate fixing kits. Pricing, order dates & link for purchase available on the Ladle & Leaf website.

The Story of Passover (Pesach)

Passover, or Pesach (PEH-sach) in Hebrew, commemorates the slavery of the Israelites in Egypt and their ultimate exodus to freedom. This story of redemption from slavery is the “master-story” of the Jewish People – a story that has shaped Jewish consciousness and values. It is just as relevant today for all humankind as it was 3,400 years ago.

The story harks back to the family of Jacob, who fled their home in Canaan in the face of a terrible famine. They made their way to Egypt where they were welcomed and became a populous people. But when a new king arose in Egypt, he feared the growing Israelite population and enslaved them, a sentence that continued for the next 210 years. Then the God of Israel appeared to a simple shepherd, Moses, in a burning bush, instructing him to go to Egypt and free the slaves.

The story of Passover relates the struggle between God, who demands freedom for the Israelites, and Pharaoh, who symbolizes the hard-hearted forces of self-aggrandizement, tyranny, and enslavement. God breaks Pharaoh’s spirit by inflicting Egypt with 10 plagues. During the night of the final plague, God “passed over” and protected the houses of the Israelites, giving the festival its name. Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt and, with the Egyptian army chasing after them, split the waters of the Red Sea, allowing the Israelites to cross the sea on dry land and escape. Since they escaped Egypt in a hurry, they did not have time for their bread to leaven and rise, giving Passover it’s most famous symbol–matzah–which is Hebrew for “unleavened bread.”

How We Celebrate… And Why

During the eight days of Passover (liberal Jews observe the holiday for seven days), it is customary not to eat, or even possess, any food that may contain leaven (Cha-MAYTZ in Hebrew). Leaven is a food or beverage that contains any grain product (wheat, barley, oats, spelt and rye) that has been fermented in water. In the days before Passover, observant Jews clean their homes thoroughly in order to remove any leavened food, including everyday pots, pans, and dishes. Often, even non-religious Jews will eat matzah on Passover instead of bread.

The central ritual of Pesach is the Seder (SAY-der), a carefully choreographed ritual meal that takes place on the eve of Passover at home with family and friends or with the community. It is both a sumptuous feast as well as an educational experience for children and adults alike. The Seder begins by reading the Hagaddah (Ha-ga-DAH), a 1800-year-old book that retells in detail the story of the Exodus from Egypt. Children ask the Ma Nishtana (the Four Questions) which introduce the telling of the story.

An essential part of the Seder is eating ritual foods symbolic of the journey from slavery to freedom:

  • Four cups of wine: symbols of joy
  • Bitter herbs: reminding us of the suffering of slavery
  • Green leafy vegetables: representing rebirth
  • Matzah: which is both the poor bread of slaves and the symbol of our freedom.

The Relevance of Passover Today

The story of the Israelites’ exodus from slavery is the foundation of Jewish ethics. As we experienced slavery and suffering, the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures) insists that we are obligated to protect the powerless.

The Torah reminds us that “you were strangers in the land of Egypt,” and contains over 50 references to the resident alien (someone who is not a citizen). It includes admonitions to provide the stranger with economic security, basic food and clothing, prompt payment of wages, and with equality before the law.

Jewish tradition teaches that we are duty-bound to create societies established on the principles of justice, righteousness, and compassion. Throughout generations, the story of the Exodus has encouraged secular and religious Jews alike to commit to bringing more justice into the world. This commitment includes both welcoming the stranger into our communities as well as fighting the ugliness of xenophobia.

We are people of privilege, who enjoy all the freedoms of our society, including security, justice, and equality. Sadly, there are those who do not experience that privilege because of their ethnicity, religion, poverty, or the color of their skin. There are also strangers, many of whom are refugees seeking asylum, who are not treated with the same freedoms we enjoy. The story of the Exodus demands us to stretch our notion of privilege and equality to all people, and especially to the stranger. The Torah asserts that we have a responsibility to welcome others and share our freedoms with them.

Passover Resources



  • The Jewish Holidays: A Guide and Commentary by Rabbi Michael Strassfeld
  • Seasons of Our Joy: A Modern Guide to Jewish Holidays by Rabbi Arthur Waskow
  • The Jewish Way: Living the Holidays by Rabbi Irving (Yitz) Greenberg
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