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Celebrating Easter and Passover with prayers online

Good Friday walk
Photo: / AFSC

“We hope that you are all well and safe as we gather virtually under the darkening cloud of this unprecedented global pandemic. We dedicate this year’s Walk to all those individuals and communities around the world who are most vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19,” Kryss Chupp, Good Friday Walk for Justice Committee, Chicago

"May this time of brokenness lead to a deeper solidarity between all who are ready to fight for a better world,” Rabbi Brant Rosen, Tzedek Chicago

Chicago activists have a 40 year-old tradition of gathering communities every Good Friday in a public witness that names the injustices of the day and calls for transformation. The Walk for Justice stems from the Christian tradition of the Stations of the Cross where Jesus walked to his execution. 

Each year various justice-seeking communities and organizations prepare a book of prayers that calls for us to be in solidarity with those who are suffering and to remember the power of love to transform a world captured by fear and greed. The themes each year include protecting our Earth, ending torture, incarceration, poverty, wars and militarism, and the lack of human rights for women, people of color, refugees, migrants, and LGBTQ youth. Despite often inclement weather, dozens of people join in the Walk through the streets of Chicago each year, reading prayers in unison and singing at designated “stations” in front of Chicago buildings that represent the powerful institutions that perpetuate unjust systems (Federal building, Board of Trade, City Hall).

In response to the global pandemic and shelter in place directives, this year the organizers of the Walk prepared a stay-at-home virtual walk, making the booklet of prayers available online. They also hosted a Zoom gathering and recorded the prayers and music (written and sung by Chris Inserra) and produced a video on-line, so that people can feel connected to a wider community as they participate from home.

“Today we gather as a community in the best way we can right now to reflect, to pray, to bear witness to HOPE rising in courageous communities. Feel free, in your homes, your yards, or whatever space you are in, to move in some way from station to station in a spirit of prayerful reflection, and to enact these prayers in any way that the Spirit moves you,” said Kryss Chupp, a lead organizer of the Walk. Organizers ask that people post photos online #HopeRises2020 to share their experiences of the virtual walk on Good Friday.

Tzedek Chicago is an intentional congregational community based on core values of justice, equity and solidarity with the oppressed. Tzedek Chicago emphasizes the Torah’s central narrative of liberation and the prophetic imperative to speak truth to power. Their rabbi, Brant Rosen prepared online Passover Seder prayers, including this year’s “Fighting for the Health of Your Community” written by Rabbi Brant Rosen.

“In this collection I’ve written one reading for each section of the seder and recommend picking and choosing the one/s you find most meaningful. While the extent to which COVID-19 is addressed will vary, I believe the most successful seders will be the ones that view the Exodus narrative as a spiritual frame to contextualize this unprecedented moment,” wrote Rabbi Rosen on his poetry and liturgy blog Yedid Nefesh.

In his opening reading he writes, “Before we raise the cup to another Passover, we must acknowledge that this night is very different from all other nights. In this extraordinary moment of global pandemic, we are literally dwelling in the “narrow place” of social separation. Thus, we come to the very first question of the evening: how on earth do we fulfill the mitzvah to observe the Passover seder? Where do we even begin?”

On Tuesday, April 14, Tzedek Chicago will host a mid-week Passover seder via Zoom, led by Rabbi Brant Rosen with music by Leah Shoshanah and Adam Gottlieb and will feature remarks by Tzedek member and Truthout editor Maya Schenwar. (For the Zoom link to join, please contact info@tzedekchicago.org).

About the Author

Jennifer Bing has worked at AFSC for nearly 30 years, serving in various capacities in its Israel-Palestine programs. She directs the Chicago AFSC Palestine-Israel Program and works with the Palestine-Israel joint U.S. program. Jennifer has organized hundreds of speaking tours, conferences, workshops, advocacy campaigns, and educational programs about the Middle East in her tenure with AFSC.

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