JFCS’ Passover Hag Sameach program celebrates 20th anniversary

By Mindy Teele • Hag Sameach Coordinator

“The Passover story is the Jewish people’s original story of becoming strangers in a strange land. It is the story that reminds us that we, too, have stood in the shoes of refugees and asylum seekers in search of safety and liberty. As we lift our voices in song and prayer, we call out together with those who long to be free. This year, there are still many who struggle towards liberation; next year, may we all be free.” —Mark Hetfield, President & CEO, HIAS

As we mark the 20th year of the JFCS Hag Sameach Passover program, these words resonate deeply to me as I watch the news and see the Ukrainian people, many of whom are Jewish, flee their homes with the same hopes and needs that were felt by our ancestors over 3,000 years ago. There are many ways to support the people in Ukraine, including the Jewish Federation of North American’s emergency campaign.

For any Ukrainian refugees who take asylum here in Minneapolis, it is comforting to know that JFCS’ Hag Sameach Passover program is able to provide a moment of comfort and familiarity by gifting them the ritual foods and items that bring Jewish people together. No matter where you are in the world, the traditions of Passover remain a constant. I love working in a capacity where I get to partner with an amazing number of synagogues and other organizations to help make sure that anyone in our community who needs assistance in obtaining Passover foods and items is able to. 

While the core of the Hag Sameach Passover program has remained the same over the years, we are continually searching for new ways to meet the needs of our recipients. For example, since many of our senior recipients primarily speak Russian, we now offer Haggadot in Russian. Also, this year we are starting to share information on Seder events that our referral partners are hosting, as many people are seeking a place, either virtual or in-person, where they can participate in a community Seder.

I love receiving phone calls and cards following the holidays from our program recipients – it always feels great to hear about the program’s impact. However, I received a whole new perspective on the program in 2020; when so many in-person activities shut down right before Passover that year, I ended up making quite a few of the Passover deliveries myself and it was truly a remarkable and eye-opening experience. To see the recipients’ gratitude and genuine excitement about receiving their bags firsthand was truly humbling. Despite what our program was able to provide these recipients, what I received from them was so much more.  

Hag Pesach sameach!

Click here for more information on referrals, donating, or volunteering for JFCS’ Passover Hag Sameach program.