Happy Passover!

This evening the rabbi and I are leading the Szim Salom community seder at the Hotel Benczúr in Budapest. I am busy preparing, and leave Szolnok in just a few hours, so this will be short.

It is our first seder in person since 2019, so I am grateful for that! Lots of people will be there, from around the world, and we will hold a Pesach seder according to our Haggadah, along with feasting, songs, and stories.

It is customary in many Jewish communities, around this holiday, to think about what enslavement and liberation means to each of us, and what it means in the world. As far as the world is concerned, war is analogous to enslavement (though not the same thing), because if you are caught in it, you lose the ability to direct your own life. Some choices you still can make, but other choices, including whether to make it to the next day or whether to keep your dog, are made for you. It is not going to be easy to bring the war in Ukraine to an end; the Russian government seems bent on continuing, and many countries opposed to the war are trying to play it safe. But if somehow this could be halted permanently, then that would be liberation, though not the end of the problems. Millions have seen their lives upended, and thousands have not lived to see it. Others, whose lives are relatively stable, still feel the anxiety of a possible terrible turn.

As for enslavement in my country of origin, I hope that discussions of racism in the U.S. will come to balance confrontation with humanity, so that people can boldly look at history and the current situation—in classrooms, in private conversation, in the media, in introspection—while also respecting the dignity and infinity of others, no matter what their race or background. These two truths can be held at once: that there are many deep-rooted problems to address, and that no one can sum up another, no one knows entirely what another person has gone through or thinks or feels.

As for personal liberation, I have been leaving years of fears behind, even recently: fears of failure and disappointment, fears that things important to me would go wrong. It puzzles me that it took so long. Still I know that life doesn’t always go the way I wish, or the way anyone wishes. Disappointments happen for all sorts of reasons, but they aren’t inevitable. That’s a big shift for me: knowing that things I care about can go well, and taking part in them with that calm knowledge.

Chág Peszách Száméách! And happy Easter! And to those celebrating neither, have a nice long weekend, if indeed your weekend is long! And if it isn’t, may it still have some restfulness and cheer.

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2 Comments

  1. veronikakisfalvi4972

     /  April 15, 2022

    Thank you, and wishing you a happy and meaningful Pesach, Diana! ________________________________

    Reply

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  • “To know that you can do better next time, unrecognizably better, and that there is no next time, and that it is a blessing there is not, there is a thought to be going on with.”

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    Diana Senechal is the author of Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture and the 2011 winner of the Hiett Prize in the Humanities, awarded by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Her second book, Mind over Memes: Passive Listening, Toxic Talk, and Other Modern Language Follies, was published by Rowman & Littlefield in October 2018. In April 2022, Deep Vellum published her translation of Gyula Jenei's 2018 poetry collection Mindig Más.

    Since November 2017, she has been teaching English, American civilization, and British civilization at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium in Szolnok, Hungary. From 2011 to 2016, she helped shape and teach the philosophy program at Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering in New York City. In 2014, she and her students founded the philosophy journal CONTRARIWISE, which now has international participation and readership. In 2020, at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium, she and her students released the first issue of the online literary journal Folyosó.

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    On April 19–21, 2014, Diana Senechal took part in a discussion of solitude on BBC World Service's programme The Forum.  

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