How some Jews will honor an imprisoned American journalist during Passover
Evan Gershkovich, who works in Russia for The Wall Street Journal, was arrested last week and accused of being a spy
This year, as in all years, the Jewish community will reflect on the themes of freedom and perseverance as they celebrate Passover, which begins Wednesday night.
What makes this year unique is that some Jews will be thinking specifically about how those themes play into the story of Evan Gershkovich, a Jewish journalist for The Wall Street Journal who was arrested and accused of espionage last week.
Gershkovich, who is American, is currently behind bars as the Russian officials consider his case, according to The Associated Press.
The Biden administration has spoken out in his support — and denied the spying allegations — but it’s not yet clear whether the Russian government will agree to a prisoner swap or how soon such a swap could take place if they do.
In recognition of Gershkovich’s uncertain future, some of his colleagues at the Journal have called on Jews to “set a place at their Passover Seder tables” for him and to “call for his release,” The Forward reported.
Please consider setting an extra setting at your Passover Seder for #EvanGershkovich, my @WSJ colleague who is being held hostage by Russia. #IStandWithEvan #FreeEvan #FreeEvanGershkovich #JournalismIsNotACrime— Shayndi Raice (@Shayndi) April 1, 2023
This plea was retweeted by the former chief rabbi of Moscow, who called it a “worthy endeavor,” The Forward reported.
But Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt also noted that Gershkovich is far from the only person in need of prayers and action this Passover.
“Evan is not the only political prisoner in Russia and Byelorussia. Thousands of people are being held in prisons in Russia and Byelorussia, among them Alexei Navalny, Vladimir Kara Murza, Ilya Yashin and others, many, who are of Jewish descent,” he tweeted.
Rabbi Goldschmidt added, “We should remember all of them when we celebrate freedom at the Seder table Wednesday evening.”
Although it’s common for Passover celebrations to adjust a bit each year to reflect current events, Jews often focus whatever changes they make to their family’s table on developments closer to home, like the death of a loved one.
For example, Jewish families may choose to leave an empty spot at their Passover Seder table for a grandparent or parent who has recently passed away, as Rabbi Joe Ozarowski noted in a blog about the holiday for JCFS Chicago.
“The Seder and Passover festival is an ideal time to share these memories (of lost loved ones). Just as we share communal memories of slavery and freedom, so too we can share our own family and individual stories,” he wrote.
Passover, which lasts for eight days, is the most celebrated Jewish holiday, according to Religion News Service. More than 70% of Jews take part in at least one Passover Seder each year with family members, friends and/or members of their faith community.
“Seder guests take turns telling the story of the (biblical) Exodus and the Israelites’ new relationship with God based on the law given to Moses on Mount Sinai,” Religion News Service reported.