Passover is one of the biggest Jewish holidays. It’s celebrated entirely at home, with a special dinner called a Seder, which makes it appealing to secular American Jews as well as more observant ones.
Passover commemorates the Biblical story of the ancient Hebrews’ liberation from slavery in Egypt to freedom. You may best know the Passover story from Moses’sparting of the Red Sea, which may have looked a little like this:
Passover — and in particular, the Passover Seder — might be the most widely observed Jewish tradition among American Jews today. According to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, 70 percent of American Jews said they participated in a Seder last year, while a little over half said they fasted during Yom Kippur (the “holiest day” in Judaism) and only 23% said they attended synagogue on a monthly basis. Because Passover is a holiday that’s celebrated at home rather than in a synagogue, many Jews feel comfortable celebrating it regardless of how observant they are. Each family’s Seder also reflects their own traditions, which is another selling point for Jews who might not participate in other holidays.
The central theme of the Passover story is freedom. For many modern Jews, Passover is a time to be conscious of the suffering of others, and to understand modern oppression as a continuation of the enslavement of the ancient Hebrews. The central hope for many Jews observing Passover today is that all those who are oppressed will someday find freedom, just like the Jews who were freed from Egypt. It’s also a story of returning to the Jewish homeland, the significance of which has changed dramatically over time.