Passover 2024 begins Monday night with Seders, many plan to honor hostages still held by Hamas

ByRob Hughes WLS logo
Monday, April 22, 2024
Passover begins Monday night with Jewish community gathering for seder
The Jewish holiday of Passover begins Monday night at Sundown, and 2024's Seder resonates differently for many Jews under the shadow of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Jewish holiday of Passover begins Monday night at Sundown, and 2024's Seder resonates differently for many Jews as Hamas continues to hold dozens of hostages from October 7 in Gaza.

Chicago's Jewish community is coming together to celebrate the holy period, even while their hearts are heavy with grief.

In Wicker Park, last minute preparations were underway for a community Seder, the ritual feast that starts the eight day holiday.

"So Passover is really the day we were born as a nation. When we left Egypt. It seemed like the impossible," said Rabbi Yosef Moscowitz, executive director for Lubavich Chabad of Illinois.

The annual holiday marks the biblical story of the Jewish people's escape from captivity and slavery in Egypt. The celebration of freedom is particularly emotional this year in the midst of the ongoing war in Gaza.

"Right now we feel very much attacked and hurt, and it's raw, but at the same time this is our ticket to get out of it; through celebration, through recounting those stories," Moscowitz said.

While Rabbi Moscowitz plans a community Seder for 80 people in Wicker Park, many Jewish families in Israel are torn about how, or even if, they should celebrate this year.

In Tel Aviv, tables are set with memorial candles and place cards reading "Hostage. Bring them home."

"During Passover we're commanded over the course of the Seder to drink four cups of wine. This year we're only filling our glasses half full," said Sarah van Loon, Chicago regional director of the American Jewish Committee.

Families are also keeping the hostages top of mind by leaving empty seats around their Seder tables this year.

"This year is super different. This is the first Seder since October 7th. And for us this isn't just a historical incident that happened in the past. Our wounds around this horrific massacre are still fresh," van Loon said.

In the United States, the FBI said the number of federal hate crime cases against the Jewish community have tripled since October 7, 2023.

"We're resilient. We're going to keep advocating for our people, especially this year. When we say in our prayers, 'let our people go', this year it's so much more timely than it's ever been before," said van Loon.

Passover begins Monday night at sundown and ends at sundown on Tuesday, April 30.