Arami Oved Avi: A Family Coming Out Journey

Adina Koch shares her Passover coming out story that can serve as an insert into a Haggadah. Includes discussions questions that will offer everyone gathered around your Seder table the opportunity to consider how you may pursue justice and liberation for LGBTQ people.

April 1, 2014

By Adina Koch and Joanna Ware

Several years ago, Keshet member Adina Koch came out at her family’s Passover Seder. In true Koch family fashion, she did so by offering words of Torah. She gathered her whole family together, and shared with them how the Haggadah’s retelling of our ancestor’s journey from bondage to redemption offered a reminder of the importance of family, liberation, speaking out for justice,  and being true to oneself. This Pesach, we offer Adina’s words of Torah  as a teaching for all of our Seder tables.

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AND YOU  WILL  ANSWER  AND SAY  BEFORE ADONAI YOUR GOD, “My father was a  wandering Aramean. He  descended to Egypt and resided there in small numbers. He  became a nation—great, powerful and numerous. The Egyptians treated us  badly. They persecuted us  and put us under hard labor. We cried out to Adonai, the God of our ancestors. God heard our  voice. God saw our  persecution, our  toil and our  oppression. God took us out of Egypt with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, with awesome power, signs and wonders. God brought us  to this place and gave us this land, a land of milk and honey. Now I have brought the first fruits of this soil,  which you, God, gave me.” (Deut.  26:5–10)

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WHEN  WE RETURN TO THE STORY OF PESACH YEAR AFTER YEAR, OUR MAGGID (story), we return to a reminder of from where we have come. Our parent wandered. Our ancestor searched for a place  to call home;  out  of which we emerged as a nation and a community. As Jews, we are blessed  with a tradition that teaches us to stretch what it means to be family and on all days of the year to welcome the orphan, the widow, and the stranger. The lesson is especially salient  on Pesach, as we open  our doors and invite all who are hungry to come and eat. Food, however, may not be the only nourishment our bodies and souls are craving.

When  we recall our slavery  in Egypt, so too are we called  to notice the oppression in our midst; the Egyptians of our day treat those  who  are LGBTQ harshly.  Those in our LGBTQ community suffer  from higher than  average rates of abuse,  homelessness, harassment,and violence. For some of us, just walking down the street poses a threat to safety that others never  need  consider. None  of us are exempt from being in the  role  of Egyptian. We may believe we have just cause for persecuting those  who  are different, we may do so without intent to harm, and we may do so with our silence. Yet our story teaches that it is our responsibility to recognize oppression and cry out  for justice.  The Torah  teaches us that as human beings  we are created b’tzelem elohim—in the image of God. The divine spark  is in each one of us, and we each have the power to hear those  who  cry  out  and witness their  pain, to extend our hands and stretch out our arms to those  who  are still in a narrow place. Some years it might be us, or the people we love, who  need those  open arms and a strong hand.

Jewish  people living in the United States today are in many  ways living in a time  of milk and honey. While  we have our individual and collective struggles and hardships, as a peo- ple we are not  under  the threat our ancestors once  lived  with.  We have a responsibility to use this land, this time  and space that we are in, to make fruit from this soil. We honor our tradition and history by standing on the side of justice and fighting for space at the table  for the LGBTQ people in our lives and in our communities. For all who  are hungry will come  and eat on this night with us: the stranger, the friend, and those  whose  hunger will be sated not by food, but by love, acceptance, justice,  and equality in our homes, synagogues, and the world at large.

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QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

  1. Many LGBTQ people have “chosen family” in addition to their fam- ilies of origin. How do you define your  family, and how  does that impact your  relationship to this text?
  2. What lessons do you take from your ancestors’ journeys?
  3. What, other than food, do you have to offer to the stranger in your midst?
  4. How can you nurture the souls and well being of LGBTQ people at your Seder table,  in your  community, and around the world?

 


Arami Oved Avi translates to “My ancestor was a wandering Aramean.”

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