African-American College Holds Seder to Celebrate Historic Relationship With Jewish Community
JACKSON, Miss. — Jewish professor Ernst Borinski fled n**i Germany in 1938, when discriminatory laws foreshadowed darker times to come. Borinski came to the American South of the Jim Crow era to work at historically black Tougaloo College in 1947, at a time when few universities would offer Jewish refugees employment. Soon, the school became his home and civil rights his cause.
On Thursday, Tougaloo College will hold a Passover Seder inspired by Borinski’s efforts to build bridges between Mississippi’s African-American and Jewish communities. Borinski is prominently featured in the exhibit, “From Swastika to Jim Crow,” currently on display at the college. The film is based on a PBS documentary of the same title that profiled Jewish refugees who taught at black colleges during the Holocaust.
The seder traditionally celebrates the Jewish exodus from slavery in Egypt. Tougaloo’s “freedom seder” will emphasize common themes in the histories of both communities and feature southern African-American cuisine prepared according to kosher rules.
The first freedom seder was held in the basement of a black church in 1969 on the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Our focus was intertwining the stories of liberation from pharaoh and liberation from racism in America,” said Rabbi Arthur Waskow, who wrote the Haggadah for the first freedom seder and directs the Shalom Center in Philadelphia, Pa.
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