Our JCPodcast for Thanksgiving!

Welcome to the second episode of the JCPodcast! Every few weeks, in lieu of a written D’var Torah, Rabbi Deena and Rabbi Jacob will share a brief discussion about an interesting and relevant Jewish topic. This week, in honor of Thanksgiving, we’re talking about Jewish practices that help us cultivate and express our gratitude. Listen to the podcast here and check out the animated version on our Youtube channel!

If you’re looking to give back during this season of gratitude, we hope you will join us to volunteer. Check out our community service opportunities here! 

We hope that you and your loved ones had a meaningful Thanksgiving. We’re so grateful for our JCP community. 

Shabbat shalom, 

Deena & Jacob

Sing with Suzi

Attend an interactive and upbeat sing-along starring Suzi Shelton, an award-winning children’s recording artist and JCPlay teacher! This musical performance is for children up to age five and includes a snack.

Tot Shabbat

Join your friends at JCP for a joyful and musical Shabbat morning experience for families with children up to five years of age. Come together for song, dance, prayer, and stories. This event is free of charge. Registration is needed only for children who will attend; accompanying adults do not need to register themselves.

We Are Family? Models for our Relationship with Israel

How do we understand what it means to be part of the Jewish People? What roles might we play as individuals in Jewish Peoplehood? Justin Pines, Hartman’s Director of Lay Leadership, will delve into past frameworks and models used to define the relationship between Israel and world Jewry and explore how we can reimagine models of Peoplehood that rebuild a sense of togetherness.

Register here.

Israel-Themed Buddy Scavenger Hunt

JCP creates Buddy Events throughout the year where our younger learners and older learners will be paired together, creating bonds and friendships across age groups. Please fill out the information below and we will pair buddies together for our next event on April 23!

JCP’s Israel-Themed Buddy Scavenger Hunt is on April 23rd from 2-3pm!
This event will be a scavenger hunt in honor of Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day)! We will search the JCP building and solve clues while learning about Israel. Can’t wait to see you there! Please note, this is not a drop-off event, and adults must accompany children in 3rd grade and below. 
Upcoming Buddy Event:
Shavuot Ice Cream Party – May 21, 2023

Yom HaShoah Commemoration with the Downtown Jewish Life Partners

Join DJL partners and your downtown community as we mark Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, featuring musical selections, prayer, and a special guest speaker. This event is free and open to all.


All guests must be vaccinated to participate in person.

Second Night Seder

Join us for a fun community Seder led by Rabbi Deena Silverstone and special guest, Danielle Brody, author of the Haggadah entitled “Don’t Fuhaggadahboudit.” Experience an entertaining Seder with a modern twist and the story of Pharaoh and Moses reimagined in NYC.

General tickets include the Seder and essentials – wine and matzah, a kosher dairy meal, plus a copy of the Haggadah! This event is open to all ages.

Click here for tickets!

About Danielle: Danielle Brody is a Jewish writer, marketer, and artist. She creates cartoons about her life and Jewish culture as Danielle in Doodles and Jews in Doodles. Brody self-published “Don’t Fuhaggadahboudit” and Hanukkah in Your Hands, She creates Jewish products, including Mitzvah or Shandah, and produces community events. Last summer, she was named to New York Jewish Week’s 36 to watch list.

Members: email rantonison@jcpdowntown.org for membership discount code!

Highlights from the Haggadah: Are We Free or Not?!

At JCP this past week, the 2nd graders of the Hebrew School Project led model seders for their families. As we began the seder on Tuesday—which was a tremendous display of learning, creativity, and joy—one student summarized the Passover story by saying, “It’s the story of when Israelites were slaves in Egypt and became free.” Teachers, parents, and siblings all nodded along because this is certainly correct! However, as is the case with much of Jewish tradition, the narrative that we were once slaves and are now free is not without complication.

Just before the Maggid section of the seder, which tells the story of Passover, someone typically holds up a piece of matzah and says the opposite:

“This is the bread of affliction. This is the bread our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Anyone who is hungry, come eat! Anyone who is in need: come and celebrate Passover. Now we are here. Next year, in the land of Israel. Now we are slaves (avadim). Next year, free people (b’nei horin).” In this statement, the message is clear that we are currently enslaved and hope to be free next year.

Elsewhere in the Haggadah, though, we read the phrase “We were slaves (avadim hayinu) and God brought us out of Egypt,” we sing “We were slaves and now we are free people (avadim hayinu v’ata b’nei horin),” and we recline to symbolize our freedom. From each of these messages and more, we receive the original message that the 2nd graders used to open their seder. While we were once slaves in Egypt, we are now free. 

The fact that we hear that we are both enslaved and free creates an interesting tension over which there has been much debate. The Talmud (BT Rosh Hashanah 11a) teaches that the Jewish people will be redeemed in the month in which Passover takes place, suggesting that while we’re free from Egypt, we aren’t fully free until “next year.” Rabbi Art Green writes that we both enjoy immense freedom in our current society and also struggle with from an eternal human condition to continuously strive for greater spiritual freedom. Yet another understanding, one that draws on wisdom from Emma Lazarus, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Maya Angelou, is that no one is free until everybody is free.

I want to add one more interpretation of the fact that we are called both slaves and free people in different places in the Haggadah. The Hebrew phrase for “free people” is “b’nei horin.” We see this same phrase in a book of ethical teachings in the Mishnah called Pirkei Avot (2:15), where Rabbi Tarfon says “It is not your duty to complete the work, but neither are you free (b’nei horin) to neglect it.” In this other context, b’nei horin isn’t just a state of freedom from slavery that we celebrate; it is also a freedom from responsibility that we admonish. With this understanding of b’nei horin, the Haggadah challenges us to think about what we do with our freedom, not just whether or not we are free.

Passover is a joyous festival of celebration in which we recall the Exodus from Egypt, telling the story year after year so we can imagine ourselves on the journey from slavery to freedom. At the same time, Passover is an opportunity to consider how we use our freedom to enhance our own lives and the lives of others around us. While we remember over the course of the seder that we are b’nei horin, free people, we aren’t free from the work to make the world a better place.

Shabbat shalom,


Highlights from the Haggadah: Where’s Moses!?

Have you ever been thanked during a speech? Or have you ever been left out of a thank you list that you should have been on? I’ve personally experienced both! Oftentimes, my contribution is the same whether or not I received acknowledgement. This same phenomenon happens to Moses, who is sometimes thanked and other times not for his leadership. While the Book of Exodus and the Passover narrative outlined in the Haggadah (our Passover guidebook) tell the same story, Moses is only the main character in one of these accounts!

Although Moses is the leader of the Exodus, the Haggadah only mentions Moses one measly time. From Exodus 14:31, “They had faith in God and God’s servant Moses.” While the Israelites certainly had faith in Moses (most of the time) the rabbis during the era in which the haggadah was created didn’t—at least not enough for a feature role at the Passover seder. In the Book of Exodus, Moses’s name is everywhere. In the Haggadah, it’s there only this one time.

Moses’s absence in the Haggadah is significant, but not entirely unique. We just read the Book of Esther for Purim this past week, which entirely omits any mention of God. And last week, the Torah portion was Parashat Tetzavah, the one Torah portion in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers that doesn’t mention Moses’s name. These three examples represent a bigger phenomenon. Despite their omissions, Moses and God still have significant impacts in these narratives. Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, even though he is left out of the Haggadah. Moses was also an important character in Parashat Tetzaveh while his name is never mentioned. And God is a passive force in the background of the Book of Esther even though God’s name is never mentioned.

Dr. Wendy Zierler teaches that there are even bigger absences than that of Moses in the haggadah. Beyond Shifrah and Puah, the Egyptian midwives who subverted Pharaoh’s decree to kill all Hebrew firstborns and saved Moses, there are no women’s voices in the Passover story or in the Haggadah! In the past 50+ years, women have created and led women’s seders (including our own at JCP!) that center and celebrate women’s voices, perspectives, and experiences of liberation. In her essay “Where Have All the Women Gone? Feminist Questions About the Haggadah,” Dr. Zierler imagines what it would look like to weave women into the Haggadah, creating one seder experience that more fully represents the genders of the characters and community around the Passover table. Whether we create separate seder experiences, or integrate overlooked narratives into the Haggadah, women have significantly directed the Exodus and larger Jewish stories and deserve to be acknowledged for that.

While Passover is an opportunity to center and uplift marginalized voices as a way to actualize the Passover theme of liberation, it is more than that. It is also an opportunity to search out and acknowledge who is left out of the thank you lists, Haggadahs, Torah stories, and beyond even while significantly impacting our lives, stories, and communities. The Haggadah is a continuously developing guidebook to celebrate Passover. This year, I’m thinking about how we will recognize all those who have contributed to it.

Stay tuned for more Highlights from the Haggadah as we march toward Passover!

Shabbat shalom,