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Even though Passover has come and gone, this blog contribution from Maayan Shapurkar,[27 years, Programme Manager for Young Adult Engagement (in the local Jewish community), is a   poignant eyewitness account from Mumbai recounting a modern-day response to crisis.

After generations of enslaving the Israelite people, ten plagues and the death of the Egyptian firstborn, Pharaoh finally let the Israelites leave. They prepared in haste and left with their bread unleavened. We remember their journey from slavery to freedom every Pesach and in our prayers throughout the yea

This year, as the Coronavirus hijacked our world and shook us out of our routines, the global pandemic offered us an opportunity to take our remembering up a whole new level, to feel the uncertainty, chaos, fear, and anxiety our ancestors felt about where the future would lead.

In Man’s Search For Meaning, Viktor Frankl wrote, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

This year we chose resilience, pushing ourselves to get creative and continue the tradition of a communal seder, thanks to videoconferencing technology. There has never been anything that has stopped the Jews. While certain local community organizations led online seders I and my family like  each year prayed together at home.

This year we did not have all our ritual foods, so we used substitutes like garlic for maror and boiled potatoes for karpas. Here in India we use rice on Passover. I grew up eating soft rice chapatis (flatbread) prepared by my grandmother that went straight from her pan into my mouth. We call them tandlachi bhakri in Marathi, the local language. Finely ground rice flour mixed in with hot water which we then knead upon cooling into a moist dough using some oil. Medium sized round balls of this dough are then flattened with the help of a rolling pin and cooked by flipping on both sides on a hot pan (Tava). With that taste still so vivid in my memory, I now make them myself for my 79-year-old grandma who lives with us! It all feels like coming full circle.

We also have a divine date paste for haroset (khajaracha sheera); vegetables and meat cooked in freshly ground green masala (hirva masala), and a simple yet heavenly rice porridge (tandlachi paiz) sweetened with pitted dates for breakfast.

When it’s time to get back to hametz, my sister and I are always excited to combine the kosher- for-Passover matzah with the not-kosher-for Passover Nutella or cheese spread. I live with my parents and grandparents and so the  three generations of my family get together for a little feast taking time to indulge in some thoroughly loved and slightly missed Indian snacks, including pani puri, kanda bhajiyas, rasmalai and samosas just to name a few.

Our God has always led us on the path to freedom and will do so now. May we keep the faith to endure and overcome the challenges of our time so that when tomorrow comes and we look back at the history we created, we remember how once again we walked our way to liberation.

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