BOSTON – Boston civic and religious leaders addressed a crowd of 250 at UMass-Boston last Sunday, who attended the 13th annual Anti-Defamation League of New England “Nation of Immigrants” Community Seder.
“The goal of ADL’s ‘A Nation of Immigrants’ Community Seder is to celebrate the strength of diversity and to advocate for humane immigration policies,” said Debbie Shalom, chair of ADL’s New England Regional Board. “The Passover story of liberation is as relevant today as it was thousands of years ago. ADL’s Seder serves as a powerful motivation for all of us to stand up and speak out for others and advocate more strongly for the values that make America a nation of immigrants.”
Boston City Councilor Julia Mejia was the keynote speaker, and others who spoke at the Seder included Cardinal Seán O’Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston, Combined Jewish Philanthropies President Marc Baker, and immigrants of diverse backgrounds. In addition, Rabbi Claudia Kreiman of Temple Beth Zion in Brookline officiated, and the program featured a performance from a Haitian contemporary dance company, Jean Appolon Expressions.
Robert Trestan, executive director of the ADL’s Boston office praised Cardinal’s O’Malley’s remarks.
“I think Cardinal O’Malley is a critical leader not just in the Boston area, but a global leader,” Trestan said. “He recognizes the importance and the impact of the U.S. as a nation of immigrants.”
Trestan also welcomed O’Malley’s comments on civility and common respect for all. The cardinal “often speaks, as he did [Sunday], on the perspective of people are equal, and the U.S. has never been tied to one religion, one history, one language, but people coming together,” said Trestan.
Trestan was moved by the subjects of democracy and the right for Americans to vote, addressed at the Seder. “Most of the speakers emphasized the important role and civic obligation of voting in a democracy like the U.S.,” he said. Trestan noted that “one of the things that was built out this year was the theme around the importance of voting, the role of voting in the journey to freedom.”
Held before Purim and Passover, the event was not a full Seder service, but it had elements of the service. The event included the Four Questions, which were recited in multiple languages reflecting the Boston immigrant community, including Hebrew, Arabic, French, Spanish, Chinese and Haitian Creole.
The event itself dates back to 2007, with similar Seders taking place under ADL chapters in New York and San Diego. However, the ADL New England Community Seder began over 30 years ago under its late former head Lenny Zakim. Previous iterations included a Black-Jewish Seder and an interfaith Seder, Trestan said.
The Seder capped a busy stretch of activity for ADL New England, which also hosted a conversation with Boston City Councilor Andrea Campbell the previous Thursday night.
“Hopefully people found the day inspiring, that they can actually make a difference. Hopefully people left and went home not only to vote but to make a difference,” said Trestan.
In a statement shared by the ADL on social media, Councilor Mejia wrote, “As an immigrant myself, this is very personal and important to me.”
The ADL also tweeted a statement made by one of the immigrant speakers, UMass-Boston first-year Jacqueline Landeverde, who discussed her family’s journey under the Temporary Protected Status program. “When people tell us to go back to our country, that really means this country, because this is the only country we’ve ever known,” she said.