As many of you know (where "you" is "people reading this who actually know who I am), I come from a secular Jewish family. Although we have some religious (even very religious) relatives, neither my parents nor my grandparents were religious ever. Not that spirituality wasn't important to them — My grandparents both went deep into understanding by and for themselves the different spiritual issues that came to their mind, and that's one of the traits I most remember about them while I was growing up. But formal, organized religion was never much welcome in the family; again, each of us had their own ways to concile our needs and fears with what we thought, read and understood.
This week is the Jewish celebration of Passover, or Pesaj as we call it (for which Passover is a direct translation, as Pesaj refers to the act of the angel of death passing over the houses of the sons of Israel during the tenth plague in Egypt; in Spanish, the name would be Pascua, which rather refers to the ritual sacrifice of a lamb that was done in the days of the great temple)... Anyway, I like giving context to what I write, but it always takes me off the main topic I want to share. Back to my family.
I am a third-generation member of the Hashomer Hatzair zionist socialist youth movement; my grandmother was among the early Hashomer Hatzair members in Poland in the 1920s, both my parents were active in the Mexico ken in the 1950s-1960s (in fact, they met and first interacted there), and I was a member from 1984 until 1996. It was also thanks to Hashomer that my wife and I met, and if my children get to have any kind of Jewish contact in their lifes, I hope it will be through Hashomer as well.
Hashomer is a secular, nationalist movement. A youth movement with over a century of history might seem like a contradiction. Over the years, of course, it has changed many details, but as far as I know, the essence is still there, and I hope it will continue to be so for good: Helping shape integral people, with identification with Judaism as a nation and not as a religion; keeping our cultural traits, but interpreting them liberally, and aligned with a view towards the common good — Socialism, no matter how the concept seems passé nowadays. Colectivism. Inclusion. Peaceful coexistence with our neighbours. Acceptance of the different. I could write pages on how I learnt about each of them during my years in Hashomer, how such concepts striked me as completely different as what the broader Jewish community I grew up in understood and related to them... But again, I am steering off the topic I want to pursue.
Every year, we used to have a third Seder (that is, a third Passover ceremony) at Hashomer. A third one, because as tradition mandates two ceremonies to be held outside Israel, and a movement comprised of people aged between 7 and 21, having a seder competing with the familiar one would not be too successful, we held a celebration on a following day. But it would never be the same as the "formal" Pesaj: For the Seder, the Jewish tradition mandates following the Hagada — The Seder always follows a predetermined order (literally, Seder means order), and the Hagadá (which means both legend and a story that is spoken; you can find full Hagadot online if you want to see what rites are followed; I found a seemingly well done, modern, Hebrew and English version, a more traditional one, in Hebrew and Spanish, and Wikipedia has a description including its parts and rites) is, quite understandably, full with religious words, praises for God, and... Well, many things that are not in line with Hashomer's values. How could we be a secular movement and have a big celebration full with praises for God? How could we yearn for life in the kibbutz distance from the true agricultural meaning of the celebration?
The members of Hashomer Hatzair repeatedly took on the task (or, as many would see it, the heresy) of adapting the Hagada to follow their worldview, updated it for the twentieth century, had it more palatable for our peculiarities. Yesterday, when we had our Seder, I saw my father still has –together with the other, more traditional Hagadot we use– two copies of the Hagadá he used at Hashomer Hatzair's third Seder. And they are not only beautiful works showing what they, as very young activists thought and made solemn, but over time, they are becoming historic items by themselves (one when my parents were still young janijim, in 1956, and one when they were starting to have responsabilities and were non-formal teachers or path-showers, madrijim, in 1959). He also had a copy of the Hagadá we used in the 1980s when I was at Hashomer; this last one was (sadly?) not done by us as members of Hashomer, but prepared by a larger group between Hashomer Hatzair and the Mexican friends of Israeli's associated left wing party, Mapam. This last one, I don't know which year it was prepared and published on, but I remember following it in our ceremony.
So, I asked him to borrow me the three little books, almost leaflets, and scanned them to be put online. Of course, there is no formal licensing information in them, much less explicit authorship information, but they are meant to be shared — So I took the liberty of uploading them to the Internet Archive, tagging them as CC-0 licensed. And if you are interested in them, flowing over and back between Spanish and Hebrew, with many beautiful texts adapted for them from various sources, illustrated by our own with the usual heroic, socialist-inspired style, and lovingly hand-reproduced using the adequate technology for their day... Here they are:
- Hagada de Pesaj 1956, Hashomer Hatzair México
- Hagada de Pesaj 1959, Hashomer Hatzair México
- Hagada de Pesaj, Hashomer Hatzair y MAPAM México
I really enjoyed the time I took scanning and forming them, reading some passages, imagining ourselves and my parents as youngsters, remembering the beautiful work we did at such a great organization. I hope this brings this joy to others like it did to me.
פעם שומר, תמיד שומר. Once shomer, always shomer.
Only a very short summary in English: I am Mexican. I am Jewish. I am almost completely disconnected from the local Jewish communities. And understanding the local Jewish communities is hard. There is a very interesting and brave campaign, recently started, called Neither do I — The Mexican Jewish gay activist group Guimel, started off with this video (with English subtitles, if you are interested in following along). But how did I learn about this very bold initiative? By getting a hateful spam, inviting people to join a hate campaign. Right, the hate mail is not calling to violence, but it is based on premises as stupid as everybody's right not to include (to begin with).
So, the least I can do about this is to share both said hate mail and publicly denounce my shock on reading this nonsense nowadays. And, also in Spanish (I know many people following me don't understand it — Sorry, it would just take too long, and after all, it's mainly for local "consumption"), this is the reply I sent to them (and to the other recipients). Sorry in advance to the Spanish speakers for my exabrupts :) This was written "as is", without much prior thought, and quite angry about what I had just read.
Buf... Expresiones como esta, que hacen evidente la cerrazón de tanta gente en las comunidades judías, justifican claramente por qué tantos nos hemos ido abriendo, integrándonos a la sociedad circundante. Me da vergüenza ser asociado como judío a comunidades donde se defienden estos puntos de vista; si bien yo no soy de la comunidad Monte Sinai (como resultará obvio por mi nombre), para la sociedad en su conjunto sí soy un judío (así, a secas: Judío).
Mucho nos hemos quejado colectivamente a lo largo de los siglos acerca de la discriminación, de que seamos considerado la "basura" del mundo, los "apestados". Y es precisamente esa actitud, ante todo y en todo momento, lo que me ha llevado a alejarme del judaísmo. Soy un ser humano más, con una historia personal única, con una historia cultural compartida pero también única, con algunas elecciones y algunas características que me son inherentes únicas.
¿Algo de eso no le gusta a alguien? ¿Por motivos racionales o irracionales? No lo puedo ni pienso evitar. Pero el que una comunidad completa sea llamada a ignorar, humillar, alienar a sus hijos, por una estupidez así de anacrónica (en el caso que lo presenta el video al que hacen referencia, y a la gente que valientemente ha conformado Guimel) me parece que simplemente va más allá de toda estupidez.
Piensen bien antes de adherirse a esta campaña de odio. Substituyan la sexualidad por cualquier otra razón en la que somos minoría. ¿No les da asco vivir con un vendedor de telas? ¿Con un judío apestoso?
Y sí, aquí ya estoy yo también dejando ir a esos demonios... que hay que mantener bajo control. Porque somos hombres y mujeres de nuestro siglo, y porque el mundo y las nuevas generaciones merecen nuestro mejor esfuerzo para ir colectivamente destruyendo la estupidez de nuestros ancestros.
Seamos más racionales. Dejemos el odio, dejemos los prejuicios. Aceptemos a los diferentes, porque todos queremos que nos acepten. Porque todos somos diferentes.