ICCJ President's Greetings for Pesach and Easter

An example of holidays that Jews and Christians share – and don’t share – are Pesach and Easter. Yes, it could be viewed as something we have in common, however traditions and teachings have separated us, which is a pity. Or, you could say that finding shared spiritual roots with regard to Pesach and Easter is something we should be working on.

It’s a fact that when Christians think about Easter they think about Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. We cannot say this is wrong, but this story has its roots in the Exodus experience - the remembrance of the Exodus, liberation from slavery and the calling to serve God as a liberated, free people. In a similar way, Christians celebrate Jesus’ resurrection as a liberation from the grave and from death. This is the shared legacy of both Pesach and Easter: a celebration of freedom.  We are not under the yoke of slavery and death any longer. God set his people free!

In the Biblical scriptures there are many endings, but there is rarely an ending without a new beginning. When the Israelites reach the Red Sea they see death behind them in the form of an army, and death before them in the form of the sea. In this very moment, an open path manifests itself. A way through the sea. What seemed as a dead end turns out to be the path to freedom. When hearing about Jesus being laid to rest in a grave, there is a similar sentiment. It is over. But, in the grave a new life is born, the dead man transforms into someone new, albeit still the same.

Therefore, I think it is fair to say that both Jews and Christians celebrate similar experiences although from different perspectives. Freedom, transformations and new life. These deeply rooted experiences tell us stories about hope and of joy.

This past week, tragedy unfolded in the form of the fire in the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris. Throughout history, we have seen many fires, engulfing both houses and people. We can all relate to how a place such as Notre-Dame is a beacon for its people of faith. Let us keep in our prayers that a fire can carry some symbolism of the meanings of Pesach and Easter. From the ashes, something new rises – be it a physical entity such as a cathedral, or a renewed sense of faith and of purpose. New life, continued life is a sign of how God relates to us, and of  how we relate to God.

With these words I wish you all, together with the ICCJ Executive Board, its General Secretary and the staff in Heppenheim – Chag Pesach Sameach and a Blessed Easter!