Unions get Pesach lesson

March 24, 2014 by Andrew Casey
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Union delegates to the weekly meeting of the NSW ‘parliament of the working class’ – Unions NSW  –  last week were told that the annual ritual of Passover is a time to celebrate freedom and emancipation.


Angela Budai

Angela Budai

The acting NSW Secretary of the Finance Sector Union, Angela Budai, told the delegates it was important to her – as a Jew and a unionist – that delegates invited do attend this year’s Union Seder.

“ Passover is a time for questioning.  Come along and ask questions about this annual ritual in Jewish homes everywhere. come and ask questions about the freedom message, emancipation and ask exactly where workers rights fit into the Passover story,” Angela Budai challenged union delegates.

“ For me this annual event is a point where the theological meets the political. It is a time for debate and discussion over a meal together. Do we interpret this story conservatively or progressively? “

Budai told the delegates how (in)famously Martin Luther King was murdered in Memphis  as he was first preparing to lead a garbage workers’ strike – and  was preparing, almost immediately afterwards, to attend the Passover table of Rabbi Abrahan Joshua Heschel.

MLK and Heschel were comrades in arms marching together for civil rights.  King was a regular Passover guest of Heschel’s.

Martin Luther King read many messages into the Passover story; messages about the struggle  against racism and the fight of the poor and the marginalised  to win decency, equality and respect.

It is the second time that the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies – the ‘parliament of the NSW  Jewish community’ – has got together with Unions NSW to jointly host a Seder.

The first time,  in 2007,  the Union Passover was at the then recently refurbished historic Sydney Trades Hall.  That Seder was talked about for years and several union activists asked afterwards when would there be a NSW re-run.

This year the Union Passover will be held at the Sydney Great Synagogue with a special tour of this historic synagogue in Elizabeth St for the attending union delegates.

The message of Passover is truly a universal ‘road to freedom’ story etched into our collective memories. We hope this year’s event will be as memorable as the original event.

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