By 1865, it seemed self-evident that American emancipation resonated with biblical emancipation in powerful ways. But it had not always been so: This new resonance of meaning captured the hearts of American Jews only during the vicissitudes of the Civil War. Before the Civil War, most American Jews did not oppose slavery. There were exceptions, but most Jews voted Democrat, and Democrats were tolerant of slavery. The anti-slavery parties were tarred with nativism, which was distasteful and threatening to a Jewish community composed largely of immigrants and first-generation Americans. And many, including such luminaries as the Reform rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise and the Orthodox rabbi Morris Raphall, considered acceptance of American slavery consonant with the Bible, which documents slavery and sets parameters for its practice within the Israelite community.
Helena survived three concentration camps and when the last one was liberated she was flown by the Red Cross to a hospital in Sweden. She was 5’4″ and weighed 52 lbs. Her roommate in the hospital, a fellow survivor, knit the sweater for her while they were there. She told me she has worn that sweater every Passover since.
At every Passover seder of my childhood, my father Gershon Glausiusz would break the middle matzah, as the Haggadah instructed, place one half in an embroidered bag, and fling the bag over his shoulder, saying, “This is how we carried our possessions when we went into exile.” He was talking of his own deportation…
For many Jews, Passover is about what you can’t eat. Those who observe the holiday’s dietary rules must avoid chametz: wheat, rye, spelt, barley or oats. But because these ingredients—with the exception, sometimes, of oats—also happen to be the primary sources of gluten in our food, the Passover diet and the gluten-free diet actually look a lot alike.