While the internet, Facebook and Twitter grant us a global connection, the focus on our local communities remain integral, necessary and vital to Jewish identity. That’s at least one message that Yiddishkayt and Jewish Artists Initiative are bringing to Los Angeles this Passover through this Ashkenazi seder celebration.

This Thursday, April 2nd, they’ll be hosting their second Doikayt: A Community/Arts/Yiddish Seder.

“The seder comes out of the Bundist philosophy of doikayt — meaning here-ness or here-ism — a Yiddish political philosophy of fighting to make wherever you are better,” said Cory Fischer, Programming and Communications Staff at Yiddishkayt. “When this philosophy is applied to the Passover story, L.A. becomes both the place of our oppression and our liberation, which leads us to look at who is oppressed and who is liberated here.”

Hence the tagline: “LA is Egypt: LA is the Promised Land.”

And no doubt, there are a number of other folks holding this principal in their own living rooms and local gatherings, like Jews United for Justice in DC who’s Labor Seder will be focusing on the struggles of DC’s day laborer workforce.

Both organizations refreshingly counter the meme that young Jews desire Jewish-lite, and they’re gaining more attention for their work. This past year Yiddishkayt was selected for the Slingshot 50, and last year Jewish Artists Initiative received the 2008 Cutting Edge Grant of $250,000 from the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles.

Program Director of Jewish Artist Initiative (JAI), Anne Hromadka said:

“The time is right for a shift, both on the young Jewish and intergenerational organized scene, people are looking for innovation. This is the West Coast, and the time is right for change. This program is one of many happening in Los Angeles lead by those trying to expand what it means to be Jewish in this new millennium.”

For that night, participants will be asked to focus on Los Angeles, and how the global and local realities we’re living in translates to the everyday life in the city. The arts will be their vehicle for discussing the economy — jobs, homelessness, immigration and fair labor practices.


(Photo: Cornerstone Theater Company’s Teatro Jornalero Sin Fronteras (Day Laborer Troupe)).

During Maggid, or the retelling of the story of Exodus, Cornerstone Theater’s Teatro Jornalero Sin Fronteras (Day Laborer Troupe) will be performing Esclavitud Moderna (Modern Slavery). Fischer wrote:

[This theater piece] tells the story of two laborers who work for a less than ideal employer. The abusive boss berates them, harasses them, and fires them without good reason– without respect to their rights under the law. The piece has been performed since December 2008 at day laborer sites across Los Angeles County.

Progressive Jewish Alliance, a co-sponsor of the event, is currently involved with the CLEAN Carwash Campaign a campaign against exploitative car wash owners in the city — Jews among them — to stop car wash workers, who are primarily Latino, and non-Jewish, from enduring hazardous working conditions, being denied breaks and protective clothing, and earning less than the minimum wage, with no overtime.

LA is Egypt, LA is the Promised Land — through the arts, the seder will be bringing to the audience questions, lessons and discussions about the good, the bad and the ugly of local politics of Los Angeles.

Let us know how it rolls, LA.