Illustrated Passover Haggadah Has Special Significance for Israel’s Foster Kids

April 19, 2016

3 min read

The holiday of Passover commemorates the official birth of the Jewish nation. Its essence is to bring recognition that we can move from that which limits our growth and potential into a state of physical and spiritual freedom.

Since the ninth century CE, the Passover Haggadah (story) has been read out loud at the start of the holiday by Jewish families throughout the world. It describes the slavery of the Israelites in ancient Egypt through their liberation 210 years later. It tells how individual Israelites became a family and then a great nation.

Yet, for thousands of children in Israel, there is no sense of family or redemption. Less than a quarter of the children taken out of dysfunctional or dangerous home environments by the Israeli Welfare and Social Services Ministry are placed in foster care.  

Recognizing that every child deserves a warm environment and a hopeful future, The Summit Institute, established in 1973, does all it can to remedy this situation. The organization rescues and cares for Israeli babies and children who have suffered severe abuse, neglect and tragedy.

“We are presently tending to some 750 at-risk Israeli children who have been removed from their homes,” shared Orit Amiel, Director of The Summit Institute’s Foster Care Services with Breaking Israel News. “We also provide counseling and guidance for young adults coping with mental illness through our in-community rehabilitation programs.”

In order to raise awareness about the need to help Israel’s most vulnerable children, The Summit Institute produced a unique Passover Haggadah for the upcoming holiday. With both English and Hebrew traditional text, it includes heartfelt drawings and photographs along with relevant sayings from some of Summit’s children who dream of a better future.

“We felt that the Passover Haggadah, with its theme of trauma to triumph, best represents the work of The Summit Institute,” noted Amiel to Breaking Israel News. “Just like the ancient Hebrews in Egypt, Summit children come from difficult backgrounds and pray for freedom and recovery. Just like the ancient Hebrews who had to adjust to life in the Holy Land, we provide the therapies and counseling to help these children integrate into normative, healthy and active lives.”

A drawing by one of the foster children of Summit Institute. The image is included in the Summit Institute haggadah. (Photo: Summit Institute)
A drawing by one of the foster children of Summit Institute. The image is included in The Summit Institute haggadah. The caption reads: “Just as the butterfly requires her cocoon to grow, so too a child needs love and affection.” (Photo: The Summit Institute)

The Haggadah is more than just a historic document. Biblical doctrines state that at the festive Passover meal (seder), when the Haggadah is read, it is particularly important for families to unite and for parents to teach their children about God’s miraculous ways, Biblical values, and gratefulness for all that we have. But, for children removed from their homes, receiving these lessons is difficult.

“The Haggadah’s main purpose is to clarify who we are, where we come from, and what we stand for,” explained Amiel. “For Summit’s children, the answers to these questions are not forthcoming. Part of our work is to establish a more positive path for these children to grab hold of.”

The Passover story highlights the most dramatic turn of events in the history of mankind. In a moment, the Israelites moved from the bitterness of slavery to the glory of freedom. Bitter herbs are eaten at the start of the seder and then a festive feast is served as a metaphor for this experience.

Summit children pray every day that redemption will come in a moment, similar to what happened in the Passover story,” expressed Amiel to Breaking Israel News. “Every day The Summit Institute does what we can to free children bound by their suffering so  that they can achieve a bright future.”

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