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Let my people go

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For those of you who work with someone of the Jewish faith, it might appear as though there is a holiday every other month, and you wouldn’t be far off the mark. While it is perfectly acceptable to take time off to observe some of the traditions that have been passed down for thousands of years, a few of the holidays seem to go on endlessly, and there will always be someone in the office who insists that they are well within their rights taking somewhere between 13 and 30 days off in order to follow their faith. “You don’t get eight days off for Hanukkah,” one of my co-workers admonished last December. “We only get one for Christmas!”

With Passover upon us, (through April 18), I decided to check on the legitimacy of taking time off to “go to temple” without fear of recrimination and discovered that I wasn’t alone in my confusion. Between Rosh Hashana (two days), Yom Kippur (one), Purim and Succot, which stretches on for six days (if you want it to), the website I checked (www.answers.yahoo.com) was somewhat vague, but also suggested that requesting eight days off for Hanukkah was “unacceptable.” Since I fall somewhere between incredibly religious and casually observant, I save days off for those that might get me in trouble with the Almighty if I were to ignore my heritage altogether. Besides, to be completely honest, I’m not even sure what Simchat Torah really is.

I do, however, know quite a bit about Passover and embrace the tradition and symbolism that abounds, much of which centers on (you guessed it) food. “What is a Jewish holiday without food?” I mused, while making plans to take my seat at the Tusten Theatre in Narrowsburg (www.delawarevalleyartsalliance.org) for Danielle Ponder and the Tomorrow People, who, as described in the program, is “a fireball vocalist, blowing the roof off with her funky backup band, combining the spirit of the church with the speak-truth-to-power assertiveness of a movement leader.

“As a public defender and community organizer, Ponder sings big songs about issues that matter, tackling themes like justice and oppression, equality, liberation and love.”

Having just reviewed the story of Passover, which deals with slavery and Egypt’s pharaoh oppressing the Jews while refusing Moses’ request to “let my people go,” I couldn’t help but notice a common thread. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not actually comparing Danielle Ponder to Moses, but in truth her performance was out of the ordinary, compelling the audience to not only ask important questions, but to join in on the conversation.

The concert showcased songs like “We Live,” “Criminalized,” and a rousing call-and-response rendition of “Love Is,” which was (IMHO) just plain electrifying. True to the hype, Ponder did indeed, blow the roof off of the place with incredible verve and incomparable vocals, fueled by passion and a desire to share stories of people whose voices might otherwise not be heard. Insistent on the audience being a part of the journey, Ponder (www.daniellepondermusic.com) repeatedly spoke with, rather than at, the crowd, who enthusiastically stomped, hooted and hollered throughout.

Arriving home, I checked on the brisket (burned) and boiled some eggs, chopped the herbs, while preparing some additional items required for the Seder plate, all of which represent the story of Passover and the Jewish people’s transition from slavery to freedom. After dropping a pound of uncooked liver on the kitchen floor, I tossed it in the garbage, ignoring the dog’s plea, and started again. “You need not always weep and moan,” Paul Robeson’s bass voice echoed in my head, “let my people go.”

Unable to even peel a simple egg without moaning and weeping (I’m “not from the cooks” as grandma would say), I remembered that Hector’s Inn (find ‘em on Facebook!) proprietor Bonnie Lagoda was hosting an “adult” Easter Egg hunt to benefit St. Jude Children’s Hospital, featuring photos with the Easter Bunny, a bonnet-decorating contest, bobbing for chocolate and assorted holiday-themed games and prizes.

Returning after enjoying the festivities at Hector’s I discovered that the dog had found the second batch of liver cooling on the counter. “Don’t yell at me,” she growled. “I’ve been sick, and needed the nourishment.” At least, that’s what I think she said. Thankfully, I get two nights to get it right. “Let it go,” I thought. Oh wait, that’s a whole different story.

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