Award-Winning Performer Mandy Patinkin Creates Passover Essay for American Jewish World Service

Patinkin Encourages Jews to Ponder Freedom for People Around the World with a Focus on Cambodia

The essay by Mr. Patinkin is part of a special series of Jewish holiday readings curated by American Jewish World Service that includes previous commentaries from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky

New York, NY – Mandy Patinkin has written an essay connecting the Passover story of Jewish liberation from slavery with the ongoing struggles for freedom in Cambodia, and in other countries, that people around the world face today.

Mr. Patinkin’s essay, published on Monday, April 11, is part of a special series about social justice in relation to Jewish holidays, curated by American Jewish World Service.

In his essay, intended to be read aloud during the Passover Seder, Mr. Patinkin recalls his trip to Cambodia in February 2016 with a delegation from AJWS, where he was inspired by Cambodian activists, all of whom are working in the wake of a genocide that claimed two million lives only a few short decades ago.

Mr. Patinkin comments, “The youth of Cambodia possess the kind of optimism that is rare to see on this earth, much like the very optimism that freed the Jews from Pharaoh’s grip. Hearing about Cambodian people’s experiences renewed my belief that moving from slavery to freedom is possible today.”

Mr. Patinkin also ponders what it means to be a Jew in the 21st century, and believes that rakhmones—compassion for other human beings—is what shapes his own Jewish values. “My Jewishness teaches me to dedicate my time to learning, learning about what is going on in other people’s lives in the world, learning to feel compassion and then commit to doing something about it.”

“To me, tikkun olam—or repairing the world—is what it means to be Jewish, and this is the heart of the Passover narrative,” Mr. Patinkin adds.

Robert Bank, Incoming President of AJWS, who traveled to Cambodia with Patinkin and his wife Kathryn Grody, shared his reaction to Mr. Patinkin’s essay: “I am deeply grateful to Mandy Patinkin for understanding that the struggle for freedom and equality is painfully alive for millions of people around the globe. Mandy’s Passover essay superbly illustrates that standing in solidarity with the most vulnerable and oppressed people in Cambodia—and globally—is a profoundly Jewish act.”

Bank continued, “Jewish experiences of oppression inspire me to advocate for people around the world to live with the dignity and freedom they deserve. I will read Mandy’s essay at my Seder table and hope that others will do the same.”

About Mandy Patinkin

Mandy Patinkin is a Tony and Emmy award-winning American performer, known for his portrayal of Avigdor in the 1983 film Yentl and Inigo Montoya in the 1987 film The Princess Bride. He has appeared in major roles in television series including Chicago Hope and Dead Like Me. He currently plays Saul Berenson in the Showtime series Homeland.

About American Jewish World Service

American Jewish World Service (AJWS) is the leading Jewish organization working to promote human rights and end poverty in the developing world. AJWS promotes civil and political rights; advances sexual health and rights; defends access to food, land and water; and aids communities in the aftermath of disasters. AJWS pursues lasting change by supporting grassroots and global human rights organizations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean and by advocating for U.S. and international policies for justice and equality worldwide.

New Global Justice Haggadah

AJWS’s recently released a new global justice haggadah, Next Year in a More Just World, which weaves the Jewish story of liberation with the stories of people today who seek justice and freedom for themselves.


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