Celebrating Passover in the time of Coronavirus
When Pharaoh persisted in his refusal to liberate the children of Israel, Moses and Aaron warned him that God would punish both him and his people. Unlike the ten plagues that were inflicted upon the ancient Egyptians, we recognize that the plagues of today are rooted in oppression and injustice, not divine intervention. These long standing inequities are being exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, causing disproportionate devastation to the most vulnerable members of our community.
As part of our commitment to the creation of a just and compassionate North Carolina, CJJ has joined NC United for Survival & Beyond, a statewide coalition of grassroots organizations that has co-created a platform of ten demands for our Governor and the NC General Assembly. Read on for our contemporary interpretation of the ten plagues and how they relate to the ten demands of the People's Platform.
The first plague of Blood is based on the essential life force that flows through our bodies, but blood alone cannot keep us alive. The US is home to some of the most advanced medical care in the world, but it’s of no use to those who can’t access or afford it. In North Carolina, over 1 million people lack health insurance. To combat the spread of COVID-19, we must begin by first ensuring that all North Carolinians have access to quality, affordable health care, and by expanding Medicaid, health care coverage would be extended to an estimated 624,000 people.
People’s Platform #1: Expand Medicaid and Protect Our Hospitals
In the second plague, Frogs emerged from bodies of water and invaded the land, occupying every imaginable space. Similarly, the influence and impact of our country’s biggest employers can be felt in nearly every town and city in NC. Granting exemptions to large corporations from the paid leave provisions of the federal COVID-19 response legislation has left vast numbers of NC workers without necessary rights and protections. The NC General Assembly must pass legislation that rejects similar exemptions, addresses those gaps in coverage, and protects all workers.
People’s Platform #7: Put the Health and Welfare of Working Families and Communities Ahead of Corporate Handouts
Infestations such as the third plague of Lice, can spread quickly, especially in close quarters. In order to slow the spread of COVID-19, it is crucial for people to be able to distance themselves from one another. However, such precautions are impossible for those who are currently confined in prisons, jails, and detention centers. To reduce this risk, North Carolina and County authorities should release all non-violent offenders who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, including people over age 65, people who are pregnant, people with serious illnesses, and those with compromised immune systems. North Carolina must also increase inmate access to healthcare services that are essential to detecting and addressing COVID-19.
People’s Platform #3: Protect Incarcerated People
The fourth plague to harass the ancient Egyptians consisted of hordes of Wild Animals roving all over the country, and destroying everything in their path. Those corporations that have consistently prioritized profits over people, refused to clean up harmful pollution they cause, and exploited workers with no concern for their wellbeing, have ravaged poor and working class communities in the same way. Past tax cuts for wealthy corporations by our General Assembly have shifted the economic burden onto working class and middle income North Carolinians, and hampered our State’s ability to address existing social needs and problems. It’s time for wealthy corporations to pay their fair share — NC leaders should raise revenue by increasing the corporate tax to 5 percent.
People’s Platform #8: Tax Rich Corporations
Our Jewish tradition is explicit in commanding that we feed the hungry, and we must push for greater effort by our elected officials and State agencies to substantially reduce hunger in North Carolina. Now more than ever, with increasing COVID-19 related unemployment, the fifth plague of Cattle Disease reminds us how important it is to ensure that all people have the resources and support needed to live healthily. As we battle the spread of COVID-19, we must ensure that all North Carolinians have access to nutritious food.
People’s Platform #5: Freedom from Hunger
Our Jewish tradition instructs us to welcome the stranger, but we live in a country where those in power have consistently denied care and compassion to migrants and refugees who seek safety and prosperity in the US. Like the sixth plague regarding the eruption of Boils on one’s skin, our government officials’ failure to welcome and protect our immigrant neighbors reveals the deep infections of selfishness and xenophobia underlying their refusal to recognize the humanity of the strangers among us. We must protect immigrants by ending local law enforcement efforts aiding in ICE detentions and deportations and by providing quality health care to ICE detainees.
People’s Platform #2: Protect Immigrants
When the seventh plague of Hail came to the ancient Egyptians, safety from its destruction could only be found within the shelter of one’s home. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of North Carolinians are facing the threat of eviction, foreclosure, and utility shut-off due to unemployment and lost income. Maintaining and providing secure housing for all members of our community is essential to ensuring the safety and health of all people. Our Governor and state legislators must use their legal authority to suspend home evictions and foreclosures statewide until at least Dec. 31, 2020.
People’s Platform #4: Moratorium on All Evictions, Foreclosures and Utility Shut-offs
Our Jewish tradition speaks strongly to valuing workers’ essential dignity as well as maintaining healthy families. Just as the eighth plague of Locusts disrupted work and resources for the ancient Egyptians, the lack of paid sick leave ignores the humanity of workers, forcing dangerous and agonizing choices between one’s health and continued employment, and further disrupts our collective ability to thrive and prosper. All workers in NC should be granted paid sick days and family medical leave.
People’s Platform #6: Ensure Paid Sick Days and Family Medical Leave
During the ninth plague of Darkness, Egypt was enveloped in a thick and impenetrable veil of darkness. As we face this pandemic, we rely on our elected leaders and the institutions that we have entrusted with serving and protecting our community to be reliable, accessible, accountable, and transparent. They should do so by increasing access to government institutions for all North Carolinians, regardless of zip code, economic status, or language spoken, ensuring that we can all continue to see the light of our interconnectedness even in these dark times.
People’s Platform #10: Access to Government
When the tenth plague came — the Death of the Firstborn — no Egyptian family was spared. Even Pharaoh’s son perished when the angel of death passed over the land. Likewise, none of us are immune to COVID-19. We navigate different levels of vulnerability and its impact will affect us in different ways, but none of us are invincible to this threat. This shared vulnerability also reminds us of our shared responsibility and interconnectedness — we stay inside and restrict our interactions to protect ourselves, but also to protect one another and our larger society. It doesn’t matter how much money you have (or lack), whether you work as a doctor or a cashier, whether you’re a registered Democrat or Republican… we’re all in this together.
This, too, is what it means to live in a democratic country — our individual safety and prosperity is tied to our collective safety and prosperity. And if we intend for our country to be truly just and equitable, then we must also fight for the most basic and central tenet of democracy: the assurance of equal participation by everyone in actions and decisions affecting our nation’s affairs. In the midst of this crisis, we must continue to prioritize our democracy, ensuring full participation in the Census and a fully accessible electoral process.
People’s Platform #9: Protect our Democracy and Extend the Census