Why is Moses’s name barely mentioned in the Haggadah? He’s a great leader, humanity’s first recorded organizer, yet the only glory he gets is being portrayed by Charlton Heston in a cheesy Technicolor movie?
In the JOIN for Justice network—where Judaism and politics are hand-in-glove—we can talk about the organizing argument for this curious omission.
Moses makes a limited appearance in our archetypal story of liberation because he is merely one leader in a movement of thousands. The Exodus, or any other effort toward a better world, can only win through the collective action of many individuals acting on shared values. What matters most is that we act, not who leads us.
Last year, people across Phoenix elected the first-ever Latino city councilor ever for my district. Yet Daniel Valenzuela always says about his historic campaign that it wasn’t about him, the candidate. His victory was about the community, who increased their voting by almost 500% to put him in office. Those thousands of new and re-activated citizens are the ones who elected him, made history, and changed their city.
We need leaders to help inspire ordinary people to take concerted action in times of uncertainty. But when a movement is about our community, we can take action and make change right now—without another Danny Valenzuela on the ballot or another Moses in the brick pits.
This year, our community’s movement in Arizona will end the regime of fear created by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and others by registering more than 40,000 new Latino voters and turning out over 100,000 to reclaim their rights in our state. A great leader may inspire ordinary people to extraordinary things, but we only remember that leader because of us, the ordinary people who do the work.
Daria Ovide is a JOIN for Justice alumna from 2004-2005. She is currently working in Phoenix, Arizona, coordinating labor and political campaign communications for UNITE HERE and CASE.