Giving into popular, “Hamilton”-loving demand, the Treasury Department has announced that instead of replacing Alexander Hamilton with a woman on the $10 bill, they’ll be making room by knocking Andrew Jackson off the $20. And their choice to replace him? Harriet Tubman.
The announcement was met with mixed responses. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew initially promised to revamp the $10 bill with a woman last June, and while many are happy to see Tubman slated for the $20, women’s groups have expressed frustration that choosing to bump Jackson rather than Hamilton means a longer wait before the famous abolitionist gets to front the currency.
The announcement was timely, however, in one way: Tubman, famous for helping hundreds of slaves to freedom, was called “Moses” by fellow abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. (The name stuck; a 1978 miniseries on Tubman was called “A Woman Called Moses,” and Sarah Bradford’s 2004 biography of Tubman was titled “Harriet Tubman: The Moses of Her People.”) As we prepare to observe Passover beginning this weekend, here are three ways to make Tubman’s legacy part of your celebration.
Get involved in the fight against the modern slave trade
Unfortunately, the slave trade is still strong in 2016; according to the Walk Free Foundation, in 2014, 38.5 million people lived in slavery around the world. It’s often disguised, unlike the slavery of the Jews in Egypt or African Americans in the early United States. While we gather to celebrate our own liberation, Tubman’s example can serve as a reminder that the best way to respect our own liberation is to work to help others achieve theirs. To learn more about how you can help, visit the Walk Free Foundation’s website, check out CNN’s Freedom Project, and learn from these tips from the U.S. Department of State.
Talk about the complicated legacy of slave-owning Jews
Jews who participated in Europe’s colonization of the Americas were frequently slave-owners. When the Forward attended the opening of a Princeton Art Museum exhibit on early American-Jewish art this year, a curator explained that early American Jews were split on the issue of slavery, a division that shaped the development of American Jewry. Talking about the role of Jews in American slavery lets us honor Tubman and deepen our understanding of Passover’s contemporary significance. There are many books available on the subject; Eli Faber’s “Jews, Slaves and the Slave Trade” is a good place to start.
Make your Seder more culturally inclusive
Shais Rishon published a moving piece on Tablet earlier this week, “For African-American Jews, The History’s in the Charoset,” on the significance of Passover for African-American Jews. “For us, the Seder plate isn’t something symbolic of an event that happened to ‘ancestors’ a long, long time ago in a country far, far away,” he wrote. “It’s about experiences that happened to family — our grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great grandparents— of whom we own photographs and maybe even have had the privilege of actually knowing, in the country we still actually live in.” Learning more about the African American Jewish experience, and incorporating culturally diverse elements into your Seder (like Rishon’s Charoset recipe), is a great way to incorporate Tubman’s legacy in your Passover celebrations.
Talya Zax is the Forward’s culture intern. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @TalyaZax