Dear TEE Community,

This is the second year that Juneteenth will be observed as a federal holiday in the United States. Unlike Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July, Juneteenth has yet to develop customs and observances that permeate American society. Many Americans who descend from those legally (if not actually) freed by the Emancipation Proclamation celebrate with family picnics and community events. Until recently, however, these events attracted few, if any, non-Black people.

As an awareness of the significance of Juneteenth grows, I hope all of us will find ways to observe the holiday. Rochester will be having its Juneteenth Festival at MLK Park on Saturday and the Eastman Museum is hosting a free community day on Sunday, which will offer the opportunity to view RIT Associate Professor Joshua Rashaad McFadden’s exhibit, I Believe I’ll Run On, as well as several films related to Black American experience ( Those of us who are not African American may also wish to take the opportunity to support Black owned businesses, including restaurants, on Juneteenth ( as well as make donations to support the local Black community.

This Shabbat we will be exploring what it means for us as Americans and Jews to celebrate Juneteenth as a national holiday. Many have noted the parallel between Juneteenth, which has also been known as Freedom Day, and the Passover celebration of freedom. Like Passover, Juneteenth challenges us to consider the nature of freedom, the journey which continues beyond the moment of release from physical bondage, and the obligation to work for the freedom of all human beings.

I hope that however you mark the holiday, you will find Juneteenth to have meaning.

Rabbi Drorah Setel