Usually, our Passover Seder is a celebration. As Jews, we rejoice that God redeemed us from Egyptian slavery and we look forward to the day when the entire world will be redeemed. As American Jews, many of us have given thanks for a country in which we are free to observe our festivals and live our Jewish lives in safety and security.
In recent months, that sense of security has been shaken, as hatred for Jews has manifested in bomb threats, an uptick in hate incidents and use of social media to spread hate. Many American Jews feel less safe this Passover than we did last year at this time, or perhaps at any time in recent memory.
It is essential to recognize that we are not alone. The Jewish community is not the only one that has been a target for hateful acts. We should not forget that many of our neighbors have been targeted as well, among them, immigrants, Muslims, African Americans and members of the LGBTQ community.
Government officials have denounced the attacks, called for more protection and even introduced legislation to address anti-Semitism. Law enforcement from the local to the national level is treating this with the utmost seriousness. It is incumbent upon us to make sure that our neighbors who are similarly targeted know that we stand with them as well.
While there has been a rise in anti-Semitic incidents, a new ADL poll found that overall attitudes toward Jews among Americans have remained constant at 14%. The good news is that the vast majority of Americans hold respectful opinions of their Jewish neighbors. This is reason to maintain optimism.
At Passover we find ourselves “in between.” We look both backward and forward. We relive the Exodus – as if we ourselves had come out of Egypt – and anticipate a day when all shall sit under their vine and under their fig-tree, with none to make them afraid.
This Passover, let us not become enslaved to fear and to prejudice. May we find the strength and the courage to “let all who are hungry come and eat,” whether they hunger for food, or dignity, or safety. Until all are free, none of us is truly free. And so, as we begin our Passover celebration, let us recommit to working so that next year all may be b’nei chorin, free.