Reflections on freedom in 2020

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From the Cape SA Jewish Board of Deputies

Greg Flash, previous board member: I feel freer than I have probably ever felt in my life and for this, I am very thankful. As a Jew in South Africa, although there is antisemitism, it is very limited compared to history. With all the crime and problems we have in our country, we have far less antisemitism than other places in the world. What concerns me most is that my spouse and my daughters are not free because of the scourge of gender-based violence in our society. In my mind, they are not free — which is terrible. The other slavery that restricts much of our population is educational and economical. For so many, it is near-impossible to improve their lives because of their upbringing and family background. I, therefore, believe that for me to be a truly free South African, it is my obligation to help change this. As Eleanor Roosevelt said: “With freedom comes responsibility.”

Viv Anstey, vice-chairperson: Pesach is our family time to share intergenerational conversations about oppression and liberation, discrimination and equality, the relevance of the specific texts in the Haggadah and narratives that resonate today, including those on power, questions and engagement, and retelling our stories, for relevance. The rituals and symbolism of Pesach and the Seder bring the traditions of our past into the now, securing the links in our chain from generation to generation. Freedom cannot be fully understood nor embraced when persecution, hatred and inequality permeates. Our human rights are contingent on our obligations and responsibilities to care deeply about each other and the other, as we remember that we were strangers in Egypt. This verse is repeated weekly, lest we forget. It is the value of Jewish continuity and learning.

Simone Sulcas, board member: Every Pesach, come what may, we sit down to the Seder and this tradition inextricably binds our family to each other and Jews, past and present. Pesach is our code of conduct. We experienced oppression and then freedom, both spiritually and physically. In the Jewish tradition of Tikkun Olam, we are not only obligated to pursue social justice, but it is incumbent upon us to transmit this pursuit to the next generation. This chag is a warning to every generation that complacency and inaction can threaten our freedoms.

Rael Kaimowitz, chairperson: Pesach is a time to reflect and remember that even though we, the Jewish people, had reached the lowest of lows while enslaved in Egypt, it was at that lowest point that Hashem redeemed us and made us into a nation. Whatever situation we may find ourselves in, as individuals, as a family or a community, no matter how helpless or desperate, there is never a time to give up. There is always space for growth and connection. The Torah reminds us to treat the ‘other’ with respect and honour. Why? Because you, too, were slaves and strangers in the land of Egypt. Looking the other way while people suffer is not a Jewish value. We do not have to go far back in history to see the calamitous outcome when people lose their freedoms and human rights. We should speak up and act when it happens. The Egypt experience demands it of us.

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