Who is sitting at the table?

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“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” Nelson Mandela

In February I was gifted a crocheted yamulka that has a rainbow pattern running around the edge.

It now sits on my desk as a reminder of the responsibility I have to ensure that in our Democratic rainbow nation we must “live in a way that respects and enhances the freedoms of others.” The Cape Town Jewish community is not homogenous, it’s diverse and has many valuable voices.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said “At Pesach we are encouraged to grapple with one of the most profound questions to confront human civilisation: What is freedom?” And as we reach the month of April, we as South Africans, and Jews, are reminded of this important question.

This Pesach, in the context of challenges facing our community and the world, nothing is more urgent than the ancient Jewish task of pursuing justice, truth, freedom and dignity for all.

As I sit first night at a communal seder, and second night at a friend’s, how will I celebrate my freedom; an act that is defined as the state of being free, independent and without restrictions? Pesach is more than just a holiday. It is the journey each of us is invited to take from slavery to freedom, tracing out the route of one of the most powerful human events in our history.

Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism, says “When we tell our story of freedom from slavery, and the exodus from Egypt, we are reminding ourselves not just of the past, but the present too.”

Jonathan Wittenberg, Senior Rabbi, Masorti Judaism, says “The Haggadah, the Passover story, is the foundation of Judaism. Our people is born, not amidst battles and victories, but in slavery. Through experiencing injustice, cruelty and the loss of freedom, we learn the importance of justice, truth, compassion and liberty. These values form the basis of our faith, our ethics and the society we strive to create.”

I see these two seders as an opportunity to start rectifying some of the most pressing concerns that I see in our community. This year, when we open the door for Eliyahu I will ask myself “who at the table is not free?” I will look for those who may be battling to have their voice heard in the community, or who can’t talk about their mental illness, sexual identity or financial position.

As Cape Town Jews, we have to accept that we all have a responsibility to bring freedom where there is oppression, hurt, fear and pain. So that we all become ambassadors of #noplaceforhate.

This year may we all be blessed to use Pesach as the tool to start the conversations that will set us free. Chag Sameach.

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