Dear Ms. Kukliansky,
This Pesach is not like any other Pesach. Not for our families, for our communities, nor for all those who share the world with us. The family gatherings are perhaps thinner this year, the joy tempered, the distress all too real. We may not be sharing the same tables this year but we have never been closer in our shared destinies. Pesach teaches us renewal. It is like so many other times in our history.
We have been here before, as European Jews, in the darkest of times. I think of the Jews leaving Egypt and slavery but also of the Jews of the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal who were forced to hide their traditions and perform their Judaism in tiny rooms and cupboards.
I think of Anne Frank and her family closed off for months on end in a secret annex in an apartment in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation. I think of Natan Sharansky and the Prisoners of Zion, alone and isolated in the Soviet gulag.All these isolations, serving no-one but their oppressors. And I think how privileged we are, even in the midst of all these difficulties, to be granted an isolation this year where each and every one of us can isolate for the most holy purpose of saving the lives of our fellow citizens.Pesach eve is described in our tradition as a “Leyl Shimurim”, a night of watching.
With trepidation, we check what lies around the corner, sometimes in fear but also in hope. This is what the Children of Israel did as we left Egypt in hope for a Promised Land as a free people. And this is indeed a period of watching. We are watching out for our neighbours and for our communities. We are gathering on the doorsteps and the balconies to watch out for our health workers and our public servants as they watch out for our health and safety.Watching out today has so many possibilities. The phone calls to family and neighbours, the support systems of our communal organisations, the phone calls, the video conference, the checking on the general welfare of those most close to us.Over the course of just a few short hours, we will recount the Hagada this year, as every year. It is our very own foundation story as Jews and as a community of shared destiny, taking us from the depths of oppression and slavery to the joy of salvation and liberation. No festival encapsulates this transition from despair to hope for a better future than this festival of Pesach. On this night of watching, let us continue to watch out for one another, for our societies and our communities.
On behalf of the European Jewish Congress, may I wish you a safe and joyous Chag Pesach Sameach.