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I Was There

This was my bulletin article for April 2012. 

We learn in the Haggadah: B’chol dor va-dor ... in every generation each of us must feel as though we were personally taken out of Egypt. I was in Egypt; I know what it is to be a stranger in a foreign land. I was there; I remember.

I hear women spoken about in harsh, denigrating and abusive language. I read about Israeli women’s faces being edited out of photographs or being forced to sit in buses segregated by gender (lest men not be able to control their urges). I am aware of health care and judicial disparities in the US and around the world based on gender. And I speak up because I know what it felt like to stand with Miriam and the women at the Sea of Reeds, loudly proclaiming God’s praise, refusing to take a back seat to Moses and the men. I was there; I remember.

When my beloved Israel is threatened existentially by evil regimes whose stated vows are the destruction of my Jewish homeland, I speak out. When I hear anti-Semitism in the carefully couched words of those who support boycotts, divestments and sanctions against Israel, I speak out. I was in Tel Aviv on the 5th of Iyar 5708, May 14th, 1948, the day of Israel’s independence. I was there; I remember.

I support unions because I remember the working conditions at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory on March 25, 1911, the day unsafe working conditions caused the the factory to burn, causing the deaths of 146 garment workers, most of whom were recent Jewish and Italian immigrant women aged sixteen to twenty-three. There is still a lot to be done to safeguard workers’ conditions, and I speak out because I was there. I remember.

I hear American politicians one-up each other about how their religious beliefs should be the basis of American laws. I read about the people whose lives are threatened around the world because religious majorities declare their versions of religion to be the only true ones. When American communities try to outlaw Jewish ritual circumcision for boys, I speak out. I hear and see, and I remember the Inquisition. I was there; I remember.

I hear the right to voice political opinions descend into libel, slander and hate-filled rhetoric, all for the sake of advertising dollars. I speak out because so few people were willing to do so on my behalf back in the day. I was with Esther in Shushan. I was there; I remember.

When politicians rant about the supposed elitism of college-educated people who want that same opportunity for future generations, I remember the time not so long ago when Jews were denied entry into American colleges helped create a public college system in New York City that allowed me to receive a high-quality college education at an affordable cost. I was there; I remember.

B’chol dor va-dor ... It has been thousands of years, and I still believe that I was personally taken out of Egypt.

May this Passover be a year of personal liberation from Egypt for you and your loved ones.


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