You say ‘Egypt,’ I say ‘Donetsk.’

I don’t know about your family, but it seems to me that in MY family, it’s not a Seder until we hear the first complaint.  Someone is hungry before it’s time to actually eat.  Others don’t like their placement at the table.  We started too early.  We started too late.  And this year, of course, we ALL complained about the snow falling after the second Seder.

However, all of our complaints seem insignificant when we compare them to what happened to our fellow Jews in Donetsk, Ukraine.  Donetsk is one of the places that has been taken over by Russian separatists and there are approximately 17,000 Jews who live there.

On the first day of Passover, as they left their synagogue after the festival service, they were greeted by a handful of men wearing ski masks, passing out leaflets.  The official-looking documents ordered all Jews over the age of 16 to register their property with the new Russian-leaning government of Donetsk or risk confiscation of property and expulsion.

Needless to say, it reminded many people of Germany in the 1930’s.

The leader of Donetsk’s separatist government – Denis Pushilin – has denied any involvement in the incident and the Jews of Donetsk are not registering.  However, it was clearly intended as a provocation on one of our most sacred days.  The Jews of Donestsk are understandably anxious.

During our Passover Seders, we read the words “In every generation, each person must regard himself or herself as if he or she had come out of Egypt.”  It’s an intellectual exercise intended to ensure that we appreciate the freedoms we enjoy.  For those of us who live here in the US in the year 2014, it is difficult to imagine a life without the freedom to live openly as Jews in the way that we choose.

Sadly, it is not such a difficult exercise for Ukraine’s Jews.  We are watching the erosion of freedom for our brothers and sisters in Ukraine.  It is NOT something that happened thousands of years ago.  It is NOT something from the pages of a book.  It is happening for real right now.

Through its Overseas Committee, our Federation has been sending money to the Jewish communities of Ukraine for security and other needs.  We will certainly continue to do so.  We will continue to be in communication with them.  I pray that we will not have send money for relocation to Western Ukraine or Israel.

This year, they are frightened and oppressed.  Next year, may they be free.



About Rabbi Avi Friedman

I am the rabbi of Congregation Ohr Shalom - SJCC, a progressive Conservative and traditional congregation. I am also husband to Jodi as well as father to Gabi, Jonah, Jessica and Ilana. I have been a part of the Summit community since 2005.
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