At first blush, it’s just a bizarre question. We will read in the Passover Haggada, “What if God did not take us out of Egypt?” In answer, the Haggada continues, “Then we, and our children, and our children’s children would have still been slaves to Pharaoh.”
It is almost the type of question-answer that leaves the reader, ever so eloquently, saying, “duh!”
I believe, however, there is a lesson beneath the surface.
Edmond Burke, an 18th-century Irish statesman just not quoted often enough in explanation of the Haggada, is to have said “for evil to triumph good men simply have to do nothing.” And while the Haggada refers to God’s intervention, Burke’s point is that the responsibility now rests on us. We must act.
Federation acts. We do every year. But this year, especially so.
Two weeks ago, for example, with over 600 people at our Live from Greater MetroWest event, the speaker who brought down the house was not Mandy Patinkin (although he was great), but Tim Perella. Tim is a resident of Union Beach, a town on the Jersey shore demolished by Hurricane Sandy. He shared his story with us. He spoke of homes leveled, water everywhere, and people suddenly homeless, distraught, and confused. He spoke of catastrophe, the likes of which he, and all his friends and neighbors, had never seen. Then, he spoke of us.
He told the story of the Jewish federation coming to the rescue. He was amazed. His neighbors were amazed. Within weeks, we appeared ready to volunteer and help. We sent people, furniture, building supplies, clothes, and toys. In fact, we are still going to Union Beach on Sundays to continue cleaning up, and offering helping hands, wherever necessary. We act. And we will continue for however long.
But the Jersey shore is not the only place touched by our actions. Recently, Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ could be seen in Ethiopia.
Partnering with the Jewish Federations of North America, we are in the middle of helping to bring the last Jewish Ethiopians, known as Falash Murah, to Israel. We are completing their journey. We are bringing them home.
American Idol winner Philip Philips, also not quoted often enough around Passover, captures the sense of responsibility we feel, whether directed locally or abroad, when he sings, “Just know that you’re not alone, we’re going to make this place your home.”
Home may be where you hang your hat, of where you dream; a place, theoretically, that you can always go back to. But what happens if it is no longer there? What happens if it isn’t safe anymore? What happens when home is a new country with a new language and customs?
Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ is there to help. We build homes after a hurricane’s destruction, we help olim start new lives in Israel, and we ensure Jewish life remains vibrant in our community. To feel Jewish is not enough. Jewish responsibility requires action.