In recent weeks, I experienced the intense contradiction of great joy at the birth of a child and revulsion at despicable public conduct. Both are linked to my passion for the work of Free the Slaves.
On August 14, we welcomed to the world our first grandchild, Madeline Jane. One of my friends had told me: “You won’t believe that you can fall madly in love again, but you will.” She was right. I will never be able to adequately express the depth of my gratitude, awe and joy. Here was this tiny person embodying a sense of hope and continuity. “We’re still here,” I whispered to her. A few days after Madeline’s birth, I observed to my family that a new baby awakens an overwhelming urge to protect and care.
And so my family approaches this year’s High Holidays with delight. By tradition, Jews say, “For a sweet year.” This Rosh Hashanah will be filled with sweetness; our hearts will be light, our lips will open to sing and our feet will want to dance.
Madeline is a little Jewish girl born a free person in a free society. For that, we are incredibly thankful.
But freedom, as we have been terribly and starkly reminded, is not a given. Nazis – Nazis – marched in the streets of America, along with the KKK and assorted hate-mongers. I am not surprised by the enduring reality of bigotry. That reality is why laws and institutions exist to prevent the triumph of racism and religious discrimination.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the moral vacuity and pandering of the president of the United States. There is no mistaking the president’s words and actions, nor can they be excused. The United States – especially in the person of our chief executive – must be the leading light in upholding human dignity and human rights.
Free the Slaves is committed to the preservation of human rights for all people. Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.” Our defense of Article 4 both sustains and depends upon the preservation of other fundamental rights. Law and justice have no meaning to a person held in slavery. Equal protection under the law makes slavery impossible.
Our shared disgust at racism and anti-Semitism finds meaning in the active defense of human rights. The work of Free the Slaves is to empower the most vulnerable, promote the rule of law and secure justice. I am very grateful that you have joined us in this endeavor. The Passover Project has succeeded beyond my expectations. You have shown that Passover is much more than an event or a date on the calendar; that it symbolizes a continuing commitment to securing freedom for those in bondage.
In that spirit, I approach these High Holidays touched by the blessing of your solidarity in the cause of ending slavery. I trust that our partnership will flourish into the New Year and beyond. I wish all of you a good and sweet year – l’shana tovah!