April is the cruelest month … "
Perhaps T.S. Eliot never prepared for a Passover seder. Then again, maybe he did.
Anyone can link his words to the cruelty this month that's involved in scrubbing refrigerator shelves; cleaning out cabinets; and shopping and cooking for the holiday. Even if you didn't go the extra mile in preparing for unleavened foods, many have mentioned the long seder nights that started off a week that for many adults and kids didn't go hand in hand with spring break.
Then there's the one-two punch of taxes, new gas hikes, and the endless amount of rain and cool weather the Philadelphia area has been getting. But now, with Passover under way, we can take some time to think about the notions of real cruelty and freedom.
This year, for example, as the Exponent featured on its cover, the 50th anniversary of the Eichmann trial reminds us all that we're never far from those who want to see the end of Jewry. Renewed rocket attacks from Gaza on civilians in southern Israel –following on the heels of a deadly family ambush in the West Bank and the death of a teenager in southern Israel — have not reassured Israel that times have changed.
Yet it's the idea of liberation that has topped headlines this season, namely in the Middle East. A new generation there has risen up to demand more — more freedom to live modern lives — and the ripple effect has spread across the region. As Jews gathered to celebrate their journey from Mitzraim, those in Egypt are still celebrating the removal of what they saw as a modern-day Pharaoh. There are more in the world, to be sure, and other such battles are being fought at this very moment.
What does that mean for the Jewish people? We still have to worry about the security of Israel — even as, or maybe especially as — its neighbors grapple with ever-restless populations. And we have to remain vigilant on these shores, too, as others question our loyalties, particularly when we support the Jewish state.
But as Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, called to mind in a recent meeting at this newspaper's offices, when it comes to liberation, we've made significant strides over the past 50 years. On college campuses, pro-Jewish groups stand as a force to be reckoned with; in the world of celebrity, those who verbally attack Jews face almost instant retribution; in social circles, Jews are accepted as never before.
As we proclaimed to young and old this week: "In every generation, there are those who will rise up to destroy us." It's our job to be alert, and to have a protection plan for those dark days.
In the meantime, during an April that in many ways is not so very cruel, we can set aside some time to appreciate what freedoms we do enjoy and how far we've come. We can do that as we commemorate Yom Hashoah and rejoice in Yom Ha'aztmaut, which this year take place in the sunnier days of May.