As I contemplate this coming Pesach, several thoughts come to my mind. The first is that I am still alive, far longer than I ever thought was likely many years ago. Given my age over 80, I will celebrate my birthday in a few weeks and then celebrate my anniversary at yearend, both amazing events that didn’t seem possible years ago.
When I review the history of my family coming to America more than a hundred years ago, and then read and read again the history of our people who were murdered century after century in country after country, I have to remind myself how lucky we all are to live in this country with freedom of speech and religion, even though the old story of antisemitism continues unabated here in the USA.
When I was very young, I sat quietly and bored while my grandfather read the Haggadah in Hebrew from cover to cover. Today, I see the reading of the Haggadah as a reminder of how important our freedom is, and how big a price the world has paid and continues to pay for people to remain free. During the early years of my life, I took my freedom for granted because it was and is the hallmark of this country. I was never shot at, I always had a roof over my head, I had clothes on my back and food to eat. I walked the streets safely, rode the trains without a concern, and attended schools when the security of my schools was not an issue.
I believe freedom exists for all of us, but we have to fight for it, and teach others how valuable it is. I know there are rules and regulations for a civilized society, but I vote to keep them to a minimum. I see that my children are living different lives than mine, and I expect my grandchildren will differ from their parents. I want them all to have the freedom to decide how they want to live with as little influence by the government and others on what they decide.
For more than 200 years, many political leaders have said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” As we practice this Pesach holiday, may we all remember how precious freedom is for our daily lives. Do not take it for granted. Millions of people have fought for it and died for it. Cherish the freedom you have for yourself and for your family, and speak about its importance as you celebrate this holiday.
Allen Lipis is a contributing writer for the Atlanta Jewish Times.