I hope everyone is enjoying their Passover holiday.
Dayenu (It would have been enough) is perhaps the most famous of all Seder songs. Everyone seems excited to sing the chorus (I did it just yesterday at the MJCC’s Indoor Playground with 25 young children and their parents), which we always seem unsure when to end. But the 15 verses of the song are much more than child's play... they contain the roots of spiritual understanding.
The Haggadah lists all the good that God has done for the Jewish people through history. Dayenu has 15 stanzas, 15 aspects, 15 gifts. We went from slavery to freedom. We experienced miracles in the desert. And the Jewish people became closer to God. Each of these acts “would have been enough.”
Unfortunately, despite the fun and joy in singing during the Seder meal, I want to scream out and yell, “DAYENU” to what we have witnessed in the world just this past week.
Last Sunday we learned about the horrific tragedy in Kansas City at the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom. And then, I had to read in the newspaper that the hometown mayor of the shooter, Frazier Glenn Miller, agreed with some of his views. Daniel Clevenger, the mayor of Marionville, Missouri, said he “kind of agreed with him (Miller) on some things, but I don’t like to express that too much.”
It was also reported that several years ago Clevenger wrote, “I am a friend of Frazier Miller helping to spread his warnings. The Jew-run medical industry has succeeded in destroying the United States workforce.”
Then, yesterday we heard the disturbing news reports out of Donetsk, Ukraine regarding official-looking flyers that were distributed outside a local synagogue on Passover calling for local Jews to register with the authorities.
The National Conference on Soviet Jewry (NCSJ) reported the following:
On the evening of April 15, official-looking documents were circulated in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, calling on Jews to register with the Nationalities Commissioner and pay $50 or lose their citizenship and face deportation. Three individuals wearing ski masks and the flag of the Russian Federation were seen distributing the flyers near the Donetsk synagogue.
The leaflets read:
Dear citizens of Jewish nationality! Due to the fact that leaders of the Jewish Community of Ukraine support the Bandera junta in Kiev and are hostile to the Orthodox Donetsk Republic and its citizens, the main headquarters of the Donetsk Republic declares the following:
Every citizen of Jewish nationality older than 16 years, residing in the territory of a sovereign Donetsk Republic has to go to Donetsk Regional Administrator to see the Nationalities Commissioner, Office 514, for registration. The registration fee is $50.
Persons should have with them cash in the amount of $50 for registration, a passport to mark their religion, and documents of family members, as well as ownership documents for their properties and vehicles.
In case of failure to register, the perpetrators will lose their citizenship and will be deported outside the republic, with their property confiscated.”
The flyers were signed in the name of Denis Pushilin, the leader of Donetsk’s pro-Russian separatists.
NCSJ contacted the Donetsk Jewish community leaders, who called the flyers a provocation. They said that all authorities have denied any connection to the flyers, and that Pushilin has denied authorship.
Several members of the community went to the Nationalities Commissioner, who repudiated the flyer, and said that the leaflets were distributed by a few individuals to cause unrest among the Jewish population.
This appears to be an isolated anti-Semitic incident, described as “a provocation.” One takeaway, however, is clear – with both sides accusing the other of anti-Semitism, Eastern Ukraine’s Jewish community is having an especially tough time during the crisis.
Our partners on the ground, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and Jewish Agency for Israel, remain alert. They are monitoring the situation and adjusting their work on the ground and contingency options accordingly, just as they have done since the outbreak of unrest in Ukraine.
I must share that during my lifetime I have not felt the sting of direct anti-Semitism. I know that I have been lucky. At the same time, we know too many Jewish people who have suffered great injustices.
Passover is our people’s time to revel in our transition from slavery to freedom. Unfortunately, with episodes like those in Kansas City and Donetsk, as well as on our college campuses, in Europe, and elsewhere around the world – we must remain vigilant. At this moment, it seems things are getting worse.
Frank Bruni wrote in this week’s New York Times, “Our country has come so far from the anti-Semitism of decades ago that we tend to overlook the anti-Semitism that endures…College campuses in recent years have been theaters of anti-Israel discussions that occasionally veer toward, or bleed into, condemnations of Jews. And while we do not have the anti-Semitism in our politics that some European countries do, there’s still bigotry under the surface…The only way to breed prejudice out of the generations to come is never to shrug our shoulders – and never to avert our eyes.”
I, like you, want more for our children and grandchildren. And for that, I say, enough! Dayenu!
PS – The Jewish Federation offices will be closed Monday and Tuesday as we conclude the Passover holiday.