Passover Message for Non Jews: 2019

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So this is the story of the Jewish people -The Hagada (the guide for the Passover seder on the eve of Passover states:  “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the L-rd, our G‑d, took us out from there with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm. If the Holy One, blessed be He, had not taken our fathers out of Egypt, then we, our children and our children’s children would have remained enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt. “
But this is only the beginning of the Passover story. It has so many hidden messages that it is an endless source of inspiration of all kinds. And the rabbis hinted at this when they continued right after the above statement with the following message: “Even if all of us were wise, all of us understanding, all of us knowing the Torah, we would still be obligated to discuss the exodus from Egypt; and everyone who discusses the exodus from Egypt at length is praiseworthy.”

The Passover story includes the bitter and the sweet. We do not shy away from the truth – from the helplessness and humiliation of slavery: The other part of the story is that G-d did save us from the Egyptian genocidal evil “with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm“.  The Jewish people were in no position to save themselves: And yet we were saved!!!!! This is the message of hope and redemption offered by the Passover story. And the Hagada continues:

“For not just one alone has risen against us to destroy us, but in every generation they rise against us to destroy us; and the Holy One, blessed be He, saves us from their hand!”.

We have had this story replayed in our recent history. 75 years ago, Hitler, the arch enemy of the Jews described Jews as subhuman and immoral: But the main reason he opposed them was because he wanted to destroy the conscience of the world which he knew was part of the DNA of the Jewish people.

I wish I was making this up because it sounds so fantastic – if I had not done the research myself, I would think that this is some kind of Jewish reverse conspiracy theory about  Hitler and Nazi ideology, but sadly it is true. Hitler knew that Jews would oppose his plan to destroy the maimed and enslave the weak because the basis of the Jewish creed is to protect the weak and to feed the hungry.

In more recent times, Arab/Muslim Jihadists such as the Muslim Brotherhood, have also adopted Nazi ideas, demonizing Jews, and have superimposed these ideas on the Israel/Palestine situation. They too are losing their vicious genocidal battle.

The demonic ideology of antisemitism was replayed in real time in the USA just a few day ago with the shooting of Jews at prayer at the Poway, San Diego, California synagogue: a  shooting on the last day of Passover when Jews were gathered in the synagogue to pray.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Poway synagogue shooting

The nineteen year old nursing student was infected by the vicious libel of antisemitism. This is what he wrote in his manifesto about why he took a rifle and went to the synagogue to shoot as many Jews as he could.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

And this was how the person he killed, Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, was eulogized by those who knew her:

Lori Gilbert Kaye, killed in synagogue shooting, is remembered as a teacher of ‘radical empathy’

Woman killed while protecting rabbi during shooting

Woman killed while protecting rabbi during shooting

  1. Every week, Lori Gilbert Kaye baked challah bread, the egg-laden loaves that are a staple of the Jewish household. But her family didn’t get to enjoy them most times.

    She would drop loaves off at other homes, put them in mailboxes, and bring them to work with her, her daughter recalled. It was typical of Kaye, a woman of deep faith who exemplified kindness and generosity, those closest to her said at her funeral Monday.
  2. “My mother thrived and lived her entire life for the sake of friendship, to give flowers to people all over San Diego and from the world, to bask in the glory of connection, of story, of history,” her daughter Hannah Kaye, 22, told mourners at the synagogue…
  3. She was her daughter’s advocate and dancing partner, and a peaceful woman who nurtured the friendships she formed.
    “Her relationships are one of the things that made her most proud,” her daughter said. “My mother raised me to become like her, to be a woman who embraced all people, to give to all people, to love all people.
  4. Hannah recalled how she and her mother had a rocky relationship when she was a teenager and they were estranged. But their relationship improved, and her mother taught her “radical empathy.”…
    “We healed together under trees, in booths at diners, in car rides while hugging one another tightly, swinging back and forth to a rhythm just our own,” she said. “My mother gave me every opportunity I could have dreamed of. All of who I am today is a result from the experiences we had together.’
    The elder Kaye celebrated her daughter’s love of words from a young age.
    Hannah, a poet, recalled writing her first poem about bubbles at the kitchen table with her mother in fifth grade. Kaye would find the sections in the newspaper where a writer or poet was highlighted and give them to her, Hannah recalled.
    Her mother was “an ecstatic Jew from birth,” who celebrated her Judaism by remaining dedicated to traditions and rituals, Hannah said.
    Kaye was dedicated to her ritual of Shabbat (the Sabbath) and often welcomed people into her homes on Fridays to celebrate.
    Hannah said her mother “knew Judaism went beyond the text.”
    For Lori Gilbert Kaye, Judaism was about who you were as a person and treating others with respect and kindness, Hannah said.
    “My mother lived her life this way. Everyone was her sister,” she said. “Everyone was her friend.”
    Her husband, Howard, a physician, recalled how his wife was always doing good for others.
    “Sometimes people do good and things don’t turn out. Whatever good she did always turned out,” he told mourners. “And whatever I did that might not have been good, she repaired and made me look good.”
    He said he was reminded of her goodness every day. His wife installed a peace pole in their front yard. In several languages, it said: “May peace prevail on earth.”
    “That’s exactly who she was. And she wanted the world to know it, and every day I went out of the house, I knew it,” he said.
  5. Over the years, Hannah said she came to understand what her mother was trying to teach her as their relationship grew stronger. “In simple terms, the importance of kindness, the sacredness of connecting with others,” she said. “And forever, this will be a key element steering me onward on the journey of my own life.
Lori Gilbert Kaye’s life is emblematic of what Jews stand for in this world, loving kindness and moral values. May her death bring the lie to the terrible things that are spread about Jews by Iran, by Muslim Jihadists, Palestinian supporters of BDS, and the white supremacy movement in the US – Nazis by a different name.

I pray that none of you get caught up in their lies like this young man, John T. Earnest did.

Spring Newsletter: AskAbigail Productions

Dear friends,

“The voice of the turtle is heard in the land” – “Song of Songs”

Happy Passover, Happy Easter, and Happy Spring to all.
As many of you are aware, Passover – the celebration of freedom and the seminal holiday of Jewish continuity – invites us to reflect on the past and present. In that spirit, I would like to share with what I have been working on in the last few months.

Since I last wrote to you, my documentary, “Yiddish: a tale of survival” has been completed, and is now in the process of being launched. So far we have had one private press screening at McGill University. It was reviewed by Janice Arnold of the Canadian Jewish news and I was also interviewed by Pierre Landry of the CBC on International Human Rights Day. I have to admit that not only does the film tell a great story, it is also great entertainment. In the next few weeks, I will be sending the DVD’s to those of you who have supported this project on IndieGogo. Without your support it would not have been possible. I am also sending the film to festivals around the world, including US, Australia, Europe, Israel, and even Asia, and I am in contact with university professionals, and distributors. We have so far had some nibbles from PBS and Australia. I am also offering the film to charitable institutions: It would make a fabulous fundraiser.

If you would be interested in organizing a private screening of the film for groups, associations or academic purposes please contact me and I would be glad to work something out.

In other news, AskAbigail Productions has been hired to videotape and post the McGill talks for ISGAP, (Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism). Every month they have guests of international calibre, such as David Matas, a well known Canadian lawyer, who makes the case for anti-semitism being behind the failure of the Israel/Palestine peace talks. Jonathon Speyer, research fellow of the Gloria Centre who bases his research on actual visits to Middle Eastern Countries including many recent visits to Syria, Yigal Carmon of Memri, a Middlle East media watch organization, and Shalem Coulibaly,  Professor of Philosophy and Secretary General, Université de Ouagadougou
(Burkina Faso). All have been among the ISGAP speakers. As Shalem Coulibaly, said in his talk, musing about anti-semitism in Sub-Saharan Africa, a place that has few Jews and yet is vulnerable to this virus: “I am interested in Sub Saharan Africa in particular because if we do not fight and engage against anti-Semitism and anti-zionism, then we are responsible for tomorrow’s destruction of our own societies. Hence, it is a question of responsibility for ourselves and not just for others,” All of the lectures can be seen on the ISGAP/vimeo website.

AskAbigail Productions has continued to support the efforts of CIJR (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research) and I continue to serve on their board.

As I review my blogs for the past year, it turns out I have written 12 pieces about anti-semitism. I am sad to say that this has been due to the enormous resurgence of anti-semitism http://www.askabigailproductions.com/anti-semitism that has become apparent to me and the general public in the past 2 years, in movies, Confessions of a Self-Hating Jew, Defamation: The Movie, at the academy awards, Purim, Jews, and the Academy Awards,news reports, and conferences,  Highlights of the CIJR conference Combatting the Delegitimation of Israel.

And here is my latest blog about Passover which also riffs on the theme of freedom and its connection to the slavery of thought and anti-semitism in the Middle East.  http://www.askabigailproductions.com/passover-and-the-arab-spring

The other day, as I was chatting with my Iranian emigre taxi driver friend, he said to me, “If I could only see peace in the Middle East in my lifetime, I would die a happy man.”

Insh’Allah, may it be so….

The Passover story is one that embraces hope. As Rabbi Steinmetz points out, the challenge of asking the question is the beginning of awareness, which is the beginning of the path to freedom. May all our questions end in true freedom and redemption for all mankind.

I welcome your feedback and comments and look forward to working towards freedom and peace together with you in the new year.

Abigail Hirsch
AskAbigail Productions.

Passover and the Arab Spring in Middle East Media. 2013

Dear friends,

I thought you would appreciate these two videos which I posted this week.

One is a Passover teaching by Rabbi Chaim Stenimetz:

And the second is about “The Impact of the Arab Spring on Arab anti-semitism“, a lecture by Yigal Carmon with video clips from middle Eastern television programs.

Is there any connection? Passover is the celebration of the journey from slavery to freedom. During the Passover seder, we relive this journey. Rabbi Steinmetz points out in the first video that freedom can only begin when and if one begins to question one’s servitude. Without a challenge to the status quo, no movement is possible.

There is no question that the Arab spring was initiated by people asking questions of their leaders, and seeking freedom from oppressive regimes. Has this resulted in greater freedom of expression and has it led to “freedom”? The answer has to be both “Yes” and “No”. We have all seen how the legitimate aspirations of the peoples of the Middle East seem to have been hijacked by the Muslim Brotherhood.

We often forget that the toppling of the Shah of Iran was also billed as a movement of the people overcoming the dictatorial Shah. Very few Iranians anticipated that the revolutionaries who championed the Shah would be arrested and murdered by him as soon as he took power. Very few, least of all America, in the person of Jimmy Carter, anticipated the stranglehold of the Iranian clergy that would take over the political realm of Iran.

Nevertheless, peoples of the Middle East continue to seek freedoms: freedom of thought and freedom of speech. The contrast between the fascism of the Muslim Brotherhood and some of the Muslim clergy, and the efforts of the people to speak up were both clearly apparent in the talk by Yigal Carmon, founder of MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute) who spoke recently in Montreal. MEMRI monitors the treatment of Jews and Israel in Middle East media. He shared actual clips from Arab television. First he explained the ingrained anti-semitic (i.e. anti-Jewish) tropes of Islamic culture promoted by important Imams and political figures, even President Morsi of Egypt. Then at the 59:33 point of his talk above he shares a clip from a young scholar which I link here. Dr. SA’id Okasha of El Ahram University on Al-Faraeen TV (Egypt January 29, 2010. If you click on this link you will see for the first two or three minutes, the presentation of the anchor regarding the “facts of the Holocaust” that she has “researched”, followed by the attempt by Sa’id Okasha to refute these “facts”. The debating match between them on live television is an exciting thing to watch. And as Yigal Carmon reminds us, the next day Dr. Sa’id has to go back to his university and his colleagues at El Ahram University.

But Dr. Sa’id is not the only one speaking out. Below I discovered on Youtube an amazing woman in disguise, ridiculing Hassan Nasrallah speaking about the Syrian revolution.

This brings me back to the Passover seder, The annual festival that Jews celebrate as the holiday of freedom from slavery. We forget that modern day slavery, especially the slavery of ignorance, is still very much present in many parts of the world. But the first step towards redemption is the questioning of the status quo.

Happy Passover to all who strive for freedom from tyranny.