By Melanie Roth Gorelick
As we welcome in the holiday of Passover, I am reminded that with freedom comes responsibility. Otherwise, how can we ensure our freedom – and what does freedom mean, anyway? The lessons learned from Passover stay with me throughout the year. Our CRC is focused on ensuring that the Jewish people live in a world free from oppression, discrimination, and harm.
This year it feels like we are facing a new round of plagues:
- Hunger – The issue of hunger in the U.S. is increasing. Federal cuts to food aid make New Jersey one of the 15 most food-insecure states in the nation. Faith-based groups are feeling the impact of these cuts.
- Iran’s nuclear threat – Iran both tweets about annihilating Israel and fights a proxy war against the West. Additionally, Iran is the largest funder of terrorist organizations around the world and has a dismal domestic human rights record. There is great concern for our safety in the event they acquire access to nuclear weapons.
- Achieving peace with the Palestinians – The Israeli government actively participated in peace efforts for a two-state solution in 2010 and again in 2014. Instead, the Palestinian Authority chose to engage in anti-Israel efforts at the UN and create a unity government with Hamas. Yet, Israel continues to be blamed as the obstacle to peace.
- Violence in the Middle East – Increased violence on Israel’s borders – the deterioration of Syria, ISIS, and the war started by Gaza – is of great concern and creates fear for Israelis about their safety and security.
- Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) efforts on college campuses – Anti-Israel efforts on campuses dramatically increased this year. While the Jewish community and students are working hard to combat these efforts, it is distressing that the only democracy in the Middle East is vilified on campuses.
- Rise in anti-Semitism – A recent ADL report announced the increase in anti-Semitic incidents in NJ – ranking us third in the nation. Violent anti-Semitic acts have also taken place in Europe, creating great fear and upset among the Jewish and international community.
- Discord in the American Jewish community – Over the past several years the Jewish community has split into different camps over issues that relate to Israel. Instead of finding ways for civil discourse to ensure strong bipartisan support for Israel, we are finding ways to vilify each other.
- Lack of political participation – The voting rate in the U.S. congressional elections was at an all-time low, impacting efforts to help those in need, such as seniors. The lack of political engagement, including Jewish participation, lessens our voice as a power base on the important issues of the day.
- Human trafficking and modern-day slavery – Human trafficking is a rapidly growing criminal industry, second only to drug dealing, and equal in scope to arms dealing. There are millions of slaves worldwide, including in the United States, and New Jersey is a destination state for trafficking. More than 50% of victims are estimated to be under the age of 18.
- Violence against women – This appears to be on the rise worldwide. We have seen hundreds of girls kidnapped for attending school in Nigeria, girls taken as sex slaves by ISIS, increased rape in public spaces in India, and more. The issue of sexual assault on college campuses is a national problem. Annual costs of intimate partner violence in the United States are estimated to be $5.8 billion.
Do not despair. As free people we have the power to make change. As part of the Jewish Federation system, we all have a strong voice in the domestic and international agenda. Together with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and Jewish Federations of North America, your CRC is working tirelessly on these issues. We are fortunate to live in a democratic system where we have a voice, can vote, and make a difference. We encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity and continue to participate in the advocacy work of the CRC of Greater MetroWest. We must continue to believe in miracles, but it appears that the counting of them will be saved for another holiday.