Pesach message from Jillian Segal AO, President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry
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Australian Jews have celebrated Passover in many different ways. In the early years of European settlement, seders and services were held by Jewish convicts and freemen. During the 1970s and 1980s, many Jewish households set an extra place at their seder table to symbolise the plight of their Soviet Jewish brethren who waited in anguish to join them. Indeed, for Australian Jews, who trace their origins to every corner of the globe, who have experienced all manner of hardship, it is difficult to contemplate a situation we as a people have not yet experienced. But a seder in a time of pandemic and sharing this lockdown experience with fellow Jews all around the world is truly extraordinary.
This year, we are compelled not only to see ourselves as having personally come forth from bondage in Egypt, we are also obliged to observe new laws and directives that seem to go against every quality of this special holiday. Rather than welcoming the stranger, we must turn them away. Instead of opening our homes to friends and relatives, we must confine our gatherings to our own households. Pesach is normally a time of rest, renewal, reflection and celebration with our loved ones. This year, the prevailing emotions for some may be loneliness and anxiety.
Nevertheless, the core messages of Pesach have never been more resonant. Pesach, after all, is a story of survival, of resilience in the face of great adversity, of coming together as a people and the belief in a better future. These themes must guide us this year like no other. It will be painful to close our doors to broader family and friends. It will seem alien to isolate ourselves from our community. But we must do this. We have seen Jewish communities abroad ravaged by this virus and entire economies and societies brought to a standstill. We cannot allow this to happen here. We must avoid all gatherings and adhere to the clear instructions of our government, medical professionals, community lay leaders and rabbis. If we fail to do so, we risk our lives and the lives of those we love.
I hope that despite the challenges of this period, you are all able to find some peace, rest and joy during this holiday. We are a strong community and together I hope we will all emerge in good spirits and good health.
I also wish to convey to the Jewish people around the world that we have been following news from your communities closely and we stand with you, now more than ever.
On behalf of everyone at the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, I wish you all a chag kasher v’sameach.
Jillian Segal AO, President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry