|Tomorrow evening, we will gather with family and friends to celebrate Passover, retelling an event that happened 3,300 years ago when the Jews ate their last meal in Egypt, preparing for their journey to freedom.
But as we well know, the story does not end with our arrival in the promised land all those millennia ago. Our people have experienced the Exodus narrative many times since, including our return from the ashes of the Holocaust to the modern State of Israel.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of another historic exodus. Following the fall of the Iron Curtain, with significant support from the federation movement, almost 1 million Russian-speaking Jews made aliyah to Israel and another 150,000 settled in New York.
This story is not just one of exodus, but also renewal.
Last weekend, I attended Limmud FSU, a program we support, where more than 900 members of the New York Russian-speaking Jewish community gathered in all their diversity — from the traditionally observant to the secular, from first generation émigrés to their teenage grandchildren. With seminars about Russian literature, explorations of Israeli politics, music and dancing, and so much more, it was a spectacular display of the vibrancy of today’s Russian-speaking Jewish community in New York.
And, today, in Israel — as well as in Moscow, Kiev, and many other communities in the former Soviet Union — Russian-speaking Jews, with our support, are embracing their identity and living fully Jewish lives, one their own grandparents never dared imagine after 70 years of complete Soviet repression.
All this happened because of the courage of Soviet Jewry and the resolve of Jewish communities, who loudly rallied and raised the funds to support the agencies that parted the “Red Sea,” brought our people to the other side, and helped reconnect them to Jewish life.
So at our seders, as we retell the ancient story of our liberation from Egypt, let’s also tell the not-so-ancient stories of redemption and renewal — stories we together are helping to write in our own time.