Progressive Judaism: Slavery isn’t confined to history

Progressive Judaism: Slavery isn’t confined to history

Adam Frankenberg
Adam Frankenberg
Adam Frankenberg
Adam Frankenberg

Progressive Judaism’s weekly opinion column

By Adam Frankenberg

The Matzvah we eat at our Pesach seder not only commemorates the idea that the Israelites were cast forcibly out of Egypt, it is also symbolic of affliction and poverty.

Indeed, towards the start of the seder we lift up the matzah and make our declaration. This states: “This is the bread of affliction which our ancestors ate in the Land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat, all who are needy come and celebrate the Passover with us.

“This year we are here, next year may we be in the land of Israel. This year we are slaves, next year may we all be free.”

There is a teaching that during the seder you should really feel as if you personally had just been redeemed from slavery. Due in part to this participatory nature, I have often found it moving where other rituals might have left me cold.

Certainly, I think that having experienced the seder, and felt what it might have been like if you had been personally redeemed from slavery, it should make our concern with slavery emotional, powerful and current rather than simply academic.

The poet John Dunn famously said, “no man is an island”. I cannot feel truly free while I know others are enslaved. It might be tempting to think of slavery as something which has been confined to the pages of history, but this is not the case.

Human trafficking for the purpose of forced labour and sexual exploitation remains a major problem worldwide – both here in the UK, but also in Israel where, partly for geographical reasons, the problem is particularly acute.

Atzum campaigns for social justice in Israel. Its Task Force on Human Trafficking aims to engage the public and government agencies to confront and eradicate modern slavery in Israel, and lobbies for reform in the areas of prevention, border closure, protection of escaped women, and prosecution of traffickers and pimps.

This year during the seder, I will actively remember those who have been trafficked and organisations like Atzum which are fighting for their interests in Israel.

• Adam is a rabbinic student at Leo Baeck College

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