I write to you from Berlin, from a very emotional place. I was just at the Gleinecker Bridge with my friend and colleague, Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel. Gleinecker was the bridge to a new life for Natan and the site from where he finally left behind the Soviet authorities and crossed over to freedom. The road ahead would eventually take him to Jerusalem and to a new life with Avital and to the role of an international hero for the Jewish people.
Today marks my own anniversary of freedom. It is 35 years since I came to the U.S. from Russia, just before Passover. I remember it as if it were yesterday. We all have different bridges we cross in the transitions we make as we mature. We do this as individuals and we do this as a people.
Every year at Passover we retell an ancient story that has contemporary resonances. It is a story of the passage from oppression to freedom that repeats itself in our history, our master narrative. It is a story that inspires us to fight against social injustices because we were once oppressed. It is a story that instructs us to embrace the stranger as in our history we have so often been strangers.
Today, there are over 200,000 Russian-speaking Jews in Germany, a million in Israel, 700,000 in North America. The scope of these numbers is larger than the original exodus. In so many ways, the movement for Soviet Jewry was the last real "peoplehood" initiative. Through this movement, we invoked our master story and nurtured the values it gave us to create that fighting spirit forever emblazed in the cause Let my people go.
We need to recapture that spirit. We have organizations. We also need causes. Every year we must see ourselves as reliving history when we gather at the Seder. For me, being in Berlin has been that kind of moment in time. I know that when I sit at my family’s Seder this year, I will think about our people and the bridges we have had to cross to freedom. In addition to the Four Questions, I will ask myself and my children what we must do to ensure the freedom of others.
Have a joyous Passover.
Dr. Misha Galperin is President & CEO of the Jewish Agency International