What does Pesach mean to you? Springtime’s promise of rebirth and renewal? A celebration of freedom from historic oppression? Precious time with family and friends?
The holidays are upon us and, here in London, lovely spring sunshine is lifting the holiday spirits. But we are the lucky ones, and we know only too well that millions of people do not share our good fortune. They will be spending this weekend – and many thereafter – in fear, their families torn apart, their freedom destroyed.
Millions of Ukrainians, who had expected to celebrate Easter or Pesach in much the same way we do, find themselves cowering in basements or many miles from home, bewildered, dispossessed and reliant on the kindness of strangers. And that is before even considering the victims of Russia’s war crimes.
In China, millions of Uyghur Muslims are spending Ramadan in conditions of unspeakable oppression – mass internment, forced labour, torture, forced sterilisation, religious suppression, and cultural annihilation.
In 2022 such horrors seem barely believable. The clock seems to have slipped back to the early 1940s. It is difficult to hold on to hope in such circumstances. But we must keep hoping and we must keep demanding a better world.
In the darkest days of the Second World War, our namesake the French-Jewish René Cassin was exiled in London, working to document evidence of Nazi war crimes. That process was more a triumph of hope and determination over the expectation that war criminals could ever be brought to justice. But brought to justice they were. That small acorn became the sapling of the Nuremberg Trials and grew on to become the mighty oak of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which, in turn, seeded a forest of human rights provisions springing up across the globe.
The Universal Declaration brought the light and warmth of spring after the long dark winter of authoritarian brutality. Were he alive today, as the Declaration’s co-author, René Cassin would urge us return to its principles as a means of countering this vicious new authoritarianism. And to work hard and with hope for a better world.
Wishing you and your family warmth, sunshine – and a happy, healthy and peaceful Pesach.
P.S. For practical and financial ways you can help Ukrainian refugees, please visit our website
Today, December 10th is International Human Rights Day and the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human...