So the world remained standing

Avrum Rosensweig

I have been honoured over the years to work with people who are willing to take on enormous responsibility to help others.

I believe it is these individuals who ensure the balance of our existence is tilted toward goodness. These people mirror today what Moses was trying to accomplish 3,000 years ago in his quest to “Let my people go.” As commanded, this servant of God, who initially refused a leadership position, pushed forward courageously, defending the beaten, and heroically led the masses to the road out of Egypt – a place rife with the brutality of injustice.

The starkness of Moses’ task and the clarity of his goals show how crucial it is for those who are good to stand up to dark forces and outfight them, so that the world remains standing.

I see this same starkness today, in 2014, when I read about the history of Canada and some of the blights on our character and our past. Recently, dozens of native Canadians spoke to the truth and reconciliation committee about how they were scooped out of their parents’ hands as youngsters and sent off to “white homes,” where they were adopted.

Coleen Rajotte was taken by children’s services from her Cree community in Saskatchewan when she was three months old, and raised by a Manitoba family. She said that through this process, she lost her culture, her language and the love and familiarity of her real family.

(Some 20,000 native children were taken from their homes and placed with non-native families within a 20-year period, a course often considered to be an extension of the residential school system and a bid to “take the Indian out of the child.”)

Yet, while this ugliness was happening, some very good people decided to take the reigns of humanity and play whatever role they could years later in returning these grown children to safe earth, where they could mend, where they could repair their bodies and spirits. These are often quiet, low-key types, some of whom we will never know, some of whom are no longer with us, but all of whom made a decision early on to take on some of the pain of our aboriginal brothers and sisters, and walk with them toward the light of their personal and collective exodus. They must be remembered, honoured and celebrated by us.

I believe I have been in the presence of righteousness, because when I was with such people, I could exhale, knowing evil is not left uncapped, knowing the door to freedom, fairness and justice has been left ajar, ever so slightly.

I felt such a vitality when, along with two Holocaust survivors, Gerda Freiberg and Nate Leipciger, I visited the Pusuma family, a Jewish-Roma family given refuge by a church against a deportation notice. I wondered how it was the survivors were able to expose themselves to the plight of the Pusumas, knowing what they know about the Holocaust and its indignities. How could they ingest such injustice again? (Would we blame survivors for staying away from such places? Not for a moment. After all, they deserve the rest.)

Yet Gerda and Nate went, representing other survivors and those who perished, and all of us, the Jewish People. Their pain returned, yet with all of that, they asked questions and wanted to know about the beatings the Pusumas received from neo-Nazis in Budapest a short few years ago.

The wounded shared with the wounded, and in this way, they created healing and sought goodness.

It is said we were all at Mount Sinai. While there, we had a chance to meet the Israelites who had been enslaved. It was nasty. It was clear they had been affected and infected by the viciousness of their taskmasters.

But then we were also privy to the holiness of leadership, of those who led them across the sea, to that small hill, and helped them rediscover their holiness and self-respect. We knew while we stood there that it was those people who kept the world standing, and we remembered that Godliness and goodness will prevail when most people decide to oppose indifference, and instead grab onto the four-corners of compassion and action.  

Chag Samayach. Happy Pesach.

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