Carol Silver Elliott

Let My People Go

In just a few days we will be joining in the Passover Seder and telling the story of our ancestors leaving Egypt. We’ll focus on the theme of “let my people go,” of triumph over adversity, the survival and strength of the Jewish people. Wherever we gather, across the world, the same message will be shared, unifying all of us regardless of who we are and where we live.

This year, of course, the words “let my people go” take on special meaning. For we continue to hold the hostages, and their families, close in our hearts and prayers. Our horror at the events of October 7 and the ordeal of the hostages has not abated nor has our longing for their safe return.

In many ways, it feels as if all of us are living in a different world since October. Certainly most of us are glued to the news from Israel, watching the latest updates flash across our phones or computers or watches, worrying about every attack, every act of aggression. But beyond that, the increase in anti-Semitism has affected all of us. Perhaps we have put our Star of David necklace on (as I have) and not taken it off. But it’s also likely that in unfamiliar settings, we slip it inside the necklace of our blouse. Perhaps we’ve posted a “We Stand with Israel” sign in our yard and we look carefully as we come home each day to see if it has been defiled, breathing a sigh of relief when we see that it is unharmed.

My father’s family fled Poland before the Holocaust but his stories of the anti-Semitism he encountered as a child were vivid and chilling. Yet I always thought that “that was then and this is now.” I stood at Auschwitz and saw evidence of the unthinkable horrors and murmured “Never again,” convinced that would be the case.

Yet today I, regretfully, know better. I know that threats can be, and have been, directed at Jewish organizations around the country. I know what it feels like to open a vile, threatening letter directed at my organization and at me. I know what it looks like to see anger and hatred openly displayed, to read words that horrify and appall. I know how it feels to no longer feel safe and protected in the county of my birth and to be astonished by that feeling.

“Let my people go” is still our clarion cry. First and foremost, the hostages who must be freed. And, beyond that, freeing ourselves and our nation from hatred, violence, fear and prejudice. I don’t know how that will happen, I don’t know how to undo what has been done since October 7 but I pray that we will find a way in which we can all live in peace, in which we can all live with compassion and understanding.

About the Author
Carol Silver Elliott is President and CEO of The Jewish Home Family, which runs NJ's Jewish Home at Rockleigh, Jewish Home Assisted Living, Jewish Home Foundation and Jewish Home at Home. She joined The Jewish Home Family in 2014. Previously, she served as President and CEO of Cedar Village Retirement Community in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is past chair of LeadingAge and the Association of Jewish Aging Services.
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