The Gift of Freedom


Credit: Monterey Bay Forum

Mira Berenbaum

Social Media Director

Today I woke up. Today I ate breakfast. Today I chose what to wear. Today I went to school. Today I did homework. Today I am free.

They didn’t know if they were going to wake up the next morning. They didn’t know if they were going to eat breakfast. They didn’t choose what to wear. They didn’t go to school. They did physical work. They were not free.

This is what I learned from talking to Ruth Birndorf: Ruth was in hiding during the Holocaust. Ruth never knew her next move, where she was going, what she was eating, and who she was going to be with. Although Ruth was not in the camps, she was still not free. Ruth now appreciates her freedom each and everyday, and so should we.

This is what I learned from talking to Eva Nathanson: Eva, too, was in hiding, but with Eva it resonated a little bit more. When I asked Eva where she wanted to sit, she told me she had to face the door because she needed to know there was a way to exit the room. Eva is now free, but still struggles to grasp the complexity of her freedom.

We come from a nation that has struggled. The Jewish people have overcome slavery, hate, mass murder– all of which have taken away our freedom as a nation. As Jews, we are obligated to remember this loss of freedom.

But I think it goes further. We remember the loss of freedom, but we never take the time to remind ourselves of our freedom. We all complain when we have three hours of homework. We all complain that we don’t have enough free time. But our education and our time are two of many luxuries that make us free.

We recently celebrated and commemorated the holidays of Pesach, Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut, all of which are holidays that stress the move from avdut (slavery) to cheirut (freedom). It is especially important now, during this season, to be grateful for our freedom, our ability to wake up, choose what to wear, what to eat, and what to do.

But we shouldn’t just focus on that concept at this time of year. Each and every day we must be grateful for our freedom because there are some people who were never free and still remain prisoners whether physically or mentally.

We say “never again” when we speak about the Holocaust, but there’s still genocide taking place today. As Jews, we have the responsibility to stand up for what we believe in. To help others before we help ourselves. Because we have that ability, the ability to be free. So take a moment today, and every day, to be grateful for the gift of freedom.