A Sweet Taste of Hope by Lance Katz, Chairman of the United Jewish Campaign
One of my earliest memories is singing Ma Nishtana for the first time at our family Pesach Seder. I practiced for hours beforehand and, I was told, did a praiseworthy job. I was relieved when my older sisters and all the aunties, uncles and cousins started to sing along as my voice began to falter and the unfamiliar Hebrew words become more difficult to pronounce.
I also remember giggling when someone read the part about breasts and the Jewish people being naked and bare. My Dad gave us kids a stern look. This was serious business.
But there was more fun to come. Aside from gobbling down my Mom’s delicious kneidlach soup, my siblings, cousins and I were soon scurrying around the house looking for the Afikomen that had been well hidden by one of the adults.
Little did I appreciate then the significance of our search. The Seder is an ancient ‘sounds and lights’ show designed primarily to engage the children. Why the children? Because the only way that this wonderful tradition will be carried on L’Dor v’Dor (from generation to generation) is if the Seder experience is positively inculcated into the DNA of the children, who will one day as adults engage their own children in the experience.
And so, the show begins in dramatic fashion. The matzahs are raised and the middle matzah is broken in two. The Jewish people are in some ways broken like the matzah. The tear of Joseph’s coat. The pain and trauma of exile. And who will fix it? The children, of course.
The largest of the broken pieces, the Afikomen, is hidden away for the children to find and return to the table for the show’s finale – the eating of the Afikomen as the very last morsel of the meal – the final delicious piece – the hope that, where this and prior generations of adults may have failed, the children will lead us to our ultimate redemption.
This is also reflected in one of the hallmarks of the Jewish people – our tremendous investment in our children and their education. In Cape Town we have four outstanding Jewish day schools. United Herzlia Schools, Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School, Sinai Academy and Cape Town Torah High. Between them they are responsible for educating around 2000 Jewish children from pre-school to Matric.
Our community schools ensure that our children grow up proudly Jewish and well equipped to excel in the 21st Century as evidenced by the community mindedness and the success of our alumni in all fields of endeavour, locally and on the global stage. Furthermore, no Jewish child is left behind. Regardless of personal finances, our community ensures that every Jewish child has an opportunity to get the very best education on offer.
As we all take our seats at this year’s Seder – in Jewish homes all over Cape Town – and we each take our taste of the Afikomen at the end of the meal brought excitedly to us after having been found – lets savour its sweet taste – the hope of a bright future that we have invested in our children.
Wishing you all a Chag Kasher v’Sameach and Shabbat Shalom.