DO NOT BE COMPLACENT!

by Michael Shapiro

When my family was in Eastern Europe over a hundred years ago, Easter was a particularly virulent and dangerous time to be Jewish. Some Christians within and outside the Church used the period for their own power, avarice, and prejudice to foment widespread hurt and suffering. The Russian Czarist pogrom began in this terrible era. Let us remember.

Jews were blamed for the death of Jesus of Nazareth. For some in the Christian community in Russia and Poland, this was a convenient excuse to murder, rape, scapegoat people for no reason, and pillage mostly defenseless villages of poor people.

My grandparents saw this recurrent hatred in real time. So they left everything and fled to England and then America. My dad was born here of Polish Jewish emigres, but my mother was born in Jampol in the Pale of the Settlement, while Cossacks, Whites, and Reds were practicing on Jews while killing each other during a civil war before my maternal grandfather, a very tough customer, fought his way out with my grandmother and my baby mother Genia (later Jean).

They all arrived here just in time for the scourge of the 1918–1919 flu. Pause and consider that.

And here we are 102 years later on this Easter in the US surrounded by Covid-19, over 100,000 souls lost, with a nauseating Federal government and a reassuring and competent local government.

There are no Cossacks raging through our town. No Whites, no Reds. Despite 20,000 coronavirus on the head of a pin, we are seemingly safer. But not really. Not quite.

For on this sacred day of Easter, 2020 (in its best sense, in its pure essence, without violation by those weak and evil people who would use today’s message of hope and rebirth for nefarious purposes), I issue a call:

Together we must all fight oppression through and especially after this scourge.

That people of color do not die in overwhelming percentages in Queens and Chicago because of preexisting conditions and inequality and filthy hospitals, that 100 priests and nuns on the frontlines in Italy who perished are not forgotten, that the doctors and nurses and health workers who are dying are remembered as our brethren and leaders, and our grandchildren learn of their sacrifice.

That the sacrifice of the Israelites in Goshen and of the Egyptians and later that young fisherman in the Galilee we recall this Easter who simply gave hope to the oppressed and whose stellar example is before us, are with us every moment, and we not only recall their sacrifice and hope in times of pestilence, but we act, as Americans, as world citizens, to bring ourselves into permanent equity and justice. We have much to do.

Do not be complacent.

Composer and conductor

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