A shout-out to the precious right of freedom of speech


Spring is the season of freedom. We read about it in our Passover Haggadah as we tell the story of how the Jews fled Egypt to escape slavery.

We are blessed to live in a land where free speech is a core value and is protected. And we are equally blessed to know that Israel is another country where free speech is valued.

Imagine what it would be like to be afraid to speak out about how you feel or what you believe is wrong or right. How would you feel if you were always thinking twice about what you said in public? Imagine if you feared who was watching or listening whenever you expressed your views.

All over the world, people have been jailed, or suffered worse fates, for simply speaking their mind, demonstrating, writing or publishing their opinions. We take these things for granted. But we shouldn’t.

You just have to look to Russia, Iran, China or Afghanistan for a few modern-day examples of where freedoms are denied. There are still too many places where people are afraid to speak their minds.

So it was exhilarating to see massive, peaceful protests in Israel in the past few weeks. And to see the government respond to objections raised by the public about a controversial policy.

As of press time, the issue was not resolved. But no matter how you feel about the concept of a legislature with veto power over the courts, what we can all celebrate is that both sides were heard and respected. At least so far.

We would expect no less here at home. We know we can speak up and speak out when we object to something the government is doing. We can hold a rally in front of a statehouse, or a demonstration at a business, or even in front of a politician’s home.

I recently attended the play “Bad Jews,” which was the target of protests in our community because the title was seen as antisemitic. But the play went on as planned.  The plot centers on how three members of the same family defined being Jewish and honored their Jewish heritage very differently. Were any of them “bad” Jews? Of course, this depends on your point of view.

No matter how you felt about the play or its marketing, what was important was that both its protesters and its supporters had an opportunity to be heard. And the show went on.

It’s hard to hear – and honor – views you disagree with. But that’s what free speech is all about. It is a basic tenet of the democratic society that you and I live in. And don’t ever forget how much it matters.

So as you sit at your Passover table, remember to honor the many blessings of freedom.

Hag Pesach sameach!

Fran Ostendorf, Editor