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Harry Truman’s Seder Message

Stuart Halpern
Tablet, Apr. 19, 2024

“Having suffered persecution for centuries, the Jewish people steadfastly adhered to their ancient faith—the faith which gave them courage and fortitude to withstand man’s inhumanity to man. Furthermore, the Jews were frequently in the vanguard of the fight to aid other oppressed minorities.”

With Hamas still holding Israeli hostages and global antisemitism rampant, as Jewish families sit down to read the Passover Haggadah this year on Monday evening, April 22, the passage “in every generation, there are those who rise up to destroy us” will no doubt be particularly resonant. While most Jews are aware that the phrase—like the phenomenon of Jew-hatred it describes—is centuries old, few fully appreciate the role the Passover story has played in offering Americans of all backgrounds comfort and inspiration during difficult times. The Haggadah, in fact, has long been America’s guidebook for liberty.

At 5 p.m. on March 26, 1945, in Washington, D.C., Vice President Harry S. Truman addressed the annual Passover service at the Jewish Welfare Board during WWII. The speech, broadcast to the Jewish men and women in the Armed Forces, praised both the miracle of Jewish historical survival and the contributions of Judaism to the West. It encapsulates how the story of the Exodus has left an indelible imprint on the American consciousness.

“Since biblical times,” Truman began, “people of the Jewish faith have made great contributions to the moral code of mankind.” He then described how, for centuries, the Jewish faith has served as an ethical beacon for humanity. “From the revelation of the Ten Commandments by Moses to the philosophical teachings of modern Jewish scholars,” he continued, “there has been a constant search for a better way of life for the benefit of all.” Fighting against the worship of “pagan idols,” the Jews “preached eternal faith in one God—the God in whom we all put our trust.”. … [To read the full article, click here]

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