Photo Credit:
Gabriel Sassoon (in center)

{The author, Alyssa Gross is a guest contributor)

This Pesach is simply like no other: the loss of the Sassoon family remains at the forefront of our hearts, minds and at our seder tables. In light of recent events, we must ask the question of ourselves,

  • “How was my Passover different this year from last year?”
  • “Did we have more appreciation for our loved ones and put petty squabbles aside?”
  • “Did we need as much salt-water for our karpas or does the residue of our tears remain on our lips?”
  • “To what extent were our prayers filled with deeper gratitude for what we do have rather than asking for what we do not?”
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It is clear that while we have questions of Hashem our faith remains. We continue with the traditions of Passover as they have been passed down from generation to generation. And still, how could such a tragedy occur? How can our human minds possibly understand the will of God in such devastation? Can it be a coincidence that we lost such precious souls just before the holiday of Pesach?

The answers to these questions are for minds far greater than mine. However, here is what I do see as a possible source of inspiration for us all. Let us use the tragedy as we did the enslavement in Egypt to bring us to the ultimate redemption.

With the recent images of Gabriel Sassoon, a heart-broken father, in the news and on the covers of papers, when I see and hear his words, I cannot help but think of Otto Frank, Anne Frank’s father. We all know and admire the story of Anne Frank and her persistent optimism and hope in the face of atrocities and horror.
We think on the story of Anne, have read her incredible journal with wet eyes knowing of the life that would never be, while still feeling deep awe and wonder for the faith she represents. Let me bring your attention to another hero of the Anne Frank diaries: the one man left standing, Otto Frank.

While we may have read Anne Frank’s diary as a youngster, let us look at Otto Frank through the eyes of an adult. Otto Frank was a father, a regular man like you and I, who lost his entire family. When you die, you only die once. Otto had to come back home and choose to live. Not only did he not surrender, he was instrumental in creating the powerful legacy of Anne by publishing her diary, setting up the Anne Frank Foundation and conserving the home in which they all hid during the war.
As they say, it is easier to die for Hashem than to live for him. To live through such adversity it would have been easy to give up and who could possibly judge? He lost every single member of his family while witnessing the unthinkable.

Tell the story of 210 years of turmoil in Egypt. Remember the mass genocide of families in the Holocaust. The Jewish nation has had many innocent korbans.
However, we must also remember how Otto chose to live his life after the war: to rebuild, to spread the message of hope and tolerance. The seeds of his courage continue to blossom. To me, his decision to LIVE after the war in the manner he did, like so many survivors, is the true definition of FREEDOM. We do not remain bitter and down by the ugliness but rather we rise again and build anew.

He showed us the choice is ours. We have the ability to literally and spiritually leave Egypt, leave the concentration camps, and leave the bitterness of our personal chains and to build and to grow and be the light of God that resides within all of us.

We have many heroes to look upon amidst our communities. May we all be free this Passover. I humbly write this article in honor of the Sassoon family.
Chag Kosher VeSameach.

(The author, Alyssa Gross, is a native Brooklynite. She is passionate about her volunteer work at Masbia soup kitchen and participates in YJP events}

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