Reden - Speeches
Ladies and gentlemen!
You might be asking yourselves how this Brauer-Haggadah came about. The background is that I risk losing standing within my family. My wonderful wife successfully manages a theater, my son Marcel manages an international company with equal success, my daughter – just as successfully – is raising my two wonderful and simply brilliant granddaughters, and my son Daniel has established a successful start-up company in Israel. So I thought about how I could get back on par with them. But of course, without great effort –at no risk – and with little work. And it should make me rich. Then I had an idea. I’ll publish a book. With a great text that doesn’t have to be written from scratch and of which every Jewish household should already have multiple copies. Why multiple copies? Because guests come to visit for the Seder. A book that will amortize. Because a run-of-the mill book will not pay off. How often does one actually read the same book? Once in a lifetime; twice at most. But a Haggadah is read once or twice a year. So I’ll convince Arik Brauer to paint masterpieces – he is already passionate about his work and will thank me; our chief Rabbi will write some clever comments – that’s why we let him study – and voilà, the masterpiece is complete. And so I stand here before you – without having expended any effort, completely relaxed, and about to make a fortune. Even though a Jewish joke makes me a little uncertain: Two business people meet. One says to the other: “How’s business going for you?” The other answers:
“Like Matzos in Nurnberg”. To make sure the Haggadah is perfect, I also let experts do some work for me. I’d therefore like to give very heartfelt thanks to: Sabine Schimany-Bauer, Dr. Angelika Kofler, Caren Neil, Shmuel Barzilai, Alon Kupert, Vera Ribarich, Nick Somers, Georg Luksch, Rachel Udler-Langnas, Dr. Sinhuber from Amalthea Publishing and Dr. Danielle Spera and her team. More than forty years ago, people in Vienna and around the world were protesting for exit visas for Soviet Jews under the motto “let my people go”. Arik Brauer and I were two of those protestors. “Let my people go” is no different than a Haggadah reduced to a headline – it tells the story of the Jewish People’s liberation 3000 years ago, when, with God’s help, they rose up against the Egyptian Pharaoh to free themselves from slavery, reaching the Promised Land after forty years of wandering the desert. You see: God is a Zionist – just as I am. The Hebrew word “Seder” means “Order”. That’s probably one of the secrets to our beloved festival’s success that to this day, even atheist Jews celebrate out of conviction. The ancient order connects us, through religion, despite religion, beyond all differences, thanks to the Haggadah that we read at the Seder. The second secret to its success is possibly that the Haggadah is so many things: a good story with a happy ending – which is no certainty for us Jews-, a legend, and at the same time, a history book. Furthermore, it is a prayer book, a song book, and a detailed instruction book that unites us Jews throughout the world in our diversity. More than all this though, the Brauer-Haggadah is a collection of 24 artworks by Arik Brauer that he created especially for this book.
Of course, no Haggadah would be complete without a Rabbi’s comments. Vienna’s chief Rabbi, Paul Chaim Eisenberger, found answers to questions that probably arise in some form or other during the Seder. Reading the entire Haggadah with family in one evening is a time-consuming venture. That’s why some household’s cheat a bit. The most extreme case of this for this forbidden practice I heard of is this: The head of the household stands up, recites the Kiddush and says: “They wanted to kill us – we won with God’s help – let us eat. Amen.” That would never have been possible in our home. Traditions were important to my parents. It was less about rules as it was about the content of our religion and culture. I have childhood memories of how the Seder smelled, how these days felt, how nice it was to have so many guests in our home, how the matzo balls tasted. I can still hear the songs that were sung then and every year after. I still know how exited I was, because as a child, I was taken so seriously during the Seder and was allowed to ask the four questions. I remember the first time I ever drank wine – all four glasses of it. And I will never forget how special I felt every year when I took the afikoman from my father, giving it back only after tough negotiations, to receive my present in return. That is how I experienced Passover as a child. Our guests were rich or poor, religious or not, they were lonely or had another reason not to be able to have their own Seder. More than any other Jewish festival, this evening has the ability to bring together so many Jews who are scattered across the globe. Nowadays, for me and probably for all Jews, the Seder is an even more important celebration, because since the existence of the State of Israel, the words “next year in Jerusalem” have taken on a very different, wonderful meaning. For centuries, even in times of deepest despair and deepest degradation, we read the Haggadah. Then, we told each other the story of our liberation with hope and longing. Today, we tell it as free people who could really be in Jerusalem next year. One key passage in the Haggadah – vehih sche amda – says that at any time, in every generation, there has always been someone who wanted to destroy us Jews. For me, this passage is a reminder, a warning, never to forget and to remain vigilant about what is going on around me, and to stay capable of defending myself. Throughout my life, this feeling has been my companion, making me strong and it returns as new every year. Le dor va dor. From generation to generation: My grandfather taught it to my father in the shtetl. My father taught it to me, and I hope that I was able to teach it to my children who will pass it on to theirs.