Does Slavery Exist Today?

By: Hillary Schulman

Recently, Jews around the world celebrated the holiday of Passover, in which we remember the exodus from Egypt and our release from slavery. It is interesting to see friends and family post pictures and videos from their own Seders that capture what the holiday has become about: being surrounded by loved ones, the insane amount of matzah, and the intricate ways people set up their dining room tables in order to fit everyone. What I feel we sometimes forget is the “why.” Why do we actually celebrate this holiday? Why do we put up with not eating delicious leavened carbs for eight days?

One of the most interesting things that happen at my Seders is the questions. No, not just the Four Questions but other questions as well. During the Seder that my grandparents lead, we are encouraged to ask questions (chocolate for a good question, a prune for a bad one) throughout the Seder. One of the questions asked was, “Is there slavery today?” This is an interesting question because it goes back to my original question – why do we actually celebrate this holiday?

We have to remember that we were once slaves. Yes, this happened many, many years ago, but we can’t let it happen again. Passover, although a time to be with family and friends, is also a time for remembrance and reflection. To answer my grandparents’ question, yes there is slavery today – even in the Western World.

Webster’s Dictionary defines slavery as “submission to a dominating influence.” There are many different interpretations of what that “dominating influence” could be, which gives us many different types of slavery today. There are two types that stick out to me that are very prominent in our society today: jobs and technology.

Recent studies show that Americans work longer hours than people in other countries. The concept of the American Dream has spiraled out of control to make Americans want to make as much money as they possibly can, which has led to longer hours at the office and less time for themselves and their families. Along with longer hours at the office, people have developed a tendency to always want to feel connected to the outside world. They have their smartphones and bluetooths (blueteeth?) always on them and activated. Going out to dinner now cannot exist without checking their phone at least once, whether it is work-related or not. Even at my own Seder table, I witnessed people checking their phones and disconnecting with what was going on around them in order to check a sports score or their email.

Passover, at least for me, is when the whole family gets together. We have family and friends whom we see maybe once or twice a year come in from out of town to join in our traditions. This is not the time to check the score of the Red Sox game or to see if your office emailed you. Put down your phone, tablet, or iPad, and make time to see the family and friends whom you rarely get to see and enjoy your time with them. Have a face-to-face conversation instead of a conversation in the comment section on Facebook, and don’t be a slave to technology or other outside influences.

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