Tonight marks the Exodus of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt in the 13th century BCE at the time of Ramses II. The Jews left hurriedly, as Pharoah reeling from the ten plagues, sent them away with one day notice. Moses led the Jews on a forty-year journey to the Promised Land, where they were able to establish a homeland.

Similar flights to freedom have occurred for families and races, including the legendary Underground Railroad which spirited African Americans from slavery in the South to freedom in the North. My own family fled persecution in Czarist Russia in the mid-1880s, with my great-grandfather Abraham Isaac Edelman coming to New York City and working for three years as a rabbi before he could afford to send for his wife and four children, including my then three-year old grandfather Selig Edelman.

It is in celebration of freedom that I recommend my friend Ali Velshi’s new book, Small Acts of Courage, the story of his own family’s journey from India to South Africa to Kenya and finally to Canada. Velshi has been an important broadcast journalist for the past thirty years, at CNN, Al Jazeera and now MSNBC.

Velshi’s story begins in India in the mid-1800s when the country was part of the British Empire. The author debunks the myth of British contribution to the development of India. In the mid-1700s at the start of British rule, India’s share of global GNP was 23 percent; by the time of liberation in 1947, India’s share had declined to 4 percent. India also faced catastrophic weather events, including eight famines in the 19th century that killed 15 million people.

Indians did not have the option of emigrating to North America given racial preferences so instead they went “to the farthest reaches of the British Empire, including building railways, farms and factories in the Middle East and Africa. Two million Indians left the country between 1830 and 1870, the beginning of the Indian diaspora.

Ali’s great-grandfather Velshi and a friend left a small town in Gujarat province. His father said, “We must let him go. If we tie him down, we will be limiting the destiny of our children and their children. We have no hope in Gujarat. Allah will take care of him.” A ship took young Velshi from Bombay to Lourenço Marques, capital of Portuguese East Africa, enroute to Pretoria, South Africa. But as Velshi tried to disembark, the captain told him that he was already listed as departed, meaning that somebody had taken his identity and entered South Africa. He walked up the gangplank, then jumped into the shark-infested waters, making it to shore, walking several miles through the jungle on foot then got the train to Pretoria.

In 1884, gold was discovered in the Transvaal and the country entered a boom period. The Indian immigrant was able to find work either as a shopkeeper or tradesman. Velshi and brother Jivan owned a pushcart selling eggplant, okra, green chili, and mangoes door to door in the white neighborhoods. They made enough profit to open a small grocery store in Pretoria, then sent for the wives and children from India. But the Indian community was forced to live in a ghetto, were fingerprinted, subject to random home searches and were unable to own land. Mahatma Gandhi led the community through the first use of passive resistance, then moved on to India. Conditions deteriorated post World War II as apartheid was made even more stringent.

The Velshi family moved to Kenya in 1960. In his words, “halfway up the ladder sitting between the whites and the Africans were the Indians. There were the initial population of colonial clerks and indentured laborers, followed by a second wave of traders, merchants and teachers.” Indians developed the small business sector in the capital city of Nairobi; in fact, one third of the total population in that metropolis was Indian by the early 1900s. The freedom movement headed by Jomo Kenyatta achieved liberation in 1963. By 1967, neighboring nation Tanzania instituted a nationalization of the country’s industry, collectivizing all farmland. A year later, Uganda introduced work-permit and trade license laws on Indian owned businesses, with Kenya close behind. By 1970, the Velshi clan departed for Canada and a new life.

When we sing Dayenu (It Would Have Been Enough) tonight, we thank God for bringing us out of Egypt. I will be thinking of my grandmother, Sonia Gasul, who fled Riga, Latvia months before the Russian Revolution and during the height of WWI. Speaking only Russian she made her way to Kenosha, Wisconsin via Japan and then San Francisco. As Jews, it is important to realize that we are not alone. In fact, we stand with everyone who has made a home in a new land, determined to succeed the right way, with effort and hustle, remembering that family always comes first.

Richard Edelman is CEO.