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Add Depth, Meaning and Fun to Your Seder

Orange – Dr. Susanna Heschel asked everyone to take a segment of orange, say the blessing over fruit (Baruch Atah Adonai … borei p’ri ha-eitz), and eat it as a gesture of solidarity with Jewish lesbians, gay men, and others marginalized within the Jewish community (e.g. widows, single individuals). This tradition was changed, as Dr. Heschel explains, by homophobic men and women who felt they could never include homosexuals at their Seders. They deliberately changed the meaning of the orange’s presence on the Seder plate sarcastically when confronted with the large numbers of women being ordained by the liberal rabbinic seminaries saying, “Women rabbis are as appropriate in synagogue life as having an orange on a Seder plate.” We place an orange on the plate to remind us of both those marginalized historically from Jewish life and as a statement of gender inclusivity in Jewish leadership.

Olives – Olives are grown plentifully in the land of Israel and placing olives on our Seder plates connects us with Israelis and our people living in the ancient land. It also reminds us that the olive harvest is intrinsic to the economy of Palestinian Arabs, and when olive trees are cut down by settler groups in revenge or by the Israeli army for “security” reasons, we stand with those who are victimized.

Kos Miryam – In honor of the matriarch Miriam we remember the important role that women played in the Exodus story by having a glass of water next to the cup of Elijah. This tradition recalls the sea through which the Israelites passed and “Miriam’s Well,” believed to have sustained the people throughout their wandering until Miriam’s death.

Poetry – Ask Seder participants to bring poetry on the themes of freedom, change, redemption, hope, love, and salvation, and intersperse this poetry appropriately throughout the Seder.

Personal Testimonies – Ask individuals to share experiences from this past year that enabled them to escape from their own “enslavement” (e.g. bad habits, sugar, caffeine dependency, addictions, technology, life-depleting work, bad relationships, etc.). Ask participants to bring a concrete item that represents a liberating experience and share it with Seder participants.

Personal Memories – Ask older individuals to share the most meaningful Seder they ever attended from their childhood and why it was so memorable.

Burn Chometz – At the beginning of the Seder pass out paper and pencils and ask all to write what has enslaved them in the past year from which they wish to liberate themselves (see above in “Personal Testimonies”). Collect and burn in the fire place.

Acts of Redemption – At the beginning of the Seder pass out paper and pencils and ask all to write down what redeeming acts (e.g. acts of goodness, social justice work, pro-Israel pro-peace activism, hunger projects, etc.) they engaged in during the last year and collect them. Read them following the ten plagues.

Venue for the Seder – If the group is too large to gather comfortably around one table, move the Seder to a larger room so all can sit comfortably together.

Eat Earlier in the Seder to Sate Appetite – Say the blessings over Matzah and the Seder foods at the beginning of the Seder thereby allowing people to munch so that the Seder can go forward fully and to its proper conclusion.

Invite Non-family and Non-Jews – Fulfill the mitzvah to “welcome the stranger.” Not only do these invited guests appreciate coming, but if your family customarily “misbehaves” (i.e. doesn’t take the Seder seriously enough) the presence of non-Jews and non-family maintains control over rowdy and disrespectful individuals.

Afikoman Hunt – For very young children hide many Afikoman pieces wrapped in different colored napkins. Give each child a different color so they can find their piece. Everyone wins.

Scallions for Dayeinu – A Persian Jewish custom is for participants to smack each other on the head during the singing of Dayeinu.

Discussion Cards from Jewish World Watch – These tell the remarkable stories of JWW activists and survivors of genocide in Darfur and mass atrocities in Congo. Each embodies characteristics, or midot, to repair our broken world. https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?shva=1#inbox/14529fb5fc133045

J Street’s Passover Supplement – Support America’s Peace Mission of 2 states for 2 peoples and peace between Israel and the Palestinians. J Street is a pro-Israel pro-peace political and educational organization in Washington, D.C. and the largest pro-Israel PAC in the nation’s capital – see www.jstreet.orghttps://act.jstreet.org/donate/passover2014_download/

Asylum Seekers in Israel – 30,000 refugees escaped Sudan and Eritria by foot to Israel and are seeking asylum and/or work until the vicious dictatorships of their host countries change. There is a clear and present danger should they be returned. Read about what Israel is doing to “contain” the refugees from the Los Angeles Jewish Journal – http://www.jewishjournal.com/womanwrites/item/bechol_dor_vador_how_you_can_make_a_difference_this_passover – click to the supplement prepared by T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights http://www.asylumseekers.org/uploads/4/7/0/6/4706099/rn_refugee_seder_2014_supplementfinal-1.pdf – sign a petition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cease detention of African Asylum Seekers in Israel – http://rightnowisrael.nationbuilder.com/

“Put Justice on Your Seder Plate” – Celebrate the workers who pick tomatoes and support their human rights campaign by putting a tomato on your Seder plate. T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights supports the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to create safe and fair conditions in the tomato fields. T’ruah is an organization of rabbis from all streams of Judaism that acts on the Jewish imperative to respect and protect the human rights of all people. See – http://www.truah.org/images/Tomato_on_Seder_Plate_2014.pdf

Religious Tolerance of Every Individual According to his/her Character – A Passover Supplement from Hiddush – Freedom of Religion for Israel https://www.dropbox.com/s/o1pa96tk4b9vgux/Hiddush%20Seder%20Supplement%205774.pdf

May this Passover season be one of rejoicing, rebirth and renewal for you and your dear ones.