It’s no Secret that intolerance is on the rise in America, especially against the Jewish community. The messages that Passover provides are more valuable now than ever. How do we conduct a Seder that refrains from silencing the past and recognizes the suffering of the present? How do we take a more active role and not let another holiday just pass us by? After all, tradition isn’t alive if it isn’t evolving. Here are some ideas for modernizing this year’s Seder.
The Seder Plate
Add any or all of these to your Seder plate. Some items you may have already added in Seders past!
Orange = For the LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual) Jews, who feel marginalized within their own Jewish communities.
Olive = For peace in the Middle East.
Fair Trade Chocolate or Cocoa Beans = For promotion of economic fairness and prohibition of forced labor.
Tomato = For farm workers, who endure abusive and exploitive conditions.
Miriam’s Cup = For women, who play an integral role in the survival of the Jewish community and all communities, just like Miriam did in the Exodus
You can find variations of the haggadah all over, especially ones with a focus on social justice. A good place to start is Haggadot.com, which offers an extensive library of haggadot to choose from, including ones focused on feminism, a shorter Seder, or even Hip-Hop. The site allows you to pick and choose sections you like, creating your own haggadah.
For each drop of wine, as we mourn the past suffering of our people during enslavement, let us bring our thoughts back to the present and think of current acts of intolerance and hate, and encourage a discussion on how we can combat modern day plagues (borrowed from the American Jewish World Service Next Year in a Just World: A Global Justice Haggadah).
1) Blood (Dam): “We comfort and mourn those whose blood has been spilled.”
2) Frogs (Tzfardeiya): “We protest the proliferation of violence.”
3) Lice (Kinim): “We stop infestations of hatred and fear.”
4) Wild Animals (Arov): “We appeal to all people to act with humanity.”
5) Pestilence (Dever): “We overcome the sickness of racism and bigotry.”
6) Boils (Shechin): “We tend to those who suffer from disease.”
7) Hail (Barad): “We respond to storms and disasters that claim lives.”
8) Locusts (Arbeh): “We fill the air with voices for change.”
9) Darkness (Choshech): “We bring light to those who live in the shadows.”
10) Death of the Firstborn (Makat B’chorot): “We inspire the next generation to carry on the struggle for a better world.”
With these new additions, we can inspire conversation and assume a more active role in our communities, rising up and becoming the modern day Moses and Miriam this world desperately needs. And what better way to start then at this year’s Seder? This year when we open the door for Elijah, we open the door for everyone—for our fellow Jews and non-Jews alike—offering a safe place for all. As we do so, we say: L’shanah haba’ah b’olam tikan! Next year in a just world!
If you would like to use the American Jewish World Service haggadah for this year’s Seder, then go to www.ajws.org and download it for free. I know I will!
Dvorah Lewis is a contributing writer and an Archivist for local Jewish institutions.