Our first Liberation Seder

This is likely our family’s last year in our childhood home. None of us are kids any more. But we’re each in periods of serious transition, and I’ve been thinking a lot about rituals (or perhaps the lack thereof, in our newly secular and ever-wired world).

So when my sister and cousin suggested that this year’s Seder be a responsibility assumed by the ‘kids,’ I was quite game.

Months later, the result was this DIY Haggadah, which went over pretty well!

Our seders in the past were getting pretty rote. I know that’s the point of ritual but each year my father would shave a page or two off of our readings as we’d accelerate to the meal and then the fun songs.

It was only recently that I really grappled with the seriousness of the ideas within this ritual, and saw the opportunity for it to be a site of dialogue and reflection about the nature of oppression and justice. Our family has long since emerged from a few tense years of fighting about Israel and Palestine, which eventually settled down into an unspoken truce in which the older generation accepted that the younger generation isn’t wrong about the injustice of the Occupation, and the younger generation mostly agreed to withhold all the michegas about it. But I remain bothered by the lack of a broader dialogue about our responsibilities (at least in our corner of conservative American Judaism), as people who have grown up being told that they’ve been Chosen. As kids, we were told that tikkun o’lam meant donating to charity and planting trees in Israel. As I became an adult, I discovered my own sense of tikkun o’lam, which emerged near the core of my identity, and which put that miseducation to shame. And yet I think it’s still worth doing the work to reconcile this personal discovery with the latent cultural Judaism (and attendant armchair Zionism) of my heritage.

So I’m grateful to realize that the story of Passover can serve such a purpose. (However, we still didn’t talk much or even at all about Israel and Palestine; there’s more than enough other matters of oppression and injustice for a dinner discussion, even a long ritualized one, and it’s just easier to get into it when it’s not your own tribe directly on trial.) See the Haggadah here:

I’m grateful especially to Tammy Shapiro, who has led a legendary Liberation Seder in Brooklyn for years, and who helped me wrap my head around the unexpectedly large task of crafting a Haggadah and leading the accompanying service without making a mockery of the whole thing.

I’m also really appreciative of Haggadot.com. In the end, I just used plain-old trusty Google Docs to manage my Haggadah, because that’s just ol’ familiar to me. But I drew a fair amount of content from Haggadot.com and I think it’s a great example of modern community media with a purpose.

Some final thoughts:

Games are fun. My cousin came up with a game to ‘hide’ the Afikomen at some point in history (rather than in the physical space) so people have to play 20 questions to find it. A great way to unwind after a challenging service. We also mixed it up and had a DIY Dayenu composition game, in which each small group composed their own verse of ‘good things that should happen even though it would not be enough even if they did.’

In future seders, I want to find more ways to observe the distinct interlocking levels of oppression and struggle: not just from the political but also to the cultural (Prince made for an *excellent* discussion about sexual and artistic liberation) and the personal (one’s relationship with self/others).

If Jews aren’t taking time to talk about how Black Lives Matter and what that means to us, they are quite simply doing Seder wrong.

Aaaand, I want to make the case that the Knife’s Heartbeats would be a good Seder singalong (we did ‘This Little Light of Mine,’ ‘Go Down Moses,’ ‘If I Should Fall Behind,’ and uh, ‘When Doves Cry’) but… well it’s a stretch.

One night to be confused, one night to speed up truth. We had a promise made…

13. May 2016 by greg.bloom@gmail.com
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