The fourth iteration of the Congregation Beth Hatikvah/Fountain Baptist Church Liberation Seder, held April 10th in Summit, featured two Seder plates: the traditional Jewish one with symbols of the Exodus of the Israelite slaves from Egypt and another displaying symbols of the African-American experience of enslavement, emancipation and struggle.
Over two hundred participants shared a meal of chicken, collard greens, and yams provided by Fountain Baptist. The Seder ritual at each table rehearsed the Jewish and African-American liberation stories through songs and readings reflecting both cultures. At different points in the ritual, participants paused to discuss four questions with their table mates:
Why is it important to share our history?
What do you shed tears for in today’s world? What are the green shoots that give you hope?
In what ways are we still enslaved individually and as a community/society?
What are ways Blacks and Jews can work together toward liberation for all people? What obstacles are in the way? How might we overcome these obstacles?
“It worked beautifully,” commented Hannah Orden, rabbi of Congregation Beth Hatikvah. “Everyone commented on how meaningful it was to connect with the people at their tables. A number said they started the evening as strangers and left as friends.”
The Liberation Seder is the brainchild of Rabbi Orden, who serves on the Summit Interfaith Council’s Anti-Racism Committee, in partnership with Pastor Vernon Williams of Fountain Baptist Church. The Hagaddah (the script for the Seder) interweaves the major sections of the Jewish seder with sections about African-American history, including African civilization, the Middle Passage (referring to the journey from Africa on slave ships), the horrors and indignities of slavery, and emancipation.
The Hagaddah is available free to anyone who would like to read it or use it for their own holiday celebrations on the Congregation Beth Hatikvah Facebook page and at www.bethhatikvah.org/holidays.