SUMMIT, NJ - Congregation Beth Hatikvah and Fountain Baptist Church recently came together for the fourth iteration of the 'Liberation Seder', which 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.
More than 200 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 the following 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,” said Rabbi Hannah Orden 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 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 -- which refers 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 by visiting the Congregation Beth Hatikvah Facebook page and at bethhatikvah.org/holidays.