4 Modern Additions to the Seder Plate
Passover offers a variety of opportunities to infuse our holiday celebrations with social justice themes, as evidenced by our Passover Social Justice Guide. There are also a number of modern additions to consider adding to your table:
Many families and congregations have begun adding an orange to the Seder plate as a way of acknowledging the role of people who feel marginalized within the Jewish community. Professor Susannah Heschel explains that in the 1980’s, feminists at Oberlin College placed a crust of bread on the Seder plate, saying, “There's as much room for a lesbian in Judaism as there is for a crust of bread on the seder plate.” Heschel adapted this practice, placing an orange on her family's seder plate and asking each attendee to take a segment of the orange, make the blessing over fruit, and eat it as a gesture of solidarity with LGBTQ Jews and others who are marginalized within the Jewish community. They spit out the orange seeds, which were said to represent homophobia.
This new custom celebrates Miriam’s role in the deliverance from slavery and her help throughout the wandering in the wilderness. Place an empty cup alongside Elijah's cup and ask each attendee at the seder to pour a bit of water into the cup. With this new custom, we recognize that women have always been – and continue to be – integral to the continued survival of the Jewish community. We see the pouring of each person's water as a symbol of everyone's individual responsibility to respond to issues of social injustice. Use the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism’s Miriam's Cup reading insert in your seder to honor the women in your life and remember Miriam's contributions to the Exodus.
In 1991, Israel launched Operation Solomon, a covert plan to bring Ethiopian Jews to the Holy Land. When these famished, downtrodden Jews arrived in Israel, many were so hungry and ill that they were unable to digest substantial food. Israeli doctors fed these new immigrants simple boiled potatoes and rice until their systems could take more food. To commemorate this at your seder, eat small red potatoes alongside the karpas (bitter herbs). Announce to those present that this addition honors a wondrous exodus in our own time, from Ethiopia to Israel.
Fair Trade Chocolate or Cocoa Beans:
The fair trade movement promotes economic partnerships based on equality, justice and sustainable environmental practices. We have a role in the process by making consumer choices that promote economic fairness for those who produce our products around the globe. Fair Trade certified chocolate and coca beans are grown under standards that prohibit the use of forced labor. They can be included on the seder plate to remind us that although we escaped from slavery in Egypt, forced labor is still very much an issue today.
- What modern traditions has your family or congregation integrated into your seder? Will you be including a Miriam’s Cup, potato, orange, or fair trade products into this year’s Passover celebration?