A message from Rabbi Yael Romer
The Diverse Spirit of Passover
As part of our legacy, which encompasses over 16 generations of tradition, we are passionately committed to evolving. Our young people and families add renewed vibrancy to our activities, programs, and community.
We come from every walk of life and diverse Jewish experience. We are more observant and less observant. We are lesbian, gay, bi, trans, straight, and queer. We are Black, Brown, Asian, and white. We are recent immigrants, longtime residents, and Jews-by-choice. We are younger and older. We are single, partnered, and married. We are Jews partnered with partnered Jews partnered with non-Jews.
In our shul, we believe that our foundation is strong and will support us all. Our roof is broad and will provide shelter for us all. Our hearts are open to honor our differences and celebrate all that we share. To continue doing this, it is essential that we cultivate and prioritize the very best of Jewish values. Each and every day, each and every year, we are called to live according to our ethical Jewish imperatives. For our Congregation to succeed and evolve in this manner, we rely on visionary and courageous leadership.
To truly honor and meet the needs of our diverse community, it is critical to integrate that diversity into our rituals. In past years during Second Night Seder, we have focused on incorporating specific themes and rituals. We have integrated Ethiopian traditions, Gospel songs, Yemenite recipes, and immigrant stories.
This year, as our theme, we have chosen to celebrate the diversity in our community and the diversity in our Passover story. But to truly do this we must be willing to ask ourselves hard questions, challenge our assumptions, and be willing to incorporate rituals that speak to who we are as a diverse community.
It is particularly auspicious that this year, we will be using the new Reform Passover Haggadah, The Open Door, selected by our Committee for Spiritual Practices (a.k.a. Ritual Committee) and gifted to us by Marty Miller and Sara Swan Miller in loving memory of their children Polly Miller z”l and Jaik Miller z”l. The Open Door, edited by Sue Levi Elwell with drawings by Ruth Weisberg, is informed by long-standing traditions woven together with contemporary insights.
Our community’s traditions of placing an orange on the Seder plate, observing Miriam’s cup, and speaking about Shifra, Puah, Miriam, and Pharoah’s daughter, Batya will no longer be radical ideas presented by the Rabbi or relegated only to a women’s Seder. Rather, they have proudly taken their place as integral to the liturgy of our new Haggadah.
Because we believe that God is beyond gender, the “God language” in The Open Door is varied. It speaks of the Divine through the Shechinah, Yah, Soul, and Ruler. Berachot (ritual blessings) throughout the Haggadah are written with gender-inclusive Hebrew. Traditions of Jews in Chile, India, Kurdistan, and Tunisia are integrated throughout the Haggadah’s narrative.
Voices of the Talmud appear next to teachings of contemporary voices of female and male scholars. Prayers of Black Jews, Israeli Jews, questioning Jews, Jews of Color, Jews of faith, Jews of the Holocaust, and incarcerated Jews are woven into the commentary. The four children are presented as our daughters and sons; the four questions challenge our perspectives, preconceived notions, and the status quo.
To successfully move forward from Egypt, b’nai Yisrael needed to challenge the status quo. The Passover Story leads us from narrow spaces to Sinai and from Sinai to our journey toward the future. We all stand at Sinai. We all have a place in the journey. Our new Haggadah embraces this truth. This year, every child will have an illuminated children’s Haggadah to strengthen their inclusion into our communal Seder.
Being a diverse community means breaking out of our narrow spaces. Being a diverse community means holding the door—and our hearts— open as we honor traditions of the past and evolve toward the future. This is who we are as a community. This is the authentic challenge of the Passover observance. I look forward to sharing the second night Seder with you and your families and welcoming our new Haggadah into the traditions of our community.