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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Don’t pass over stories of women, LGBT folks at Seder

On Friday, Jewish people around the world turned to the age-old tradition of Passover Seder. The tradition of Passover dates back to biblical times and tells the story of Exodus.

Not much has changed in the past 3,000 years about the Seder. The Seder plate has largely remained the same, as many traditions for Passover are outlined in Deuteronomy. But in recent years, many reform Jews have been adding an orange to the Seder plate. The orange is said to represent women and those in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning community.

There are different origin stories for the orange on the Seder, but it is largely accepted that the tradition originated in the 1980s. The old myth goes that the orange was added as a response to one man who said, “A woman belongs on the Bima the way the orange belongs on the Seder plate.”

But in reality, most believe the tradition began with Susannah Heschel, who is a Jewish feminist writer. She proposed an alternative to putting a piece of bread crust on the Seder plate to represent the lesbian Jewish community, which was viewed as a bad idea, as it no longer made the Seder plate kosher. Many people were outraged, since Passover is the celebration of unleavened bread. Instead, she substituted an orange to represent women and the LGBTQ community and their roles in Judaism.

More people should add an orange to their Seder plate. Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize-winning author, writes that Passover is the practice of teaching and questioning, adding another layer to the tradition of a holiday celebrating freedom from oppression in Egypt.

Placing an orange on the Seder plate is questioning. It’s questioning the role of minorities in the Jewish community. It’s questioning the idea that there’s no way to carry on a 3,000-year-old tradition while also adapting for the present.

More than that, women played a direct role in the story of Passover. Jochebed, Moses’ mother, placed him in a basket and sent him down the Nile. Miriam, his sister, played a critical role in leading the people to Mount Sinai and throughout the 40 years of wandering in the desert that followed.

Alyssa Silva, a senior studying religious studies and Judaic studies and teacher at Anshei Israel Preschool, used an orange on her Seder plate at Hillel Center on Friday night.

“In the story of Passover, women are just as important as Moses himself,” Silva said. “If it wasn’t for his mother, Jochebed, and sister, Miriam, he would have been slain with the others.”

Women play an integral role in the Bible in more than just the story of Moses. The orange also represents the midwives and their roles during biblical times.

According to Silva, there have been reforms of the Passover tradition over the past 40 to 50 years. Olives have also shown up on the Seder plate, according to the Jerusalem Post, which represents the solidarity of some Jewish people with the Palestinian people and a protest against their treatment by the state of Israel.

Passover is about questioning what we know to be true. Questions are built into the Passover tradition, in which the youngest child at the table asks: “Why is this night different from all other nights?”

Silva said “[adding an orange] is up to the individual” and that she “[hopes] people try it out, but it’s an individual decision.”

The tradition of Passover is sacred, and we should celebrate the full story. Adding an orange to the Seder plate only enriches that story, celebrating the women who helped bring the Jewish people to the land of Israel.

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Maddy Bynes is a junior studying political science and history. Follow her on Twitter.

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