On behalf of Isaiah’s social justice leaders, we offer this newsletter as an update on our many pathways of justice. We hope you consider joining us in the months to come. Take note of "The FIFTH Question” offered at the end of each section. Choose a few questions to bring to your seder table and see how they might enliven, agitate and inspire those around you. DOWNLOAD NEWSLETTER
This simple platform allows you to create a custom Passover Seder, with access to unique content contributed by our community. Find readings, artwork and video clips in our library, to enliven your Seder experience. Use excerpts from any of the following Social Action resources.
American Jewish World Service (AJWS): The new AJWS Haggadah—Next Year in a Just World—weaves together our story of oppression and liberation with those who are suffering injustice today, connecting to the refugee crises, global hunger, poverty, violence against women and the persecution of minorities. Its wisdom is accessible yet deep. Photographs are human and humane, illustrating other peoples’ struggles, speaking to our historical truths, helping reframe the stranger as one of us. Isn’t this what Passover asks us to do?
Ritual moments hold fresh insight: the first cup of awakening; the karpas of struggle and aspiration; the fifth question and call to action: “How can we make this year different from all other years? This year, let us recommit to our sacred responsibility to protect the stranger, the poor and the vulnerable.”
We recite, “Next year in Jerusalem.” What is your Jerusalem? I love the verse from Pirkei Avot 5:7 that teaches, “Ten miracles were performed for our ancestors in the Holy Temple: [Among them, two were] that though people stood closely pressed together, there was ample space to worship; nor did any person ever say to another, ‘There’s no room for me to stay overnight in Jerusalem.’” Our Jerusalem, our sacred world, has room for all. This Haggadah, Next Year in a Just World, invites us to make that dream real.
Am Tzedek: Isaians Pursuing Justice: Exploring the roots of injustice. Advocating for systemic change. We invite you to use this resource about the four questions of incarceration, reclassification, and re-sentencing to stimulate conversation at your Passover seder. read more
Ten Plagues of Forced Labor - CAST Resource: Escaping from slavery is not the only hurdle that victims of human trafficking need to overcome.Even after getting free, many hidden troubles and stumbling blocks continue to follow them around long after their escape, making it difficult for them to rebuild their lives anew. read more
• The Generation of Abraham, The Generation of Exodus A Seder Insert: “The Israelites were groaning under the bondage and cried out; and their cry for help from bondage rose up to God.” (Exodus 2:23) But how did they know to Whom to cry out? They knew because of an earlier revelation passed down to them by Abraham. read more
• For those concerned with climate change and the environment, this has been--to put it mildly--a disappointing past several months. As those in power continue to either deny climate change or disregard its impact, it’s easy to lose faith that the United States and the world will take sufficient action to prevent irreversible, catastrophic consequences. Given the political situation, it’s tempting to simply stop trying to work for wiser environmental and climate policies.
What can the story of Passover teach us at these moments when taking action seems fruitless? A valuable lesson can be found in the story of Nachshon ben Aminadav. read more
• If we listen to others with sensitivity and compassion, Dayenu. If we continue to organize, march and vote to affirm our values and convictions, Dayenu. read more
HIAS: The Seder Plate and Today’s Refugees
The Passover Seder plate is one of the oldest symbolic representations of the Jewish people’s historic refugee experience.
In the face of unprecedented efforts to limit refugees’ ability to seek safety in the United States – even as more people are displaced by violence and persecution than ever before – these powerful symbols of both the unimaginable suffering and the boundless resilience and hope of refugees feel particularly poignant.
Download HIAS’ 2018 Haggadah supplement to explore these symbols in the context of the contemporary refugee crisis.
This year, please join us as we again ask The Fifth Question: How can we protect the precious safety net that supports those who are hungry?
Print The Fifth Question Haggadah insert and put a copy at each place setting. After the youngest person reads the four questions from the Haggadah, ask The Fifth Question and reflect as a group upon the crisis of hunger, why it persists and what you individually and collectively could do to end it.
For more than 50 years, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (or "the RAC") has been the hub of Jewish social justice and legislative activity in Washington, D.C. As the DC office of the Union for Reform Judaism, the RAC educates and mobilizes the Reform Jewish community on legislative and social concerns, advocating on more than 70 different issues, including economic justice, civil rights, religious liberty, Israel and more. As a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, the RAC's advocacy work is completely non-partisan and pursues public policies that reflect the Jewish values of social justice that form the core of our mandate.
Click here for many resources to use at your Passover meal. See below for a few highlights:
Table Tents on Passover & Labor Justice
These downloadable sheets can be printed and folded into convenient conversation-starters on the minimum wage for your seder or community event.
Ten Plagues: Social Justice Perspectives
As we recite the plagues, we pour out ten drops of wine, lessening our joy, to remember the plagues set upon Egypt. In today's world, there are many societal cruelties and injustices that can cause us to diminish our joy.
The Seder Plate
Alongside the traditional items on the Seder Plate, try some of these modern symbolic additions.
Mass Incarceration Haggadah Supplement: This Haggadah supplement was created to raise awareness in the American Jewish community about a modern-day form of slavery in our midst, mass incarceration. It is designed to be used at your family or community seder. The first part, a new item for the seder plate, is for reading after Karpas (dipping the parsley in salt water). The second part includes four new questions and can be a substitute or addition to the Maggid (storytelling) section. The final section
includes songs and references for further study. read more
OSOTS 18 Appendix Slavery 101: Modern-day slavery, forced labor, and human tra!cking are di!erent names for similar phenomena. "ey occur when workers are exploited through force, fraud, or coercion. "ere does not have to be any movement across borders for an act to qualify as tra#cking; tra#cking is primarily a crime of control. read more
Pesach Slavery Footprint: At our seder tonight, we celebrate the Jewish people's journey from slavery to freedom. But we also must acknowledge that slavery is not just an atrocity of the past. More than 3,000 years after the Jewish people are said to have been liberated from slavery, and 150 years after the Civil War, more people are enslaved today than at any other point in history. Tonight, we will not just ask "Why is tonight different than all other nights?" but "Why are so many people still denied freedom and what can we do about it?"
Refugee Seder Supplement Evergreen: “In every generation one is obligated to view oneself as though one personally came out of Egypt.” Israel is currently home to over 45,000 people who have fled violence and persecution in East Africa. The government’s response has been to build a fence on the Egyptian border, so no more refugees can enter, and to begin detaining those in Israel at the Holot “open” detention facility, in an isolated part of the Negev. read more
A Tomato On A Seder Plate: Standing with Farmworkers in their Struggle to Uproot Modern-Day Slavery read more
This is a compilation of ideas to help the seder be fun and engaging for the entire family. The seder is composed of 16 parts. For each of these parts, you’ll find here a bushel of activities.
• Include a Tzedakah box on the table.
• Yemenite Jews line the edge of the table all around with leaves of Romaine lettuce. The lettuce is then used for Maror.
• Use maps of Egypt, Israel, and the Sinai desert as place mats.
• Put markers and crayons out on the table, and make them all the same color. Encourage people to draw or jot down questions, ideas, and thoughts in the Hagaddahs. Write the year on the inside cover of the Hagaddah in the color pen that was used that year. In later years, you will be able to enjoy looking back and seeing what people thought or doodled in years past.
• Decorate the table with frog bath-toys.
• Put sand on the table.
• Let the children sit near the leader instead of far away.
• Get out your entire seder plate collection, and let everyone have their very own at the table!
• Some people, especially vegetarians, use a roasted beet (because it “bleeds”) instead of a shank bone.
• For something entirely different, sit on the floor in a circle with pillows, more like the Roman symposiums after which the seder was initially modeled.
• Have an empty cup in the middle. Have everyone add a little from their cups to the middle cup. This cup then will be Elijah’s cup, and everyone will have shared with Elijah from their own.
• Pour the wine or grape juice for each other, each person pouring for the person to their right, to give a sense of sharing and elegance.
• Have the younger participants pour everyone’s glasses, playacting as if the adults are the Egyptians and the children are the Israelites serving them. For the second cup of wine, have the adults serve the children!
• Make the evening also a “Kosher Wine Tasting” event, and sample a different kind of wine or grape juice for each cup.
• Ask for two volunteers: one to carry a pitcher of water and to pour water over each guest’s hands, and one to carry a basin and a towel.
• Use ice water to remember people who do not have warm water.
• Have everyone take off their bracelets and rings, even wedding bands for the handwashing (or for the whole seder, to be returned when the afikomen is found) to remember those who are still in bondage and live without.
• Everyone say something they want to “wash away” this year.
• In Greek, karpas means appetizer. Today, many of us use parsley. Some medieval rabbis strictly forbid eating more than an olive’s size of parsley, you may wish to revive the ancient custom of eating extensive appetizers, each with its own dip. You may continue dipping and tasting various fresh vegetables during the seder.
• Use parley that you planted on Tu B’Shevat.
• Plant parsley in Chia Pets!
• Tie bundles of parsley with ribbon for each guest.
• Encourage dripping the salt water; the way tears drip down our faces.
• Some cultures use vinegar instead of salt water, representing the sourness of slavery.
• Touch the salt water to your eyes to make tear-tracks.
• A Tunisian custom is to say “This is how God split the Red Sea” and then break the middle matzah.
• Discuss why we hide one-half of the matzah. Perhaps because redemption is not complete…our people may have been redeemed from Egypt, but there are still many people that need to be found and rescued. Perhaps because God is sometimes hidden in our world. Perhaps to symbolize an oppressed mentality, where someone who does not know from where his next meal will come hides some for later.
• Ask, has anyone ever felt broken?
• Israelis of Yemenite origin wrap the afikomen in a napkin and places it over his shoulder throughout the chanting of the Hagaddah, symbolizing both the liberation from Egypt and more recently, the rescue of the Jews of Yemen in Operation Magic Carpet in 1948.
• Tell the story through a giant game of Jeopardy!
• Have the kids get together to put on a puppet show about Moses and the escape from Egypt. While they are putting it together, the adults can have a deeper discussion of the meaning of freedom.
• Have volunteers role-play Moses, Miriam, Aaron, Moses mother Yocheved, and Pharaoh, and have the rest of the table interview them and ask them about their experiences.
• At the four questions, invite anyone at the table to ask any question they have about the seder and the holiday. If no one knows the answer, what a great challenge for later!
• At the four questions, ask the children what is the best question they’ve ever asked in school.
• Before the four question, ask the youngest child to list the things that make “this night different from all other nights.” (Guests, foods, dishes, books…)
• Tell a made-up story to the children geared to their age that will help them understand what a slave is. For example, for younger children, tell them about a father whose boss will not let him come home to see his son. Days, weeks, and months pass. Finally, the daddy calls and says he will be home on a certain day. The boy is so excited, he invites all of his friends over, and helps his mom bake a cake, and they decorate the whole house. He can’t sleep all night because he loves his daddy so much and can’t wait. The next day, his daddy calls again and says with tears, “I am sorry son. My boss won’t let me come home.” Explain that this is like being a slave, having no control over one’s life.
• Ask everyone to share a special seder memory. Find examples of great seders in history.
• Have the children draw the ten plagues. If done earlier, these can be laminated, and wine can be placed on top of the plagues as each is recited.
• Don’t taste your finger after dipping it in the wine! The suffering of any people, even enemies, should never taste sweet to us!
• Make a family tree of the Biblical characters to help with the telling of the story, from Abraham to Moses.
• Make a family tree of your family, as far back as you can go!
• Invite people to recount a story when they felt or witnessed discrimination or bullying. What did you do? What did you wish you did?
• Have the adults put on a puppet show for the kids!
• Tell the story of the Exodus in a dramatic manner, and have the children mime or interpretive dance the events as you tell them.
• Ask everyone, if you were a slave, what would you hate most?
• Let the children be the “masters” for a moment, and tell them to order the adults to change seats and sit wherever they are told.
• Let the children build a pyramid out of sugar cubes! They will love this!!
• In Proverbs, it is written: “If your enemy falls, do not celebrate. If he trips let not your heart rejoice.” Although the plagues lead to our liberation, we are not happy that so many people suffered.
• At Dayeinu, Persian and Afghani Jews hit each other over the heads and shoulders with scallions every time they say Dayeinu! This keeps the children alert! They especially use the scallions in the ninth stanza which mentions the manna in the desert, because Torah tells us that the Israelites began to complain about the manna, and longed for the onions, leeks, melons, and garlic in Egypt.
• Yemenite Jews lift the table and bang it down at every Dayeinu!
• Moroccan Jews tie a bundle on a stick and march out of the room saying “This is the way our fathers left Egypt.”
• Play a memory game. Go around the table asking everyone to fill in the black, “When I left Egypt, I took with me my most treasured possession……” The participants, in turn, must repeat the objects mentioned and add their own!
• Make many different kinds of charoset and have a taste and compare. Use the charoset to paste together the sugar cube pyramids.
• Invite guests to bring their passports, and share the various ports they’ve been through.
• Sing Freedom songs, like If I Had A Hammer. Sing all the freedom songs you know!
• Give the children an art project, like make pillow covers that will be used to lean on, making matzah covers, drawings, plague charts, colored sand-jars, shoe box diagrams, sugar cube pyramids, mezuzas, anything, giving the adults time to meditate or discuss, and the children a memorable keepsake.
• Prepare card with the names of the plagues on them. Have guests select a card and then pantomime the plague while the others try to guess which one it is.
• Divide the kids into three group, give each group either “blood” “frogs” or “animals,” the first, second, and fourth plagues. Give them five or ten minutes to create a short dramatization. The parents will then award the best performance (ideally all of them!) with an Oscar, or better yet, a Moses!
• Ask for two volunteers: one to carry a pitcher of water and to pour water over each guest’s hands, and one to carry a basin and a towel.
• Wash feet instead of hands, just like in Biblical times!
• Moroccan Jews have a custom of passing the Matzah over everyone’s head to symbolize the angel of death that passed over the Jewish houses.
• See how high you can build a matzah house.
• Once I had seder with a Yemenite family, and they had spray bottles of water on the table. They would spray the matzah with the water to make it softer, so they could wrap it around the charoset.
• Irish fiddler Seamus Connoly once said, “We are never so happy as when we are crying.” We never enjoy the horseradish so much as when it brings tears to our eyes.
• Everyone make a sandwich for the person sitting next to them.
• Try to whistle while eating matzah.
• Have everyone put money into the tzedakah box before eating
• Give the finder of the afikomen a five dollar bill. Explain that it is Abraham Lincoln on that bill, and what he did to end slavery in America.
• Make plans to feed the hungry through money donations, helping in a food kitchen, donating food, or any other way.
• Open the door for Elijah, and explain that truly, Elijah doesn’t enter through the door, but through the heart.
• Leave Elijah’s cup out overnight in case he is a little late.
• Go around the table and express what each is thankful for.
• Give each other hugs and kisses!
• Make the song “Who Knows One?” into a trivia game. Try to name the three fathers of Israel (hint: A…, I…, J…), the four mothers (S…, R…, R…, L…) the five books of the Torah (G…, E…, L…, N…, D…), the twelve tribes?
• With the song Chad Gadya, “Just One Kid,” sing it like Old MacDonald, and make the appropriate sounds for each verse.
• Next Year in Jerusalem! Sing the Israeli National Anthem. Kids can use kazoos.
• Next Year in Jerusalem! Invite kids to share the songs they’ve learned from Hebrew school.