Women’s Seder, March 30, tells Passover story from a woman’s point of view
The weeks leading up to Passover can be a stressful time for Jewish women, who often find themselves caught up in a flurry of spring cleaning as well as prepping kitchens for the holiday and preparing Passover foods.
Shirat Hayam’s Sisterhood invites women throughout the community to take a break, physically and spiritually, and enjoy someone else’s cooking at a Women’s Seder on Thursday, March 30, starting at 6:30 p.m.
“The Women’s Seder pays tribute to generations of Jewish women and how they have contributed to who we are today. It’s about venerating and honoring women,” said Elaine Geller, Shirat Hayam’s Reform Rebbitzin, who organized this year’s Seder and will be leading it along with Ellie Kremer, Shirat Hayam’s Conservative Rebbetzin.
“It’s not meant to take the place of a traditional Seder,” Geller stressed. “It’s a reinterpretation of the Seder from a woman’s point of view. It’s just a lovely expression of womanhood and sisterhood.” Geller attended her first Women’s Seder at the Hillel at Yale, when her daughter was in college there. She enjoyed it so much she brought the tradition home, holding Women’s Seders for many years at her former congregation, Emeth Shalom, which merged with Beth Judah this summer to form Shirat Hayam. Women attending that Seder eventually asked to bring their husbands, and the event became very popular. When Geller broached the idea of doing the Seder at Shirat Hayam, it was well received by former Beth Judah congregants, who had also previously held a Women’s Seder.
Thousands of Jewish women worldwide now participate in Women’s Seders, according to RitualWell.org, a Reconstructionist website devoted to Jewish ritual. Haggadot for such Seders are also widely available, although many women opt to create their own. The Women’s Seder usually takes place before the holiday or on a night of Passover when the traditional Seder is not held.
The story of Passover recounted in Women’s Seders typically includes the heroic actions of women such as the midwives Shifra and Puah, who help deliver Moses in defiance of Pharaoh’s command to kill all Jewish male babies; Moses’ sister Miriam, who watches over her baby brother after he is set afloat in the Nile; and Pharaoh’s daughter, who retrieves Moses from the Nile and raises him.
Classic Passover symbols are often redefined in the Women’s Seder, added Geller. The plagues may be redefined as problems of importance to women, and instead of a lamb shank she has used a beet. “A beet also bleeds,” she explained, and its blood could be put on a doorpost without requiring the death of an animal.
The Women’s Seder also incorporates new Passover traditions related to women that have become commonplace in many households, such as coupling the traditional Elijah’s cup with “Miriam’s cup,” a cup of water symbolizing redemption, which is blessed in a way that recognizes the vital role played by women in Jewish history. Placing an orange on the Seder plate is another related tradition. According to Ritualwell, the orange represents the fruitfulness and importance of fully including women, as well as gays and lesbians, in Jewish life.
The Shirat Hayam Women’s Seder on March 30 runs from 6:30 to 8 p.m. and costs $18 per person. The entire community is welcome. To reserve, call the temple office at (609) 822- 7116. Shirat Hayam is located in the former Beth Judah building at 700 North Swarthmore Avenue in Ventnor.