Interfaith Passover Seder Celebrates Freedom

As with any holiday celebration, it took effort, but turned out to be well worth it.  A very special Interfaith Seder was held on April 3, 2023, through a partnership between the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, LA County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell, and Culver City’s Wende Museum. “In an effort to combat antisemitism, anti-Blackness and hatred, this event will bring together people from all communities and all faiths to learn about the universal themes…of slavery and freedom within the story of Passover.”

The garden at the Wende was set with tables for the meal, more than a dozen seder plates set throughout the feast; the key artifact of the evening’s ritual.

After being welcomed by Rabbi Noah Farkas of the Federation, Supervisor Mitchell addressed the crowd, emphasizing that while all were welcome, no one would be required to participate in prayers. This was just about sharing the holiday. “We are so glad you all have chosen to come and join us this evening, and if a Seder is something you have never done before, we are very glad you are here. If a Seder is something you do every year with your family and friends, we are very glad you are here. We are here to bring our community together, and talk about freedom.”

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass spoke to the crowd, acknowledging the many challenges the city was facing, and welcoming elected and departmental officials from Los Angeles and Culver City whose job it was to help resolve those challenges. Justin Jampol, the Wende Museum’s Executive Director also thanked the Jewish Federation, and spoke about his grandparent’s connection to the organization, and the vital work they do.

The shocking rise in antisemitism and hate crimes across the country in the last five years was a primary point of address for several speakers, and Jampol was applauded for the history reflected in the Museum’s collection and it’s mission to educate people about culture and politics. “In 2022, there were 3,697 documented antisemitic crimes in the United States, an increase up from 2,217 in 2021,” offered Rabbi Sarah Hronsky, the president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California. The rise in violence and intolerance was brought into focus as an affront to freedom. ‘We cannot and should not accept living in fear.”

The haggadah, the book that is used as a guide for the ritual meal of the seder, had been updated and localized by the federation, with the ten plagues modernized to “homelessness, food insecurity, systemic racism, incarceration and human trafficking, antisemitism, xenophobia and racism, violence, environmental destruction. stigmatization of mental illness, immigration and refugee experiences, and subsuming one’s identity.” Replacing the historical plagues of frogs, lice, locusts and the rest with issues that many see and deal with every day made the ritual all the more poignant. and profound.

The discussions at each table were facilitated by designated guides, so that if a question came up, it was sure to be answered comprehensively.

There was a lively buzz from table to table in the garden, and conversation was enjoyed throughout the process. The ritual ended with a performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by Urban Voices, a Skid Row based collective that promotes creativity as a part of healing. In addition, each participant was asked to commit to one action that they could take to create positive change.

With many in Culver City celebrating the holiday at home and with family this week, the public gathering offered a pause to recommit to freedom and how to move forward.

Judith Martin-Straw

Photo – (l to r) Justin Jampol, Karen Bass, Holly Mitchell. 

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