New Passover narrative stresses humanism

Posted by Kendall Harmon

This year, some liberal Jews will hear a new question during the ritual meals that define this weeklong season, which begins at sundown Monday:

"Why is there an orange on the Seder plate?"

The answer, in a new rite written by Rabbi Peter Schweitzer of New York, will please many unorthodox Jews.

"To remind us that all people have a legitimate place in Jewish life, no less than an orange on the Seder plate, regardless of gender or sexual identity," states "The Liberated Haggadah," a rite for "cultural, secular and humanistic" Jews. "And to teach us, too, how absurd it is to exclude anyone who wants to sit at our table, partake of our meal and celebrate with us the gift of life and the gift of freedom."

The goal is to provide an enjoyable and educational Passover for Jews who are united by culture, art, music, literature, foods and folkways — but not faith. Nearly half of American Jews, Schweitzer says, consider themselves "secular" or "cultural" Jews, as opposed to religious Jews.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism

Posted March 29, 2010 at 9:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Fr. Dale wrote:


To remind us that all people have a legitimate place in Jewish life, no less than an orange on the Seder plate, regardless of gender or sexual identity,” states “The Liberated Haggadah,” a rite for “cultural, secular and humanistic” Jews.

I am unclear based on this statement whether this new Passover is intended to reach out to secular Jews or all people. To me, this “inclusiveness” is saying that faith is not needed to be a Jew, yet it is by faith that all of God’s people belong to God and are one family. Is this like communion for the unbaptized or adding an orange to the Eucharist?

March 29, 10:09 am | [comment link]
2. William P. Sulik wrote:

“Do we eat the orange?”
“Who are you asking?”
“Umm, Daddy?  I’m asking Daddy.”
“No dear, if you ask Daddy, you are falling back in to the old exclusionary stereotypes which oppress people and create gender or sexual identities.”
“Okay - Mommy or Daddy, do we eat the orange?”
“No dear, don’t ask any parent or other adult - if you do you perpetuate ageist stereotypes.”
“Um, what should I do.”
“Dear you should do whatever you think is appropriate.”
“Okay, I’m taking the orange and the silverware and going to McDonald’s and seeing if I can trade it for a Bacon Cheeseburger.”

March 29, 11:21 am | [comment link]
3. phil swain wrote:

oy vey!

March 29, 11:32 am | [comment link]
4. Vatican Watcher wrote:

1. Father Dale, reread this:

The goal is to provide an enjoyable and educational Passover for Jews who are united by culture, art, music, literature, foods and folkways — but not faith.

That sounds more like Passover as a secular affirmation of secular humanism rather than one of faith.

March 29, 11:32 am | [comment link]
5. A Senior Priest wrote:

This is not a Pesach Seder, it is a parody of a Seder at best. Revisionism is the same everywhere.

March 29, 11:46 am | [comment link]
6. Fr. Dale wrote:

#4. Vatican Watcher,
OK, Then it is no longer truly a Seder or Passover meal. It just has the appearance of one and continues cultural Judaism. How is Rabbi Peter Schweitzer any different than those of outward appearance that Jesus spoke against? This is a history lesson but it is possible that it would lead to more investigation and faith down the road for some participants.

March 29, 11:59 am | [comment link]
7. Truly Robert wrote:

And to think that the RC Church objects to using wheat-free Eucharistic hosts, to accommodate communicants with food allergies!

“Mommy, why is there an orange on the Seder plate?”
“You’ll have to ask your other mommy.”
“Dear, please stop calling me the other mommy. I prefer to be called the alternative to daddy.”
“But why is there an orange on the plate?”
“It goes well with shrimp chow mein.”

March 29, 12:12 pm | [comment link]
8. Philip Snyder wrote:

Interesting.  “Secular” or “Humanist” Jews celebrating God’s great act of Feedom from Slavery in Egypt.

It would be interesting to read the Haggadah to see if God or the Lord is mentioned anywhere.  Is the story of the 10 plagues recited?  Is the story of unleavened bread told?

“Why is this night different from all other nights?”
“Because this night we celebrate the goodness of the Egyptians who gave us lots of gold and set us free by their own accord.”

Phil Snyder

March 29, 1:55 pm | [comment link]
9. sophy0075 wrote:

So why not also a ham and swiss sandwich on the Rabbi’s Seder plate? Gevalt!

March 29, 5:35 pm | [comment link]
10. C. Wingate wrote:

Why does it always have to be Relevance?

March 29, 7:01 pm | [comment link]
11. Fr. Dale wrote:

#11. C. Wingate,
Why does it always have to be Relevance? That’s a good question. Perhaps it is because what is happening now is where it is at for most folks. Have you attended a non denominational mega church lately?

March 29, 7:22 pm | [comment link]
12. Philip Snyder wrote:

The quest for relevance is like the quest for cool.  If you are looking for it, you will never find it.  If you try for it you will only end up as the opposite.
Christianity isn’t cool because it is relevant.
Christianity isn’t cool.
Christianity is better than cool.  Christianity is true.
And that’s pretty cool.

Phil Snyder

March 29, 8:25 pm | [comment link]
13. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Ironically, perhaps, if “half” of American Jews are secular or cultural Jews as opposed to observant or religious ones, the proportion in Israel is by all accounts even lower.  However, empirical data is beginning to build up that indicates that the future for non-observant Jews isn’t very promising, in that intermarriage with Gentiles and general assimilation into the surrounding culture is taking an especially heavy toll on nominal or merely cultural Jews.

But this kind of trendy, politically correct nonsense really isn’t anything new in western Judaism.  Just go back and read about the founding of Reform Judaism in the late 1800s (like the famous/infamous Pittsburgh Platform of 1885).  But as always, a policy of trying to appease one’s mortal enemies never works.  Authentic Judaism is inherently exclusive, as is genuine Christianity, in the sense of holding that there is only one true God and only one way to please him and live faithfully in covenant with him.  And our relativist culture just hates that.

May our Jewish friends and neighbors be richly blessed.  And may they eventually come to find true, eternal liberation from all the powers of sin and death in Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel.  And may we Christians who’ve been grafted into the true vine rejoice to rediscover our Jewish roots.

David Handy+

March 29, 9:53 pm | [comment link]
14. William P. Sulik wrote:

Amen, Fr. Handy.  One of the best relationships I have had in recent years is with the husband of one of my wife’s friends - they are a Jewish family and I have learned so much from him - it is a wonderful relationship because we can be very open about our faith and ask probing questions of each other.  I find that I have more in common with him than I did my nominally Episcopalian friends in other churches.

March 30, 8:19 am | [comment link]
15. Fr. Dale wrote:

#13 and 14.
I had a wonderful conversation the other day with a friend of ours who is Jewish. She had never heard of how we see ourselves as including their history too. It seems to me that those in the Liturgical Churches have cues that help them experience closer ties to their Jewish roots than other denominations. With the inclusion of the O.T. Lesson and the Psalms in the daily office and lectionary and the connection of the Eucharist to the Passover meal. When I sing the Exsultet (P. 286-287 BCP) in Easter Vigil, we are reminded of when we crossed the Red Sea and that Christ is our Passover Lamb. The letter to the Hebrews is a wonderful exposition of this relationship with one another and God by faith.

March 30, 9:37 am | [comment link]
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