Rabbi Brian Field, Senior Rabbi;
Dr. Caryn Aviv, Associate Director and Rabbinic Candidate;
Wendy Aronson, Executive Director
Passover celebrates the master story of Jewish spirituality – becoming free. An 8th night Seder highlights the final and most challenging aspect of liberation in the Exodus story – the crossing of the sea - the journey from the familiar into the unknown. Multi-sensory and participatory, the Seder is an ideal vehicle to experience Judaism at its most engaged and dynamic. Each year, JYW’s Seder is organized around a different way into Jewish identity and wisdom including: racial justice, Conversos, the environment, Kabbalah, social action and Buddhism. Average 150 of all ages attend JYW’s 8th Night Seder each year.
1. The form of the Passover Seder itself is a timeless work of rabbinic genius – a multi-sensory, multi-generational, non-age-ist, maximally participatory format centered around questioning and infinitely adaptable to almost any theme in Jewish life
2. The content of the Passover Seder – the deeply Jewish and completely universal theme of the liberation journey
3. The powerful story/myth of the crossing of the sea – a metaphor for the universal theme of leaving behind the known for the unknown.
4. The wisdom of the Seder to provide the questions but not the answers. Participants get to experience a Judaism where they get to discover their own answers.
5. The Exodus narrative’s inclusion of the mixed multitude who came out of Egypt gives Jewish authenticity to outreach to all Jews and loved ones.
JYW’s 8th Night Community Passover Seder is part of a larger mission of outreach to Jews and loved ones who have otherwise felt Judaism to be inaccessible or unwelcoming. By altering the themes of our 8th Night Seder each year, we offer opportunities for Jews and loved ones with a wide range of identities and histories to experience the personal relevance of Judaism.
From participants’ verbal and written feedback:
1. An opportunity to celebrate Passover for those who don’t have family or friends with whom to celebrate.
2. An opportunity to celebrate Passover creatively and meaningfully for those whose family and friends conduct rote and uninspired Seders.
3. An opportunity to experience Judaism as forward looking or as personally relevant – discovering that Judaism speaks to me!
4. Discovering that Judaism isn’t just for Jews, but speaks to the human condition and is potentially available to anyone.
- “resonant and relevant to all members of my interfaith family!”
- “’Let all people go’ was a great theme.”
- “Judaism came alive for the first time!”
- “I’ve never been able to integrate my Buddhism and Judaism before.”
- “I got to think about leaving my own Mitzrayim.”
The deep wisdom at the heart of Jewish holidays such as Passover is not accessible to many Jews and loved ones. Sadly, their experience of the holidays is simply that of a tradition that Jews happen to do. Translating rabbinic wisdom into current idioms and offering that wisdom through the narratives of non-normative Jewish identities is one way where JYW meets people where they are, wherever they are on their Jewish journeys. Offering Judaism in the language of other contemporary spiritualities can open people’s eyes, hearts and minds to Judaism as something that is alive, evolving, available, compelling and a spiritual resource for challenging times.
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