Women’s Seder redefines women’s role
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Women’s Seder redefines women’s role

One thing you will not see on the Seder plate at the Women’s Seder at the JCC is an orange.- The by-now-apocryphal story goes something like this: A woman (ostensibly Susannah Herschel, the Jewish feminist and scholar) was speaking from the bima (pulpit) in a synagogue, when a man shouted, "A woman belongs on a bima like an orange belongs on a Seder plate."

Wanting to add feminist rituals to the family tradition, years ago,-I called Dr. Herschel and asked about the story behind the orange. What she told me was a very different tale.

She had once been invited to a lesbian Seder at Oberlin College. There, the women placed a bread crust on the Seder plate to describe their exclusion from-the mainstream,-an act-Herschel-found unacceptable. But it got her thinking about the different, marginalized people and the "varying-groups"- who comprise the Jewish nation. In particular, she thought about widows and divorcees who are rarely invited to-lifecycle events and major Jewish holiday get-togethers, like the Seder service. She realized that the Jewish nation is like an orange, with many sections creating the whole. That’s when she began putting an orange on her Seder plate.

The explanation of "many creating the whole" is offered, and the orange is broken up, blessed (using "borey pri ha etz" — Creator of the fruit of the tree), and distributed just before the main meal, after the "koreych," the sandwich of bitter herbs, is served.

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