In kitchens around the world this week people are planning and preparing for their Passover celebrations starting Friday, April 22. The holiday commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. The meal, the Seder, includes the retelling of the story, often accompanied by songs and traditional foods, particularly the eating of matzo, the unleavened bread the Jews made in their hasty retreat from Egypt. It’s the night we ask the Four Questions that begin “why is this night different from all other nights?
I’m hosting a group of friends on Friday, most who aren’t Jewish. I don’t know if they’ve been to a seder before or not. I love the holiday foods (including my mother’s matzo ball soup) and enjoy the cooking involved. I’ve tinkered with the Haggadah, the Jewish text that details the order of the seder and explains the symbols, to make it more inclusive of all people seeking freedom. In addition to the traditional symbols on my seder plate, I’ll add an orange, a symbol created to represent any people who feel marginalized. Spitting out the seeds (perhaps not literally) is meant to remind us to rid ourselves of hatred and prejudice. I’ve added some modern plagues, like hunger, pollution, and bigotry to the traditional list of 10 that were inflicted upon the Egyptians. When we sing “Dayeinu,” the song that celebrates the many miracles of Passover noting that any one of them alone would have been enough, I’ve added some verses that address contemporary issues. I hope my guests like it!
On Saturday, we’re traveling to my sister Madeline’s, for dinner, and also to attend the World Premiere Concept Opera, I am Anne Hutchinson/I am Harvey Milk, written and composed by our friend Andrew Lippa. The production weaves weaves together the lives of 17th century women’s rights activist Anne Hutchinson and 1970s’ gay rights leader Harvey Milk. An apt celebration indeed.