I love Passover — the food, the family, even the matzah for eight days. But most of all, the feminist activist in me loves making the story of the Exodus relevant in our times. The endless struggles from slavery to freedom, from oppression to liberation, from injustice to equality, are ever present and animate my haggadot and Passover table.
In the midst of my advocacy on behalf of Soviet Jewry, I was thrilled in 1974 to learn about a special reading, “The Matzah of Hope,” to add to my haggadah. It was the beginning of my collecting new and inspiring Passover texts and engaging my family and friends in exciting discussions during our seder.
In 1986, the American Jewish Committee and the Atlanta Black/Jewish Coalition began holding biennial seders. A new haggadah was created with historic and powerful readings from Anne Frank, Elie Wiesel, Martin Luther King, Jr., and other luminaries. We spoke about racism, anti-Semitism, and other-isms that separate us and dehumanize us. Singing “Let My People Go” with my African-American sisters and brothers was awesome.
My fondest memories are preparing materials for my women’s seders with the Ahavath Achim Synagogue Rosh Chodesh Group, NCJW [National Council of Jewish Women], my Black-Jewish Sisters Group and a special group of female interfaith leaders. As I prepared my haggadah this year for my Community Women’s Seder, co-sponsored with NCJW and Congregation Or Hadash, I added current challenges that enslave us. These include the assault on women’s reproductive rights, gun violence, voter suppression, unjust treatment of refugees and immigrants, and a rise in hateful rhetoric and action in our country and world.
As long as I am involved in the struggles against all forms of bigotry, violence and inequality, I will look forward to expressing my Jewish values and commitment to tikkun olam in words and prayers around my seder table in new and creative readings and haggadot.
Sherry Z. Frank is a community activist and former head of AJC Atlanta.