‘Miriam Seder’ celebrates women’s roles

‘Miriam Seder’ celebrates women’s roles

Reciting the Four Questions with Rabbi Melinda Panken, left, are Zahava Lievlich, center, and Rona Greenberg.
Reciting the Four Questions with Rabbi Melinda Panken, left, are Zahava Lievlich, center, and Rona Greenberg.

With an eye to acknowledging the roles women played in the Exodus and fulfill in Jewish life today, Hadassah at Stonebridge held its first Miriam Seder April 6.

One hundred fifty guests attended the event at Congregation B’nai Tikvah in North Brunswick, with Rabbi Melinda Panken of Temple Shaari Emeth of Manalapan officiating. The seder, Haggada, and a journal — with proceeds benefiting Hadassah Hospital — were produced entirely by chapter members.

“The chapter has been in existence only since May 2009 and has grown from 25 to 125 members,” said chapter copresident Glenda Beller. Her copresident, Suzie Klein-Eisner, lauded Hadassah’s achievements teaching and rescuing people throughout the world.

Panken, guitar in hand, guided the women in retelling the Exodus story with echoes of feminist struggles. She emphasized that Passover is the ideal holiday to highlight past and present concerns about the inclusion and equality of women in Jewish tradition and community.

In the materials prepared for the seder, Rhoda Cutler, the chapter’s vice president of education and strategic planning, told participants, “biased language and content in the traditional Haggada were replaced with the role women played in the Exodus story.”

Event chair Susan Pomerantz pointed to the inclusion on the table of a “Miriam’s cup,” filled with water to symbolize the well that miraculously followed Moses’ sister to “nurture the Israelites.” An orange on the seder table, she explained, symbolized solidarity with people who have been marginalized throughout history.

The women sang and danced with tambourines to recall Miriam’s “Song of Freedom” after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea in flight from Egypt.

According to Pomerantz, “A feeling of warmth pervaded the room as the story was told, candles were lit, hands washed, ritual foods were tasted, and prayers were recited.”

She said that 25 Hadassah at Stonebridge members participated in the creation of the Miriam Seder, contributing expertise in such areas as graphic design, fund-raising, calligraphy, and other skills. The festive meal came from Classical Caterers.

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