“And justice shall be revealed like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” (Amos 5:24)
Every year before Passover, members of the seder committee for the Baltimore branch of Jews United for Justice contemplate a particular social justice issue to explore. For this year’s seder, Adina Potter Yoe, co-chair of the committee, says the decision was unanimous — to focus on water justice.
“It will be more of a community experience than a religious experience,” says co-chair Lisa Firnberg, “a great way to educate our community in a format with which they’re familiar.”
The seder will be held March 31 from 4 to 6 p.m. at Chevrei Tzedek Congregation at the Edward A. Myerberg Center, 3101 Fallstaff Road in Northwest Baltimore.
“Every year, we partner with a different synagogue to host the seder,” says Firnberg. “We think about what issue will most resonate with our group and how it connects to Passover story themes.”
The first “freedom seder” was organized in 1969 by Baltimore native Arthur Waskow, a political activist and future rabbi, in a church basement in Washington, D.C. The seder, held on the one-year anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., drew 800 people of all faiths and races, inspiring generations of Jews to incorporate contemporary social justice themes and concepts into their seders.
This year will be JUFJ’s sixth annual volunteer-led social justice seder. A grassroots organization, JUFJ is committed to repairing the world by advocating for social, racial and economic equality. Previous JUFJ seders focused on such issues as police accountability, local environmental concerns and migrant justice.
Firnberg says her committee chose water justice as the theme for this year’s seder because “water affordability has become a major issue in Baltimore, where water rates have doubled in recent years, and some city and county residents can’t afford them. Many residents have received inaccurate bills, and there is not a way to hold the city or state accountable.”
Firnberg says elected officials and Baltimore residents who have been impacted by water issues will attend and speak at the seder. Members of the Baltimore Right to Water Coalition and Food and Water Watch-Maryland will also be represented at the gathering.
“We will retell the ancient story of Jewish oppression to liberation,” says Potter Yoe. “[But] we will connect [Passover’s themes] to contemporary struggles for liberation in Baltimore. Our interpretation of the Four Questions and the Four Children will be different. We’ll talk about the Ten Plagues of water justice, and instead of the plague of darkness, we’ll talk about the consequences of water injustice. We’ll talk about a different water-related issue with each cup of wine.”
The seder’s primary objective will be “to educate and guide people through action steps they can take” to promote water justice in Baltimore and around the world,” says Firnberg, who will lead the seder with Potter Yoe and others.
The water justice seder, which is open to the general community, is “not meant to replace your family seder,” says Firnberg. “It probably won’t be as long and may not include every portion. We’ll hit on the [Haggadah’s] highlights.”
While this seder will be different from all other seders, attendees will have the opportunity to enjoy kosher, vegetarian and vegan Passover delicacies prepared by the Eden Café. There will also be entertainment by a klezmer band, opportunities to meet new people and babysitting for young children.
In the past, Potter Yoe says JUFJ seders have attracted approximately 150 guests. But organizers hope for an even bigger crowd of attendees at this year’s seder, which will be held less than three weeks before the start of the Passover season on April 19.
“Our hope,” says Firnberg, “is to inspire people to talk about [water justice] issues with their families at their own seders in a few weeks.”
For information and to purchase tickets, visit jufj.org/seder.