Community seders provide alternative holiday experience

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LGBTQ Seder, 2019
LGBTQ Seder, 2019 (Courtesy of Marc Wernick)

If a traditional family seder is not in the cards for this Pesach, an alternative community seder might be an unconventional way to cap off the last 12 unconventional months.

One alternative option is Baltimore’s Annual LGBTQ Seder.


“It’s an opportunity for our community to come together and tell our stories … from the closet to liberation,” said Marc Wernick, a lay leader at Bolton Street Synagogue, who has been working to organize Baltimore’s Annual LGBTQ Seder. “And to kind of put a queer lens on the Passover traditions.”

Thirteen organizations are participating in the online event, said Wernick. In addition to Bolton Street, this includes Chizuk Amuno Congregation, Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, Repair the World Baltimore and JPride Baltimore. The annual event was started by JPride at least five years ago, Wernick said.

Wernick expects about 75 participants to attend the seder, which will be free to the public.

According to Wernick, a resident of Baltimore’s Brewers Hill neighborhood, participants can expect to engage in alternative interpretations of Passover rituals, such as the Four Queer Children and the Ten Queer Plagues. In the Four Queer Children, the wise child asks, “What we are doing to achieve social justice?” and the wicked child asks, “What does this bothersome activism mean for you?”

Wernick hopes that attendees of the seder will be able “to really embrace their own personal liberation story, to be able to draw an analogy to their struggles and triumphs as an LGBT Jew within the framework of the Passover liberation story and … to feel the collective power we have as a group to be a mechanism for change.”

Another alternative seder option is the Freedom Seder, which is jointly organized by Jews United for Justice and the Minnesota-based Jewish Community Action.

“It is a way to engage and connect with Jewish communities around Passover,” said Hannah Garelick, JUFJ’s D.C. community organizer, program assistant and avodah corps member. JCA has been organizing this seder for the past 19 years. Participants will use JCA’s Freedom Seder Passover Haggadah while hearing discussions on liberation, freedom and how it connects to the work done by the two organizations, Garelick said.

Garelick expects participants to be joining in from multiple areas of the country, including Baltimore, Washington, D.C., North Carolina and Minnesota. Among the seder’s speakers will be a leader from JUFJ’s Baltimore group, Garelick said, who will speak on the group’s work on water access in the local community.

“The general theme this year is that we’re coming from a really tough year and a really hard time, and that we’re starting to see the light and we’re starting to get to a better place in our world,” Garelick said.

“I hope that people feel connected to Jewish community and feel like we’re able to be together, even though we’re over Zoom again this year for Passover,” Garelick continued. In addition, she hopes participants “think about our own liberation stories of Passover and connection to the fights that are currently going on for social justice, and how those fights can be connected, and how we can learn from our history and learn from our stories and work for a better world.”

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