Progressive Jews launch open invitation to a “Liberation Seder” to honour the struggle for liberation of Palestinians

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At Passover Jewish families celebrate with a ritual family dinner called a “Seder” at which the story of the liberation of the ancient Hebrews from oppression in the land of Egypt is recited. A Hamilton Ontario Rabbi invites Jews and non-Jews to come to a Seder with a modern twist. Read more.

rabbi lucia

Rabbi Lucia Pizarro is the spiritual director of the Jewish Liberation Theology Institute

By guest columnist Rabbi Lucia Pizarro

At Passover Jewish families celebrate with a ritual family dinner called a “Seder” at which the story of the liberation of the ancient Hebrews from oppression in the land of Egypt is recited. It is customary among Jews to invite guests, both Jewish and non-Jewish, to join their Passover celebration.

Our Liberation Seder draws on the legacy of a historical figure – Rabbi Akiva – who used the Pesach Seder to plan a revolutionary struggle against the Romans.

As modern Jews committed to current liberation struggles, the ritual of the Seder gives us an opportunity to contend not only with legacies of oppression but also with current suffering that we survive, that we perpetrate and in which we are complicit.

Traditionally the Passover Seder tells the story of the liberation of the ancient Hebrews from oppression in the land of Egypt. In our “liberation Seder”, we tell the story of the struggle for liberation of the Palestinian people.

We have been conducting liberation Seders since 2009 for Jewish activists in Ontario who work for justice in Palestine, and who are estranged from the organized Jewish community.

The first Seder had 6 participants, the second Seder had 13 participants (both of these in Toronto), the third Seder had 26 participants (in Hamilton). After that we were obliged to take the Seder out of our home to a larger venue. In 2013 we had a Seder in Hamilton for 80 people. Some of those people came from Toronto. We realized we needed to do two Seders a year: one in Hamilton and one in Toronto. Now we hold Seders not only Hamilton and Toronto but also London!

What happens in the Liberation Seder?

We always have all participants sit at the same table. During the Seder the leader reads the Haggadah and asks for volunteers to read certain paragraphs. We do all the required rituals and then we eat specific items each of which has a symbolic meaning.

As allies in the struggle for liberation of Palestine, we take our lead from the Palestinian people. The story of the struggle for liberation of Palestine is therefore told by Palestinians. We normally have a Palestinian speaker to talk about the theme of the Seder. This year the theme is two folded: the Great March of Return (since it started on the evening of the first night of Passover last year) and Palestinian Political Prisoners Day (which is commemorated on April 17th).

Dates and locations

  • April 22, Hamilton;
  • April 24, London;
  • April 26th, Toronto.

Our Seders are dedicated to a free Palestine and the liberation of all peoples. And YOU are invited! Come join us. You can find out more at http://jelithin.ca/

CTIP guest columnist Rabbi Lucia Pizarro is the spiritual director of the Jewish Liberation Theology Institute in Hamilton, Ontario. She was born in Mexico City, where she became qualified to practice law. She completed an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Philosophy at the University of Essex in the UK. She followed her academic passion for Jewish thought with four years working for social justice in Palestine. She recently became a mother and a Rabbi. 

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Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) encourages and accepts guest columnists to promote a thoughtful discussion among Canadians on the Israel/Palestine issue, including a well informed and sensitive discussion about solutions. CTIP encourages serious people who disagree with any column to make comment. Disagreements respectfully offered are welcome. To learn more about what CTIP does, contact us at chair.ctip@gmail.com.

 

16 comments

  1. “Let my people go into an independent sovereign state of Palestine adjacent to the state of Israel with hrights minority rights and democracy for all Jews and Arabs living between the sea and the river.”

    Liberation theology at it’s best since Archbishop Romero in El Salvador challenged the status quo and his words are broadcast to this day.

  2. The traditional Seder is a reading of the Haggadah, which is the story of a “Great March of Return” and should help the Jews who participate to understand why Gazans now want to make a similar return. Unfortunately, it has mislead generations of Jews because the last words of most Seders was “Next Year in Jerusalem”. This led many to believe that Jerusalem was built by Jews and rightfully belonged to Jews. That, in their minds, justified the return to Palestine and the seizure of Jerusalem. However, their belief was wrong. Jerusalem was originally built by others and, even though Jews sometimes controlled it, it was always shared. The lesson of the liberation Seder must be the importance of sharing rather than controlling the city and the land around it.

    1. I think you are right. Every place, including the place where we reside, is an uneven combination of physical reality and subjective interpretations of that reality. For the most part, places are constructs of a society with a specific agenda. The words Zion, Jerusalem and The Land of Israel, for their part, refer both to a real place and to an intangible concept. But in our modern relationship to these concepts, and to these places, we do not distinguish between the abstract concept and the actual place. This overlapping of meaning leads to the confusion, and misconception, that the modern nation-state of Israel has always been sought by Jews since time immemorial.
      https://www.academia.edu/4349946/A_Burning_Love_of_Zion

  3. This is cultural appropriation.

    None of the three person involved in Jelithin (the organizers of that Liberation Seder) is Jewish.
    Lucia Pizzaro, Robert Allison and Sandra Ruch are all self proclaimed Jews, but other Jews will not consider them Jewish because they are not Halachaicly Jewish

    They remind me of the dentist from Seinfeld ( portrayed by the great Brian Cranston) who converted to Judaism so he could tell jokes about Jews, only these three guys never even converted to Judaism

    Their website is chuck full of mistakes and misunderstandings of Jewish history and Jewish thought

    For example : Sandra Ruch is writing that she is working toward her ordination as Kohenet (!)
    assuming that she is indeed a descendent of Aaron the priest of the tribe of Levi (a pre-requisite to be Cohen) she will only be able to be ordained as a Kohenet if and when the temple is built, and for that to happen the Temple Mount would have to be cleared first from the dome of the rock
    I truly hope that something like that would never happen.

    1. Ahik, Since your statements directly contradict some of the statements by the organizers, it would help the rest of us if we knew your sources. Particularly interesting would be your sources for the personal information about the three organizers. Do you question the authority of the people who did the conversions and ordination or are you saying that those ceremonies never took place? Please share more of what you know and tell us how you know it.

      I personally question your statement that “other Jews will not consider them Jewish because they are not Halachaicly Jewish”. Are you saying that some Jews will not consider them Jewish or that all Jews will not consider them Jewish?

      1. Go on, call Jelithin and ask them:
        Is Lucia Pizzaro and her partner Robert Allison are Jewish *according to the Halacha*
        I think that this is a legitimate question given that they claim to be be Jewish spiritual leaders

      2. Ahik, You made some very strong statements. Surely, you had some basis for those remarks and could share it. Other than your statements, I have no reason to question their background. Judaism is a very old religion with a lot of variations and authorities that question each other. I have watched a few people wearing different big black hats arguing about each other’s authenticity. I am interested in their beliefs more than the historical road to their beliefs. You raised the issue and if you think it is important enough to discuss, you should provide authoritative sources. If you can’t or won’t, I will let it drop. I remain interested in your answer to the question in the second paragraph of my posting.

      3. Ahik, You made some very strong statements. Surely, you had some basis for those remarks and could share it. Other than your statements, I have no reason to question their background. Judaism is a very old religion with a lot of variations and authorities that question each other. I have watched too many people wearing different big black hats arguing about each other’s authenticity. I am interested in their beliefs more than the historical road to their beliefs. You raised the issue and if you think it is important enough to discuss, you should provide authoritative sources. If you can’t or won’t, I will let it drop. I remain interested in your answer to the question in the second paragraph of my posting.

    2. A Jewish priestess, as we understand the term, is different from a kohen, or male descendant of the Aaroide priesthood. Nor is she the equivalent of a bat kohen (a daughter of a male descedant of the Aaronide priesthood) though a bat kohen may choose to be a priestess. A priestess may act as a rabbi, and a rabbi may act as a priestess (the same with other clergy such as cantors) but the two roles are not the same. We do not intend to supplant either the rabbinate or the hereditary priesthood, but to supplement and complement both.
      http://www.kohenet.com/mission

    3. Sandra, Robert and I are halakhically Jewish. I was ordained as a Rabbi by the Jewish Theological Seminary in May 2017. As a Conservative Rabbi, I am a member (in good standing) of the Rabbinical Assembly. Is there any other personal information people would like me to share in this forum?

      Maybe Ahik is conflating being a Zionist with being Jewish. As it turns out, there are many Jews in the world that are not Zionist, for example Satmar, the largest Hasidic sect in the world. In 2017, 20,000 Orthodox Jews (a larger crowd than that of that year’s AIPAC Policy Conference), filled Brooklyn’s Barclays Center aimed at showing the world that “We feel very strongly that there should not be a State of Israel before the Messiah comes.” Another such gathering will take place tomorrow at Queen’s Arthur Ashe Stadium to “support the anti-Zionist schools in the holy land.” This is only one example of the many ways in which it is possible to be both Jewish and non-Zionist.

  4. Much appreciated Peter. It is so important to have the positive actions too. Margaret Navarro

    Sent from my iPhone

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  5. Beautiful culture, You have the honor and support of all the true Christians.. I would consider myself most blessed if I have ever have a chance to serve a jew in need

  6. What a beautiful way to take the meaning of the customary Seder ritual and celebrate it in the modern world. I think commitment to current liberation struggles follows simply and logically from the ancient Hebrew liberation story. I grew up in a secular Christian household where my mother read us small children the Passover story (and many other Bible stories). The enduring lesson and sentiment is about decency and fairness in the human family. Many liberation stories need to be carried out (created), and then celebrated. Thank you Rabbi Lucia Pizarro.

  7. This is a beautiful expression of faith, Rabbi. Our (common) G-d teaches us that Loving Kindness, acceptance and Love for all is the true religion. I believe your actions speak loudly to that and I thank you for that. Sending you Love and Light…

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