RABBI SHIRA STUTMAN (Director of Jewish Programming, Historic Sixth & I Synagogue): The story of the seder, the story of freedom and justice, is a universal story. It’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that just about everything we do stems from this story—this idea that we were slaves, and we were freed, and now it’s our responsibility to work for freedom for people all over the world. The whole thing is outlined a lot like a traditional Jewish seder with all the different pieces of the liturgy.
WOMAN AT SEDER: "Moses goes back to Egypt and comes in front of Pharaoh and basically says, 'Let my people go.'"
RABBI STUTMAN: But in addition to the traditional Hebrew and biblical passages, we also have readings from important African-American leaders.
REV. WILLIAM H LAMAR IV (Senior Pastor, Metropolitan AME Church): For me, the reason why my culture appropriated this story is because in coming to America, part of white supremacy, part of slavery, was to disconnect us from our names, from our culture, from our religion, from our stories, and so we appropriated this story in the absence of the cultural memory of our own so that we would have a God who was against slavery and for liberation and against imperial power, and we would have a people who were moving from slavery into freedom. So that story has resonated in the lives of people in black churches since black churches began. Freedom and justice are at the root of the proclamation of the Gospel, and from learning from my friend here, Shira, it’s at the root of God’s revelation to Israel.
RABBI STUTMAN: One of the goals of the Passover seder is to engender as many questions as possible. So the work of this Black-Jewish seder is the work of asking more questions of our own selves, of our community, of other communities, and in doing so hoping that those questions lead us to create a better world.
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As Jews begin their eight-day celebration of Passover tonight (April 3), we visit a seder in Washington, D.C. that brought together African Americans and Jews to share the ritual meal. We spoke with clergy from both communities about the shared values of justice and liberation they find in the Exodus story.