who don't want meat on their tables.
• An olive for peace in the Middle
• A crust of bread to express the
exclusion of women and homosexuals
from parts of the Jewish community.
Or an orange, for the same reason.
• An artichoke, a symbol for inter-
• A plantain, symbolizing oppres-
sion in Cuba.
• An empty picture frame or an
unlit candle to symbolize China's sup-
pression of Tibet, including its ban on
pictures of the Dalai Lama.
• Fair Trade chocolate or cocoa
beans, a symbol of forced labor.
• During the Civil War, a brick. It
was an innovation by a Union soldier
who was unable, during a battle, to
But modern-day slavery has become
the seder-night issue du jour. And the
seder, says Rabbi Tsvi Blanchard, a
faculty member at the New York-based
Clal-The National Jewish Center for
Learning and Leadership, "has become
a public forum. It's a great time to
make a statement."
These symbols are intended to make
a link between the biblical story of the
Jews leaving Egypt, and participants'
contemporary narratives. Their lasting
"Some things are of the moment;
some can have lasting significance,' says
Rabbi Michael Strassfeld, spiritual lead-
er of the Society for the Advancement
of Judaism synagogue in New York City
and co-author of the take-Judaism-
into-your-own-hands series of Jewish
Catalogs a generation ago.
"Here's a place where it makes
sense,' Strassfeld says of the tomato,
adding that seder plate innovations
are popular because seders take place
in people' homes, where "there is no
rabbi to say 'Don't do that It's up to
"The whole idea" of the seder ritu-
als, says Rabbi Steve Gutow, president
of the Jewish Council for Public
Affairs, is to give the message that
"it isn't something that happened
thousands of years ago." Slavery and
oppression didn't end at the Exodus.
The number of people working now as
slaves "is increasing — dramatically,"
Will Rabbis for Human Rights sug-
gest a tomato on the seder plate again
Probably, says Rabbi Rachel Kahn-
Troster, who runs North American
programs for Rabbis for Human
Rights-North America. Unless the
need for the symbolism —slavery —
"It will be great," she says, "if we can
take it off."
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