Fight anti-Semitism by inviting a non-Jew to Seder

Written By kom nampuldu on Minggu, 29 Maret 2015 | 18.18

The ground is shifting under the feet of European Jews, with anti-Semitism rising up around them.

We American Jews are rightly concerned at this alarming news. We fear the spread of this new particularly virulent form of anti-Semitism to our own shores. We feel disgusted but helpless at alarming news reports.

What can we do?

I believe that each of us has an obligation to fight anti-Semitism, just as we should stand up to any other deeply ingrained prejudice that we encounter. To do this, we must combat the ignorance that feeds the disease of prejudice.

I'd like to suggest that the task is not as daunting as it would seem. There is something simple each of us can do as a start this Passover — which commemorates the liberation of Jews from Egyptian slavery.

I am from the growing Jewish school of thought that embraces inclusion.

This year, invite non-Jews to your Seder. Seders are the ceremonial dinners held on the first two nights of the eight-day festival — starting this Friday, April 3 — featuring symbolic staples such matzo, unleavened bread to show how the Jews left Egypt in a rush and without time to let their bread rise; bitter herbs, representative of the bitterness of slavery; and charoset, an apple-walnut mixture that's a reminder of the mortar used by slaves to build the pyramids.

Our goal is for as many Jewish families as possible to invite an average of two non-Jews to a Seder this year.

If every family does this, some six million non-Jews will experience a Seder this year, and at the very least taste traditional Passover foods and learn of their significance — not to mention gain an invaluable window into Jewish life and values, and a better understanding of the connection Jews feel to the land of Israel.

(Here's how I calculated this number: With some 14 million Jews on the planet today, I estimate there could be two million Seders held on the the first night of Passover, and another million for the second Seder the following evening.)

There are other benefits to inviting non-Jews to your Seder table beyond countering anti-Semitism present and future.

Including non-Jews encourages us to make our Seders lively and accessible, and may help us discover new folds of the Exodus story.

Photo: Shutterstock

I know that what I advocate is contrary to traditional Jewish law.

Technically, Jews are not supposed to invite non-Jews to their Seder table. The primary reason for this prohibition stems from a ruling that only permits a Jew to cook for others who observe the laws of a holiday.

The only exception to this is if Passover falls on Shabbat, when one is not permitted to cook in any case. Some also believe it is inappropriate to share the paschal lamb or matzo with a non-Jew.

But like many Jewish laws, these have been subject to a millennium of rabbinical interpretation. A majority of rabbis today would not censure a Jew who invites non-Jews to a Seder, and have even drawn on other traditional sources to circumvent this prohibition.

I am from the growing Jewish school of thought that embraces inclusion, and to my ears, these old laws and strictures are painfully out of touch with the meaning of Judaism.

I see inviting non-Jews to Seders as a mitzvah, and I believe the majority of Jews would agree.


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