Today is DAY FIVE of the Omer.
Yesterday in a separate email, we announced the passing of Herman Seidel (aged 97), father of our Kol Dorot member, religious school teacher, and bar/bat mitzvah tutor Cammy Bourcier. As we extend Cammy our love and support, we might also reflect on Herman's remarkable life story as a member of the Resistance in Hungary during the Holocaust. I invite you to read this article, which Cammy published on the occasion of her father's 95th birthday.
Across the world, the generation of Holocaust survivors is passing. In the absence of these eyewitnesses, we will become the first generation of Jews tasked with the sacred responsibility of preserving and transmitting these stories as Jewish history.
But bearing history is what we Jews do. We just read in the Haggadah, "Even if all of us were wise, all of us understanding, all of us knowing the Torah, we would still be obligated to discuss the Exodus from Egypt; and everyone who discusses the Exodus from Egypt at length is praiseworthy." We might add: Everyone who engages with the history and memory of the Holocaust is praiseworthy. May the memory of Herman Seidel be a blessing.
Torah for Today
Rabbi David S. Widzer
For many years, my family has put an orange on our Seder plate. As with most of the other edible elements of the meal, it has a tradition and symbolism associated with it. It represents important Jewish values and conveys important lessons.
There are various stories as to the origin of this custom, and even stories about the stories (a living example of how events become legends become traditions). In our family, we explain that in the
early 1980s, a great teacher, Professor Susannah Heschel, heard of feminist Jews rejecting a rabbi’s declaration that lesbians have as much of a place in Judaism as bread on a seder plate. She wanted to suggest instead that Judaism was inclusive and welcoming and that Judaism was more fruitful when lesbian women and gay men are contributing and active members of Jewish life. And so she put an orange on her seder plate.
Professor Heschel writes, “Oranges have many segments and they stick together. If you peel an orange, you never find a segment missing. So too a genuine community: no one is excluded or marginalized. Eat the orange out of solidarity with gay and lesbian Jews, with queer and transgender Jews, with Jews who experience exclusion and marginalization, including those who tell me they are told they don't ‘look Jewish’ (isn't that absurd), or feel badly that they don't ‘know enough’ (also ridiculous).”
We put an orange on our seder plate as a symbol of inclusion and transformation. An orange contains within it the seeds of its own rebirth. For our ongoing renewal, the Jewish community must be inclusive of all who have been invisible or marginalized or silenced – women and men, gay men and lesbian women, Jews by birth and Jews by choice, non-Jews who have thrown in their lot with the Jewish people, and so many others. And like the parts of the orange we spit out, we pledge to rid ourselves of homophobia, ignorance, and fear of those who are different, as we shape the future of the Jewish people together.
In Case You Missed It (or Want to Repeat It)
Reaching 130 homes and almost 350 participants, Kol Dorot's Community Seder was a remarkable event—a much-needed highlight of our first Kol Dorot year. (Skip around the whole video above, or jump right to Elijah's visit.)
Rabbi Noah shares one his favorite prayer melodies, the Havdallah service setting byRabbi Noam Katz. Lorry and Franny provide the usual mix of cuteness and chaos.