July 17, 2019

Fighting Antisemitism, One Seder at a Time

“A new initiative called 2 for Seder has a catchy slogan: “Pushing back on anti-Semitism with love and matzah.” The premise: Invite two people who’ve never been to a Seder—non-Jews in particular—to come to yours, “with the intent of building bridges and creating understanding about our Jewish values,” in the words of its creator, Marnie Fienberg.

Our texts and tradition are passionate about welcoming the stranger. “You shall love the stranger as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt,” Leviticus says. “Do not oppress the stranger or the poor, and do not plot evil against each other in your hearts,” Zechariah says. The Seder itself is a performative storytelling event about the experience of being the Other, during which we open our door for Elijah to express the hope of ushering in a messianic age of kindness, peace, and refuge. One way to pitch in on the creation of such a world is by not being strangers to each other.

Fienberg came up with the idea for 2 for Seder while in mourning for her mother-in-law Joyce, who was murdered at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue this past October. “It was still during shloshim [the first 30 days of mourning] that I realized I’d put on 12 Passovers but had never done it without Joyce,” she told me in an interview. “Joyce was very detail-oriented about Passover. She’d check in with me in December or January and she’d start with the guest list—in theory my house should only fit around 20 people, but we usually had 25 or 30—and she’d say, ‘I’ll be making this many matzo balls, half whole wheat and half regular.’ My father-in-law had celiac and for a while she did a gluten-free matzo ball, which is a disgrace, and she gave up and did noodles, and thank God. Go that way if you’re gluten-free.” Fienberg still has the last batch of her mother-in-law’s matzo balls—made for Rosh Hashanah—in her freezer.”

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