Celebrating Their History Women Give Traditional Seder a Modern Twist

By Tatum, Christine | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), April 14, 1996 | Go to article overview

Celebrating Their History Women Give Traditional Seder a Modern Twist


Tatum, Christine, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Christine Tatum Daily Herald Staff Writer

Vicki Lachmann draped an arm around her 10-year-old daughter, Jordan, and pulled her close. Together they had tasted the bitter herb and unleavened bread Jews eat during the Passover Seder ceremony to mark their escape from slavery in Egypt more than 3,500 years ago.

But it's sad that freedom hasn't guaranteed equality in Judaism for women, Lachmann said.

"We are hardly mentioned in teachings about the exodus," she added. "Our voices have been lost all this time because men documented history. They told their stories, but left ours out."

To celebrate the role women played in leading their families from bondage and now play in preserving their beliefs, Lachmann, Jordan and nearly 100 other Jewish women attended a not-so-traditional Seder and feast served Wednesday at Beth Tikvah Congregation in Hoffman Estates.

Men, who typically lead the yearly ceremony, were conspicuously absent. Only female voices echoed throughout the Reform temple to sing songs of praise to God and recite blessings.

Other differences marked the celebration's uniqueness. Young girls giggled at the unusual sight of orange wedges tilted precariously alongside the more traditional parsley, horseradish and lamb shank.

"A prominent Jewish woman was once told she had as much right to be leading a prayer service as an orange had on a Seder plate," said Barbara Bernstein, the temple's director of education. "So there it is. We wrestled with it, and we just felt it symbolizes that we're here, (and) that we should be heard."

Many Jewish women, especially those in Reform congregations, are struggling with anonymity in a religion they are traditionally responsible for passing on to their children. They lament that many of the stories, songs and customs of Judaism were written for men by men, and they want more inclusive language used during services.

One way Jewish women have achieved greater inclusion is through a new version of the Haggadah, the traditional Seder manual, that places emphasis on women's historical strengths and triumphs rather than their weaknesses.

For example, Bernstein used an updated version of Dayenu, an ancient Passover blessing, when reciting to the crowd before her.

"If Eve had been created as Adam's equal and not been considered a temptress, Dayenu (that would have been enough)," she recited. "If women had written the Haggadah and placed our mothers where they belonged, Dayenu."

Melanie Goldish, Beth Tikvah's executive vice president, said she's grateful for the newly developed feminine twists now becoming a part of Passover. Goldish was raised by Orthodox parents and remembers the long Saturday services where she and her mother were forced to sit apart from her father. …

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