Women-Only Seder Held in Westmoreland County

By Helzel, Cynthia Bombach | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 14, 2008 | Go to article overview

Women-Only Seder Held in Westmoreland County


Helzel, Cynthia Bombach, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Every year observant Jews gather with family and friends to celebrate the beginning of Passover with a Seder, a ritual meal of symbolic foods and wine. Throughout the meal, passages are read from the Haggadah, a book of prayers and stories.

The Seder traditionally is presided over by a man. Until recently, women have been limited to preparing and serving the meal.

However, things are changing, especially in Reformed congregations. On Tuesday, Congregation Emanu-El Israel in Greensburg will host the first women-only Seder in Westmoreland County. The private event will be held at the synagogue on Main Street in Greensburg. About 50 women, including members and their guests, are expected to attend.

"We're taking another look at our history, and how women and men differ in their experience of it," said co-planner Terri Katzman. "What does everything mean for us?"

To answer that question, Katzman, along with Virginia Lieberman and Joyce Schenck, turned to women's Haggadahs that have been published since 1976, when the first women's Seders were held in New York and Jerusalem.

"This is not something we made up from scratch," Katzman said.

The evening will follow the basic order of a traditional Seder, but will use a women's Haggadah created for the occasion by Lieberman and Schenck. While the traditional Haggadah tells the story of Moses leading the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt, the women's version honors the important role that his sister, Miriam, played throughout the Exodus.

Other readings will focus on the stories of more recent women in Jewish history, including Anne Frank and Emma Lazarus, author of the poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty.

Although many of the women's stories are painful, the service maintains an intense focus on the goodness and hope of life. …

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