In the 1980’s and 1990’s, women’s seders were more popular. They celebrate the contributions that women made to Jewish survival and the flight from Egypt and slavery. At most women’s seders, an orange is added to the Seder plate. Many reasons have been given as the orange on the seder plate has joined our many myths and folk lore. This explanation is taken from a women’s seder that was done at Temple Shir Shalom in Buffalo Grove, Illinois in 1997:
“Years ago, when women were first ordained rabbis, Susannah Heschel gave a speech in Florida.
After Heschel spoke of women’s emerging equality in Jewish life, a man arose in anger exclaiming, “A woman belongs on the bimah (pulpit) as much as an orange belongs on the Seder plate!”
Since attending that Seder, I have added an orange to our family Seder plate every year. This year, the orange will be a poignant reminder of all the rights women stand to lose if we are not vigilant and organized. This year I will put out a bowl of cuties (mini tangerines) instead to remind us of how people fail to take women seriously. I will cut them with my E.R.A. knife, the knife I used many years ago to open a box of fliers in Bloomington, Illinois where some of us had gone to publicize a rally in Chicago for the E.R.A. We’ll remember that 36 states are proposing laws to outlaw contraception and that affirmative action is under attack. We’ll remind ourselves that the E.R.A. was never ratified and so constitutionally, women were never granted full citizenship. We’ll remind ourselves that we have to strive to further and protect freedom in our own time and place.
At the same time, we’ll feel united with people around the world. We’ll rejoice with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi who was recently elected to Parliament in Myanmar formerly known as Burma after almost two decades under house arrest. We’ll pray with the women of Saudi Arabia that by next year at this time, they will all have their driver’s licenses. We’ll pray that women everywhere are safe. We’ll pray for a peaceful and safe world for all people.
I want to wish everyone a blessed and happy holiday Passover/ Easter season. Let’s all remember what we have in common and work together for a world where all people are treated with respect and fairness. Happy Passover. Happy Easter. May the coming year be a better one for America and all the world.