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Passover Seder for women, by women

Posted: March 20, 2009 8:25 p.m.
Updated: March 21, 2009 4:30 a.m.

Karen Kaplan slams her tambourine during the evening celebration while the group sang traditional Passover songs.

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The Passover Seder meal is a annual Jewish feast held on the first and second nights of the Jewish holiday of Passover.

Jewish families and friends gather around the table on the nights of Passover to read one of the many versions of the Haggadah, the story of the Israelites' exodus from Egypt.

The Seder is an integral part to the Jewish faith and identity. As explained in the Haggadah, if it wasn't for the Exodus, the Jewish people would still be slaves in Egypt.

The Seder is therefore a night celebrating the liberation and is an occasion for praise and thanksgiving.

Throughout the evening, participants read out of the Haggadah, study the meaning of various passages, eat symbolic foods and sing Passover songs.

Last Saturday, Temple Beth Ami celebrated this holiday, but it had a bit of a different focus.

The focus was on women.

"The Women's Seder is a twist on the traditional Passover Seder because it focuses more on the women involved in the story of Exodus," said Tracy Blazer, wife of Temple Beth Ami Rabbi Mark Blazer.

Eighty women came together at the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Newhall to observe the Passover in a special ritual that provides a venue for women's voices to be heard and their experiences commemorated.

"Instead of focusing on Moses," Blazer said, "we focus on females, like Miriam."

Women's seders round out the telling by allowing participants to raise questions and add practices that might be out of place in an ordinary seder.

Some sisterhoods have written haggadahs specifically for use at a women's seder, creating new liturgy and rituals, poems, songs and commentaries that expand on the conventional Haggadah text.

"We have our own book and we read from there," Blazer said.

But why have a separate women's seder when the traditional Passover Seder includes both women and men? Why a separate seder when women have by now won the battle serving as rabbis to leading major communal organizations?

"The women's role is sometimes overlooked," Blazer said. "A lot of traditions focus on the male role, and this night we refocus ourselves on the women's role and allow women to feel connected."

It is also a night for women to relax and be a part of the service, since in most homes, women still carry the responsibility of preparing for Passover - a massive undertaking.

"This is also an opportunity to get their service without having to set everything up," Blazer said.

In addition to celebrating the role of women and strengthening their ties to the Jewish heritage and one another, the dinner also benefitted three charities.

"Money raised through this event went to three organizations," Blazer said. "The Hadassah Kochava, and two congregations: the Beth Shalom and Beth Ami."

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