Pesach – The Orange on the Sedar Plate

A relatively new custom is to add an orange to the sedar plate. This represents the acceptance of women in to leadership roles in Judiasm. There was a comment made at a service “Women on the bimah are like an orange on the sedar plate”. Thus, to support the role of women in Jewish observance many have added an orange to the traditional symbols for the holiday.

Another documented explanation points out that it is  in support of gay and lesbian participation.

Here’s what actually happened:

Susannah Heschel, a leading Jewish feminist scholar, and daughter of  noted scholar Rabbi Abraham Heschel-

Heschel was visiting a college in the Northeast where she learned that some of the students had started placing crusts of bread on their seder plates as a way to express the exclusion of women and homosexuals from Judaism.

Heschel thought this was great. But since it violated the Passover dietary restrictions, she decided to modify the act, placing an orange on the plate instead of the bread crust to represent both women and homosexuals.

“The first year I used a tangerine,” the mother of two revealed to the packed room of mostly women and some men. “Everyone at the seder got a section of it and as we ate it we would spit out the seeds in solidarity with homosexuals — the seeds represented homophobia.”

Heschel, chair of the Jewish studies program at Dartmouth College, said she was “horrified” at first by the way the story of the orange metamorphosed.

One, “they took my idea and put it into a man’s mouth.” Two, “they erased the whole idea of the homophobia that needs to be spit out.”

On the whole, Heschel is proud of the way women’s roles have evolved within Judaism and in the Passover seder. While “American Jews always get a raw deal” because of their reputation for assimilation and intermarriage, “we also created the Jewish feminist movement and exported it to Israel, Europe — wherever Jews exist.”

(j weekly april 5 2002 excerpt)

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