Tomato on the Seder Plate
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Tomato on the Seder Plate
STANDING WITH FARMWORKERS
Supporting Those Working to End Modern-Day Slavery
PART 1 Please read this towards the beginning of the seder.
The seder begins: “Let all who are in need, come and share in the Passover meal.” In this year of struggle for workers’ rights, we want to symbolically welcome members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a human rights organization made up of Florida farmworkers, primarily tomato harvesters, to share in our seder. Before we begin to tell our story of the journey to freedom, we take a moment to hear a voice from this current fight for freedom, symbolizing their presence by placing a tomato on the seder plate. Until we know that the food that we eat isn’t tainted by forced labor and exploitation, none of us is truly free.
“When you’re there, [enslaved,] you feel like the world is ending. You feel absolutely horrible... Once you’re back here on the outside, it’s hard to explain. Everything’s different now. It was like coming out of the darkness into the light. Just imagine if you were reborn. That’s what it’s like.” — Adan Garcia Orozco, farmworker
PART 2 This can be read during the Rabban Gamliel section of the seder, when you hold up and explain each of the traditional items on the seder plate.
Why is there a tomato on the seder plate? This tomato brings our attention to the oppression and liberation of farmworkers who harvest fruits and vegetables here in the United States. And it reminds of us of our power to help create justice.
A tomato purchased in the United States between November and May was most likely picked by a worker in Florida. On this night when we remember the Jewish journey from slavery to freedom, we remember numerous cases of modern slavery that have been found in the Florida tomato industry. The tomato on our seder plate might have been picked by someone who has been enslaved.
Slavery is just the extreme end of a continuum of abuse; perhaps this tomato was picked by someone facing other abusive working conditions, such as wage theft, violence, sexual harassment, exposure to dangerous pesticides, or poverty level wages—just fifty cents for every 32-lb bucket of tomatoes picked and hauled—that have not changed for more than 30 years.
But a transformation is underway. Since 1993, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a farmworker organization, has been organizing for justice in the fields. Together with student groups, secular human rights organizations, and religious groups like T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, they have convinced 11 major corporations, such as McDonald’s and Trader Joe’s, to join the Fair Food Program, a historic partnership between workers, growers and corporations. Not only does the Fair Food program raise the wages of tomato workers, it also requires companies to source tomatoes from growers that agree to a code of conduct in the fields which includes a zero tolerance policy for forced labor and sexual harassment. Since 2011, when more than 90% of Florida’s tomato growers began to implement the agreement, over $8 million has been distributed from participating retailers to workers.
But the resistance of holdout retailers, such as major supermarkets and Wendy’s, threatens to undermine these fragile gains, as they provide a market to farms to continue abusive practices.
PART 3: NEXT YEAR, JUSTICE AND FREEDOM
This can be read at any point towards the end of the Seder, after the meal.
This Pesach, while commemorating our own freedom from bondage, we remind ourselves of our responsibility to end slavery as it exists today and our power to create justice when we join together. We commit ourselves to standing with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, so that next Passover, the tomato on our seder plate might represent workers who have a liberation story to tell of their own.
Ways to take action:
• Learn more about the Campaign for Fair Food through online educational materials.
• Speak up at your local Wendy’s, Stop & Shop, Giant, Publix or Kroger’s! You can download a letter to give to your store manager or send a letter to the corporation who owns your neighborhood store.
• Organize an action! Work with the CIW to plan a demonstration calling on your grocery store or Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Program and commit to buying from farms that comply with the Fair Food Code of Conduct.
• Educate your community! Use educational materials—articles, fliers, and videos—to bring this campaign to your synagogue or school
For more information and materials for taking action, visit:
Let us all refill our cups.
[Take turns reading. Each person is invited to read a grouped set of lines - or to pass.]
Tonight we drink four cups of the fruit of the vine.
There are many explanations for this custom.
They may be seen as symbols of various things:
the four corners of the earth, for freedom must live everywhere;
the four seasons of the year,...
The next item on our plate is the karpas: the vegetable representing spring. Many families use a green leafy vegetable because the green makes people think about freshness, coming alive, being healthy- all the wonderful things that go along with freedom. But when families do not have enough resources they can't always get fresh fruits and vegetables. When our family lived in Eastern Europe it was also...
We sanctify the name of God and proclaim the holiness of this festival of Passover. With a blessing over wine, we lift our wine, our symbol of joy; let us welcome the festival of Passover.
In unison, we say…
Our God and God of our ancestors, we thank You for enabling us to gather in friendship, to observe the Festival of Freedom. Just as for many centuries the Passover Seder has brought together families...
Our tradition speaks of four children or four attitudes: the wise child, the wicked child, the simple child, and the one who does not know how to ask. Each child has a different reaction to hearing about slavery. . .
What does the wise child say? “What are the testimonies, the statutes, and the laws that apply to this situation? How are we to discern what God demands of us?” You are to answer...
On this night we retrace our steps from then to now, reclaiming years of desert wandering.
On this night we ask questions, ancient and new, speaking of servitude and liberation, service and joy.
On this night we welcome each soul, sharing stories of courage, strength, and faith.
On this night we open doors long closed, lifting our voices in songs of praise.
On this night we renew ancient...
The central imperative of the Seder is to tell the story. The Bible instructs: “ You shall tell your child on that day, saying: ‘This is because of what Adonai did for me when I came out of Egypt.' ” (Exodus 13:8) We relate the story of our ancestors to regain the memories as our own. Elie Weisel writes: God created man because He loves stories. We each have a story to tell — a story of enslavement, struggle,...
I will deliver you...
Just as we remember all of the times throughout history when the nations of the world shut their doors on Jews fleeing violence and persecution in their homelands, so, too, do we remember with gratitude the bravery of those who took us in during our times of need — the Ottoman Sultan who welcomed Spanish Jews escaping the Inquisition, Algerian Muslims who protected Jews during...
by Joshua Ratner, Rabbis Without Borders
One of my favorite parts of the Passover seder is the singing that takes place after we finish eating. There are so many great, fun songs, from “Ehad Mi Yodeah” to "Chad Gadya."Perhaps my favorite song is “Dayenu.” The words are fairly easy to sing in Hebrew, and the chorus is so catchy that even those who don’t know Hebrew can easily join in. But beyond its...
We’ve been bound by a hardened heart
And our inability to see ourselves in each other.
We have been puffed up by ego and pride.
Enslaved by how things have always been.
And now it is time to go.
But fear threatens to paralyze.
How can we possibly exist any other way?
Our imagination falters
The attachment to what we know is so great
It doesn’t matter that it...
At Passover each year, we read the story of our ancestors’ pursuit of liberation from oppression. When confronting this history, how do we answer our children or our contacts when they ask us how to pursue justice in our time?
WHAT DOES THE REVOLUTIONARY CHILD ASK?
“The Torah tells me, ‘Justice, justice you shall pursue,’ but how can I pursue justice?”
Empower him always to seek pathways...
Following the framework of the Four Questions of the Passover haggadah, we ask four alternative questions for discussion. These questions are meant to spark conversations that can happen throughout the seder.
Read this narrative aloud and then discuss the question below.
“When I found out I got into the University, I immediately called...
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