But why is there an orange and a tomato on the seder plate? This is not traditional for Passover.
Tomato - 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. On this night when we remember the Jewish journey from slavery to freedom, we remember numerous cases of modern slavery that exist. For example, the reported use of enslaved labor in Florida's tomato industry. There have been reports of workers also facing abusive working conditions, such as wage theft, harassment, exposure to dangerous pesticides, or poverty level wages 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 other organizations, 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. We can work to help convince other businesses to join this program.
Orange - The orange on the Seder plate has come to symbolize full inclusion in modern day Judaism for those who were traditionally not seen as full participants or leaders in Jewish life and traditions, especially women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people. The common tale was that a man once said that women don’t belong leading aspects of worship in Judaism by saying “A woman on the bimah is like an orange on the Seder plate.” (The bimah is a podium where people stand to read from the “Torah”, as Jews call the Old Testament of the Bible.) - both things that don't belong. Feminists (people believing in gender equality) responded by celebrating the orange, by placing it in the center the Seder plate showing that since women belonged on the bima, so must an orange on the Seder plate. There was a simliar history to using orange to symbolize LGBTQ inclusion in Judasim. People place an orange on Seder plate to honor and symbolize the struggle for freedom faced by LGBTQ people. For those of us who are part of the LGBTQ community here at our Seder, it makes us feel good to be acknowledged and included, especially when we were not during many times of history, and still today in many places.
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