Having an orange on the Seder plate is a new tradition, and not found in every household.

It all started with a story from Oberlin College in the early 1980's. Dr. Susannah Heschel was speaking at the Hillel, and while there, she came across a  haggadah  written by some Oberlin students to bring a feminist voice into the holiday. In it, a story is told about a young girl who asks a  Rebbe  what room there is in Judaism for a lesbian. The Rebbe rises in anger and shouts, "There's as much room for a lesbian in Judaism as there is for a crust of bread on the Seder plate."

Though Heschel was inspired by the idea behind the story, she couldn't follow it literally. Besides the fact that it would make everything-the dish, the table, the meal, the house-unkosher for Passover, it carried a message that lesbians were a violation of Judaism itself, that these women were infecting the community with something impure.

So, the next year, Heschel put an orange on the family Seder plate, "I chose an orange because it suggests the fruitfulness for all Jews when lesbians and gay men are contributing and active members of Jewish life."

The symbolism grew to include people who feel marginalized from the Jewish community: the widow, the orphan, women's issues in general, but solidarity with the gay and lesbian Jewish community was at the core. It wasn't a navel orange; it had to have seeds to symbolize rebirth, renewal. And spitting out the seeds reminds us to spit out the hatred and ostracization of homosexuals in our community, and others who feel prejudice's sting. The orange is segmented, not fragmented. Our community has discrete segments, but they form a whole. The symbolism of the orange may have expanded, but its origins are clearly from a desire to liberate an entire segment of our community from their painful  mitzrayim  - narrow place.

Discussion Topic:

How can we make our community more excepting for those who feel marginalized?

How can we preserve our traditions and still embrace change?

haggadah Section: Karpas
Source: http://www.juf.org/news/world.aspx?id=414773