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Introduction

Friends. Sisters and cis-ters. Loved ones. Community members. Partners. Family members. Strangers. Siblings. Welcome to the pesach table for our LGBTQ seder. This is a meal that we make together and we eat together.

On other nights, we follow the traditional seder that was written by our religious ancestors. Why on this night do we use a new seder put together by queer activists and community leaders? 

Because this is a seder for us, by us. 

Seder means "order" - we deliberately go through this haggadah in careful steps, in a clear order. Each part of this seder will give us a chance to reflect on our history, our current experience, and our future.

Let all who are hungry, come and eat. And let all who are in need of a queer and trans community find one here, this night.

Introduction

Kadesh — Blessing the wine / grape juice

U’Rechatz — Washing hands

Karpas — Eating a vegetable dipped in salt-water

Yachatz — Breaking the middle matzah

Maggid — Reciting the Haggadah

Rachtzah — Washing the hands with a blessing

Motzi Matzah — Eating matzah

Maror — Eating the bitter herbs

Korech — Eating a sandwich of matzah and bitter herbs

Shulchan Orech — Eating the festive meal

Tzafun — Eating the afikomen

Beirach — Blessings after the meal

Hallel — Songs of Praise

Nirtzah — Closing the Meal

Kadesh
Source : Galia Godel

Blessing the Fruit of the Vine

We drink four glasses of wine during this pesach seder. Why do we drink four glasses of wine? To remember the four promises that God made to the Israelites during the Exodus:

1. I shall take you out. 2. I shall rescue you. 3. I shall redeem you. 4. I shall bring you.

Tonight, at this LGBTQ seder, we drink four glasses of wine for the four promises we make ourselves.

1. I will be myself. 2. I will find a safe place to live and thrive. 3. I will create a welcoming space for others. 4. I will fight for freedom.

Kiddish

The promise we make for our first glass of wine is this: I will be myself.

What does it mean to be ourselves?

I invite you to turn to people at your table and discuss what it means to be ourselves. Consider what it took to discover your identity as a queer person. Did you see other queer people growing up? In the media? What steps did you take to become who you are today.

We read together:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, borei p’ree hagafen.

We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who creates the fruit of the vine.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם ,שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּה

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam,
she-hechiyanu v’key’manu v’higiyanu lazman hazeh.

We praise God, Ruler of Everything,
who has kept us alive, raised us up, and brought us to this happy moment.

Drink the first glass of wine!

Urchatz
Source : Galia Godel

We'll wash our hands twice tonight. Now, with no blessing, to get us ready for the rituals to come. Later, with a blessing, to prepare us for the meal.

Often, our rituals are holy, and we observe them with blessings and thanks. But right now, this hand washing is a quiet moment. No blessing. No prayer. No conversation with God. This hand washing is personal. Just for ourselves. 

Those who wish to observe the traditional hand washing, please feel free to make your way to the sinks ( point out sinks ). All others, please take a moment of quiet to yourself. Have a conversation with yourself. Why are you here tonight? What do you want to get out of this evening?

Karpas

A reader: Long before the struggle upward begins, there is tremor in the seed. Self-protection cracks, roots reach down and grab hold.The seed swells, and tender shoots push up toward light.This is karpas : spring awakening growth. A force so tough it can break stone.

All: And why do we dip karpas into salt water?

A reader: To remember the tears and anger of our trans mothers in activism fighting for equal rights. To taste the bitter tears of closeted youth, unable to blossom each spring and reveal their true selves. To feel the sting of society's refusal to celebrate the unlimited capacity of love in each of us, to celebrate love regardless of gender, to celebrate all healthy relationships and families. 

All: And why should salt water be touched by karpas ?

A reader: To remind us that tears stop. Spring comes. And with it the potential for change.

Modified from a piece by Ronnie M. Horn

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, borei p’ree ha-adama.

We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who creates the fruits of the earth.

Yachatz
Source : Galia Godel

We break the middle matzah in two. One half, we keep for the motzi. The other half, we wrap away to hide as the afikomen.  

We spend much of our lives hiding who we are as queer and trans people. Either by staying closeted while in school, or allowing others to use whatever pronouns they instinctively see, or by ignoring questions about our families and partners while in professional settings. When we hide the afikomen, we use it as a symbol for the aspects of ourselves that we have to hide away.

Later, after the meal, there will be a group hunt for the afikomen. This will be a symbol for the search for those parts of ourselves. The seder cannot end until we find the afikomen, and reveal to the community those beautiful parts of ourselves that we had to hide. We dedicate it towards the aspiration for a world that accepts out whole selves.

Maggid - Beginning
Source : Galia Godel

Telling Our Story

Maggid is the part of the seder where we retell the Exodus story. We speak of Joseph coming to Egypt. How there was a great famine in the land, and a prosperous Egypt took in the Israelites. How a new Pharoah arose who did not know Joseph, and he grew afraid of the Israelites, for they were numerous and strong. And he ordered the death of the baby boys, to prevent the Israelites from growing too powerful.

We tell about Moses, and how he was sent to float in the Nile in a basket. How he was found by the Pharoah's daughter, and raised as an Egyptian. How he ran away. How God spoke to him. And how he returned to free the Israelites - his people.

Maggid is where we tell the story of our liberation. And our liberation as Jews is tied into our liberation as queer and trans people.

Now is the part of the seder when we must speak about the collected library of literature on transgender studies, burned in the flames of the Holocaust. When our trans ancestors were accepted and loved, before a fascist state decided that they were not permitted to exist, let alone live. Now is the part of the seder when we must speak about the Black trans women who threw stones in the Stonewall Riots. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera - we must speak their names. Now is the part of the seder when we must speak about the AIDS epidemic - how the government stood by and watched as 500,000 gay men died. We do not know all of their names. Now we must speak of Matthew Shepherd, whose death changed the national dialog about gay youth, but who should not have needed to die to spark that conversation.

We have achieved remarkable milestones in our fight for civil rights and human rights, but our fight is not yet over. Queer people of color, trans people, and queer youth still lose their lives at terrifying high rates. Bisexual and asexual people have their identities denied. Military service and civil jobs are being wrested away from trans folks who just want to serve their communities.

Maggid is where we must speak about our story.

-- Four Questions
Source : Galia Godel

A reader: Why is this night different from all other nights?

All: On all other nights we may gather in groups formed by family of origin, common interests, career, education, or proximity, but on this night we gather as queer Jews, to share in our common intersectional identity. We speak of the history that ties us together, and the future that we strive to build.

A reader: Why on all other nights do we sit straight up at the table, but on this night we recline?

All: On other nights, we may have to hold ourselves rigid, afraid to be Jewish or afraid to be queer. We hold tension in ourselves, and cannot relax in safety. On this night, we allow that tension to fade, as we enjoy a room safe from anger, judgement, and misconceptions.

A reader: Why on all other nights do we only use bitter foods to accent our meal, but tonight we eat them twice?

All: On all other nights, we try to push the pain of injustice to the back of our mind, but tonight we pause twice to acknowledge the work that is yet to be done in our queer liberation.

A reader: Why on all other nights do we eat leavened bread products, but tonight we eat only matzah?

All: On all other nights we take the time to allow bread to rise. Tonight we hurry. We cannot wait to see our bread rise. We demand change now. When allies and privileged queers tell us to take our time, because change will come eventually, we hand them matzah. "Now," we demand. "Change must come now."

-- Four Children
Source : Galia Godel

Our tradition speaks of four children with four attitudes towards the  pesach  seder: a wise child, a wicked child, a simple child, and a child who does not know how to ask. Tonight, we speak of four people in our queer community, and how they approach a queer and trans world.

The Wise Person: The wise one asks, "what work can we do to make our world more inclusive?"

To that person we say, "go out and make tangible changes. Do research on your own. Ask members of marginalized communities what needs their community has, and then work with those members to fight for their rights. Remember to uplift the voices of those in marginalized communities, and never to speak over them. "

The Wicked Person: The wicked one asks, "aren't we done, now that gay marriage has been legalized?" 

To that person we say, "the LGBTQ community has more members than just cisgender, White gay people, and when you separate yourself from those of us who have yet to achieve legal and social rights, you lose your place in the queer community."

The Simple Person: The simple one asks," what are we fighting for?"

To that person we say, "we are fighting for every person under the queer umbrella. Gays and lesbians. Bisexual and transgender and asexual and intersex people. Questioning youth and questioning adults. And when every person under that umbrella has achieved equal rights under the law, we will move on to other marginalized communities, because we will never forget what it feels like to have to struggle just to live. 

The Person That Doesn't Know: The person that does not yet know they are queer cannot ask anything at all. They do not yet have context for their confusing desires, their unknowable identity, their undefinable needs. 

For that person, we must create a welcoming world. We must fight for representation in media. We must display the beauty and vibrancy of a queer life. So when that person finds a label for their desires, their identity, their needs, they will see a welcoming and loving community behind it, ready to welcome them with open arms. 

-- Ten Plagues
Source : Galia Godel

It is said that after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, they celebrated and danced. And God said "why do you celebrate? My creations have been drowned." That is why we pour out ten drops of wine for the ten plagues, to lessen the cup of joy. 

This year, there have so far been 8 transgender people killed. We remember them and remove drops of wine from our glasses, for we cannot celebrate with a full heart when there is still danger for our trans siblings. [Note, please update this section each year.]

Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien, age 42
Viccky Gutierrez, age 33
Tonya Harvey, age 35
Celine Walker, age 36
Phylicia Mitchell, age 45
Zakaria Fry, age 28
Amia Tyrae Berryman, age 28

-- Cup #2 & Dayenu

Rabbi Gamliel tells us that if we do not consider the items on the seder plate and discuss their meaning, then we have not fulfilled the mitzvah of pesach.  

Zeroa  - shank bone, and a beet.

The shank bone represents two things. One, the sacrifice of lambs to God, made in the days of the temple. Two, the lamb's blood that the Israelites painted on their doors, to make sure that the angel of death passed over their homes. Tonight we also have a  beet, blood red in color, and taken from our earth. When we look at this shank bone and this beet, we see one symbol of sacrifice and death, and one symbol of vital blood and the living earth.

Beitzah  - egg

The egg traditionally stands for the rebirth of the earth. It's spring, and the promise of life lies around every corner, and in every garden and field. But the capacity for life does not have to be tied to the creation of it. Tonight we use it as a reminder that a biological ability to procreate is not an obligation to do so, and that reproductive justice is tied up in queer and trans justice.

Maror  - bitter herbs

The bitter herbs are a visceral reminder of the bitterness of the closet. Of the pain of hearing someone misgender us. Of the hurt we feel when one of our loved ones comes home crying. Of the horror that we feel when we watch the news. We eat the bitter herbs to remind us that even in the comfort of this seder, we feel the pain of being part of a marginalized group. 

Orange

The orange on the seder plate has several apocryphal tales tied to its creation. The following feels significant to mention:

In the early 1980s, while speaking at Oberlin College Hillel, Susannah Heschel, a well-known Jewish feminist scholar, was introduced to an early feminist Haggadah that suggested adding a crust of bread on the seder plate, as a sign of solidarity with Jewish lesbians (which was intended to convey the idea that there’s as much room for a lesbian in Judaism as there is for a crust of bread on the seder plate).

Heschel felt that to put bread on the seder plate would be to accept that Jewish lesbians and gay men violate Judaism like chametz violates Passover.

So at her next seder, she chose an orange as a symbol of inclusion of gays and lesbians and others who are marginalized within the Jewish community. She offered the orange as a symbol of the fruitfulness for all Jews when lesbians and gay men are contributing and active members of Jewish life.

In addition, each orange segment had a few seeds that had to be spit out — a gesture of spitting out, repudiating the homophobia of Judaism. (by Tamara Cohen, taken from RitualWell.com)

-- Cup #2 & Dayenu
Source : Galia Godel

Kiddush

The promise we make for our second glass of wine is this: I will find a safe place to live and thrive. 

If our families of origin do not accept us. If our loved ones do not act towards us in a loving manner. If we fear to express ourselves, or to use the words that best explain our identities. We promise to look for safety. We promise to try and find a home where we can be ourselves, where we can flower and grow, where we can become the person that we are meant to be.

We read together:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, borei p’ree hagafen.

We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who creates the fruit of the vine.

Drink the second glass of wine!

Rachtzah
Source : Galia Godel

Now is the second hand washing of our seder. The first one, we stayed in silence. We considered our own hopes for this seder. We looked within.

Now, we look around us and recognize the community of people gathered around us. As each person washes their hands, imagine the loved ones who have brought you to this moment, whether they are here today or not.

When everyone is back at the table, please say:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו, וְצִוָּנוּ עַל נְטִילַת יָדָֽיִם

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al n’tilat yadayim.

We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who made us holy through obligations, commanding us to wash our hands.

Motzi-Matzah

The familiar hamotzi blessing marks the formal start of the meal. Because we are using matzah instead of bread, we add a blessing celebrating this mitzvah.

בְָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, הַמּוֹצִיא לֶֽחֶם מִן הָאָֽרֶץ:

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, hamotzi lechem min ha-aretz.

We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who brings bread from the land.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתַָיו וְצִוָּֽנוּ עַל אֲכִילַת מַצָּה:

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al achilat matzah.

We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who made us holy through obligations, commanding us to eat matzah.

Distribute and eat the top and middle matzah for everyone to eat.

Maror

We place some  maror  on a bite of matzah, for even with the matzah of freedom and swift social change do we taste the bitterness of homophobia, transphobia, biphobia and acephobia. We know that this bitterness drives us towards greater justice, but know the world would be better if that bitterness did not exist at all.

ברוּךְ אַתָּה יְיַָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּֽנוּ עַל אֲכִילַת מרוֹר:

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al achilat maror.

We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who made us holy through obligations, commanding us to eat bitter herbs.

Koreich
Source : Galia Godel

We have two objects on our seder plate designed to remind us of the pain of slavery. Both the maror and the charoset are meant to evoke similar feelings in us. The bitter herbs mirror the bitterness of life in Egypt, and the  charoset  looks like the mortar that Israelite slaves used to build for the Egyptians. 

  Charoset on its own may look like mortar, but it tastes delicious. So too do our well-meaning family members cautioning us to stay in the closet, or trying to make our lives "easier" by telling us not to present like another gender, look like they are performing acts of love, when they are actually making our lives harder. Today, we make a Hillel sandwich - a piece of matzah with both  maror  and  charoset  on top - because sometimes slavery tastes sweet, and we need the bitterness of intolerance to remind us that smothering is not a healthy type of love.

Tzafun
Source : Galia Godel

Now that we have completed the festive meal, it's time to search for the  afikomen . Recall that this afikomen stands for the parts of ourselves that we've had to hide from the intolerance of the world. Let this search be a symbol for the process of revealing our true selves. 

Once the  afikomen  is found, the person who found it may bargain with the seder leader to give it back, for the meal cannot be complete until everyone has tasted one bite of it.

Bareich
Source : Galia Godel

Usually at the conclusion of the festive meal, we take a moment to thank God for the food that we've eaten. But we are unable to think about the food on our table without taking a moment to think about food insecurity, and how it disproportionately affects urban people of color. I'd like to urge each seder participant tonight to go home and make a small donation to help support hungry people in your community. Whether it's inviting a friend over for a meal who would not otherwise be able to eat, or donating non-perishables to a local food pantry, or volunteering at a soup kitchen, or making a donation to an organization that fights hunger.

Hunger is not a queer specific issue, but we say "let all who are hungry, come and eat." So let's make sure that everyone in our community has the ability to eat. If you feel gratitude towards God for this meal, remember that it is human hands that made the food, and human hands that can best distribute food to those who are hungry.

Bareich
Source : Galia Godel

Kiddish

The promise we make for our third glass of wine is this: I will create a welcoming space for others

Whether we're outgoing and social or introverted and shy, each of us has the obligation to open our doors to those in need. This can be in a literal sense, by making our homes a safe place for queer friends to escape the difficulties from their closeted lives, or in a figurative sense, by chatting online with a cousin who asks " what does it mean to be bi? " or by sponsoring a school GSA. 

We also need to make one call towards allies. This seder isn't written for allies - it's written for queer people. But we cannot win this fight for justice on our own, and we here show appreciation for when our non-queer loved ones have opened their homes and lives to us. We also know that many,  many  queer youth started out identifying as allies. That they attended school GSA events under the label of an ally, and that it was the only way they knew how to explain why they felt so at home surrounded by out and proud friends. Because it can sometimes take years to transition from "I wish I was a boy" to "I am a boy!" and "Wow, I wish I could be like her" to "I want to date her."

We raise this glass to allies, because while we don't  owe  them our thanks, we freely offer it today.

We read together:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, borei p’ree hagafen.

We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who creates the fruit of the vine.

Drink the third glass of wine!

Hallel
Source : g

This cup is not for Elijah. Elijah knows he is welcome here. We welcome him in our traditional seders, and we sing Eliyahu Hanavi throughout the year. This cup is for the queer Jew who has not yet found this community. They may not know they are queer yet. They may not know that there are out and proud and healthy queer Jews. They may know we exist, but haven’t build up the courage to attend an LGBTQ seder yet. So this cup is for them. Let all who are hungry come and eat, and let our doors always be open for those that need this community. 

Hallel
Source : Galia Godel

Kiddish

The promise we make for our fourth glass of wine is this: I will fight for freedom.

How do we fight for freedom when we ourselves are not yet free?

We delegate and prioritize. We take care of ourselves to make sure that we have the energy to fight for the freedom of others. We protect black trans women at all costs. We donate money when we have it, and donate time whether we have it or not. We go door to door collecting signatures for new political candidates. We vote. We vote.  We recognize that the current political system cannot effect meaningful change on the timeline that we need it to. We rally and we march and we make demands. We stand between the police and those who are more marginalized than we are. We shut down the system until they listen to us. And we refuse to change slowly. We refuse to be placated. We refuse to accept small steps towards justice. Until all of us are free, none of us is free.

We read together:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, borei p’ree hagafen.

We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who creates the fruit of the vine.

Drink the fourth glass of wine!

Nirtzah
Source : Galia Godel

This year, we are still fighting. This year there are still members of our community who are closeted, or denied justice. There are incarcerated trans folks placed in the wrong prisons. There are non-binary people being misgendered at home and at work and at school. This year the government wants to deny us the right to work, to wed, to exist. Queer youth are committing suicide from brutal bullying at school. This year, we are still fighting. 

Next year, may our struggles come to fruition. May we gain equal protection under the law, and may all people accept our right to live and to exist. Next year, may we have the capacity to fight for the rights of other marginalized groups. 

This year, we are still fighting. Next year, may we all be free.

Chag sameach.