Why Was This Night’s Seder Different From All Other Nights?

Published on May 6, 2012 by Barry Glass


For many years now, I have begun the Passover holiday by being involved in two Seders: the first with my immediate family, and the second with friends and their families. These seders are somewhat typical as we tell the story of the exodus through a Haggadah, sing, read, eat our favorite Pesach foods and drink wine as part of the seder ritual.

This year, I had the opportunity to participate in a third and very different seder. This seder did not include favorite foods and wines. In fact, there was no food or drink at all. No matzah or charoset or maror or ceremonial glasses of wine. This seder was a “Hunger Seder” devoted to raising awareness of childhood hunger and poverty in the US. With the absence of food at what is typically an event with plenty of food and drink, hunger seder organizers hope to raise awareness of childhood hunger in this very direct way: no food.

This particular hunger seder, held at Temple Israel in Sharon, was one of about 50 seders held nationally as part of the Jewish Council of Public Affair’s (JCPA) Anti-Poverty Campaign.  Each year, the JCPA writes a Haggadah specifically for use at the hunger seder and provides support to Jewish groups to hold these special events. 

The seder at Temple Israel was organized in partnership between Temple Israel and the Jewish Community Relations Council’s (JCRC) TELEM program. The participants at this seder included Temple Israel’s B’nai TELEM class, parents and Temple Israel members and staff. We were also very fortunate to have Robin Rosenbaum of the JCPA join us

To further highlight the evening’s focus on childhood hunger and the impact that poverty has on peoples’ lives, two clients from Father Bill’s & MainSpring, an organization devoted to ending homelessness in Southeastern Massachusetts, shared their experiences of homelessness and poverty. These mens’ stories highlighted the life-saving role that anti-poverty organizations such as Father Bill’s can play in improving the lives of people who face poverty and homelessness. Their stark stories of living on the streets underscored the need for all of us to work together to support the mission to provide all people with adequate food, shelter, educational and economic opportunities.

As I reflect on the experience of this unusual seder, I am grateful for having had the opportunity to learn in these unique ways about hunger and poverty impact people’s lives. I am also grateful that we have the opportunity through our tikkun olam work at TELEM to help change even a small part of the world for the better

To learn more about the JCPA’s Hunger Seder program, go to:  www.jewishpublicaffairs.org/CNS