UMass Amherst Jewish Affairs

Jewish Affairs

Pass It On: Freedom Seder

Reprinted from the April 2007 issue of Guideposts, a monthly inspirational, interfaith, nonprofit magazine founded by Norman Vincent Peale and Ruth Stafford Peale, with a U.S. circulation of 8,000,000.

By Rosie Schaap
April 2007

Passover is a celebration of liberation that goes back thousands of years. Jewish families gather for a special dinner—a Seder—and tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt. In the 1960s a new Passover tradition emerged: the Freedom Seder. American Jews and African-Americans who had worked side by side in the Civil Rights movement came together to celebrate freedom. Spirituals like Go Down Moses were sung along with the traditional Passover song Chad Gadya.

Larry Goldbaum began to work at the Office of Jewish Affairs at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in the mid-1990s—a time of conflict between African-American and Jewish students. He thought the Freedom Seder could help heal wounds. “I reached out to Jewish and Black student leaders.” Since then, dozens of students, faculty and community members have shared the UMass Freedom Seder every year. Not only do Jewish and African-American students celebrate what they have in common, “some have become friends.”

The Freedom Seder at UMass is open to all. Catholic students have attended and so have interfaith groups of middle and high school students. It’s a Passover custom to welcome strangers to the Seder in remembrance of being “strangers in Egypt.” And the Freedom Seder powerfully reminds us that, with enough hospitality, there really are no strangers.

(from the "Pass It On" section, pages 20-21)