Diverse performers reflect on freedom this Passover in Philadelphia

-Courtesy of Broad Street Communications
photo by Matthew Christopher Photography

On March 20, people of all faiths, races, and cultures will come together for “Freedom Seder Revisited” A Passover-themed night of storytelling, performances, and conversations about freedom.

“Freedom Seder Revisited” is inspired by the 1969 Freedom Seder — where interfaith clergy held a Passover seder with 800 people of all backgrounds at a Black-led church in Washington, D.C. on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. They connected the ancient story of persecution to the Civil Rights Movement.

Philadelphia’s Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History (The Weitzman) has hosted this annual signature event since 2013. This year’s event, held intentionally in between the holidays of St. Patrick’s Day, Ramadan, and Passover, will include symbolic Passover seder foods and the traditional four cups of wine, served at communal round tables in the Museum’s 5th floor ballroom, overlooking Independence Mall.

This is the first in-person Freedom Seder at the Museum since before the pandemic.

Through the lens of the Exodus narrative — journeying from a place of hardship to one of rebirth and renewal — The Weitzman’s interpretative seder features storytellers sharing what freedom means to them through personal stories, reflections, and performances.

“This year’s Freedom Seder will connect with ‘four freedoms’ that Franklin Delano Roosevelt articulated in his 1941 State of the Union — freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear,” said Dan Samuels, Director of Public Programs, The Weitzman. “Our current special exhibition by artist Jonathan Horowitz features Norman Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” posters interspersed with works by later artists that address America’s relationship with these freedoms in light of rising antisemitism, racial violence, and debates over immigration, women’s rights, and LGBTQ+ rights. It’s parallel to our approach to Freedom Seder — taking an ancient story and reflecting on it to understand its meaning in our lives today.”

This event is developed collaboratively with partner organization First Person Arts and Jews in ALL Hues.

Remarks will be made by:

  • Rabbi Arthur Waskow, faith leader, activist and organizer of the original 1969 Freedom Seder
  • Reverend Dr. Mark Kelly Tyler, Mother Bethel AME Church
  • Rabbi Yosef Zarnighian, Congregation Mikveh Israel

Storytellers include:

  • Elaine S Holton – Queer, Jewish, Black-Chinese American community-centered Philadelphia artist, Creative Director and Teaching Artist at PHonk!Philly
  • Ximena Violante – Mexican violinist, jarana player, singer, teacher, actor and organizer creating spaces for people to celebrate their roots, reimagine their futures, and expand their communities
  • Betty Smithsonian, comic, creator, performer, entertainer and award winning goof
  • And more

Intersectionality of identities, genders, and cultures has inspired much of the Museum’s recent public programming, which welcomes conversations about identity, such as programs featuring Black-Jewish food historian Michael Twitty, Indigenous-Jewish actress Sarah Podemski, and Jewish lesbian artist Deb Kass, creator of the OY/YO sculpture on the Museum’s plaza.

Admission to the event is $36 or $25 for members. Learn more.

Established in 1976, and situated on Philadelphia’s Independence Mall, the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History is the only museum in the nation dedicated exclusively to exploring and interpreting the American Jewish experience. The Weitzman presents educational programs and experiences that preserve, explore, and celebrate the history of Jews in America. Its purpose is to connect Jews more closely to their heritage and to inspire in people of all backgrounds a greater appreciation for the diversity of the American Jewish experience and the freedoms to which Americans aspire. https://theweitzman.org/ 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.