Help Us Create Passover Seders or Easter Gatherings for the 99 Percent
Both Passover and Easter have a message of liberation and hope for the downtrodden of the earth.
And today, it’s important to understand that the “downtrodden”– those who are hurt by the materialism and selfishness built into the very ethos of global capitalism– are NOT ONLY the homeless, the jobless, the underemployed, those working more than one job in order to help support their families, those whose mortgages have inflated to levels that they cannot pay, those who can’t afford college or university as states are forced to raise the fees of public universities, or those who are likely to lose their jobs in the next few years.
The downtrodden are also those who find themselves surrounded by others who seem endlessly selfish and materialistic, or people who see you only in terms of what they can get from you, how you can be part of their plan for themselves, how you can advance their interests. No—it’s not just strangers. Increasingly, people today report that even their friends, even their spouse or children, seem to see them through the frame of “what have you done for me lately?” or “what can you give me to satisfy MY needs?” No wonder people feel unrecognized, disrespected, and very lonely even when they are in a family or a loving relationship. These are also the downtrodden, a part of the 99%, victims of the very same system that puts others out of work, makes them jobless, or homeless, or hungry, or desperate, or scared that they soon will be among the economic casualties of this system– and teaches us to close our eyes to their suffering.
Yet the message of Passover and Easter is that we are not stuck, that liberation and transformation is possible. And that we should celebrate the partial victories of the past in order to get both perspective and hopefulness about the future. No, not the hope that some politician is going to save us, but the hope that we ourselves can become mobilized to tikkun (Hebrew for: healing, repair, transformation) our world. Just as the Israelites who were emancipated from slavery in Egypt (celebrated on Passover) and just as the early Christian did who encountered Jesus’ liberation message for the poor, we can begin to live as witnesses to the possibility of a different world.
We Jews already have the structure of a Passover Seder to work with. And I want to encourage Christians to create something like that as well for Easter (Passover and Easter fall on the same weekend this year). So, a Passover Seder for the 99 percent and an Easter Seder for the 99 percent. In some places we can do this together, in some places separately, and wherever we do it, we should be inviting Muslims, Buddhists, Muslims, atheists, agnostics, and anyone else who has suffered from the oppression the globalization of selfishness and materialism.
Imagine dozens, or hundreds of people gathering in every city, town, neighborhood, synagogue, church, college campus, to go through a set of rituals and readings together that recall the liberation message of our traditions and to apply them to the contemporary world that first weekend in April or in the following days. Arthur Waskow and the Judson Church in NYC are planning to do an event of this kind on Palm Sunday, which also makes a lot of sense (and Arthur’s creative genius in putting together traditional Jewish themes with social reality is deeply appreciated ever since he created the Liberation Haggadah).
The Occupy movement made a great contribution to collective consciousness by helping popularize the notion of the need to resist the class war that has been operating against the 99 percent for the past three decades by the one percent and their enablers in both major political parties, the media, the economic structure of our society, and those who popularize the mythologies of the powerful.
Now its time for those of us who have family and employment commitments that make it impossible for us to sleep at Occupy sites or take part in demonstrations that are going to be attacked by the police to use the traditional forms that both Christianity and Judaism provide us and to infuse them with the messages for and by the 99 percent of us who have been under attack. This could be a terrific way for you to support the Occupy movement, and connect it to people who agree with its ends but haven’t been able to relate too well to some of its methods.
If you have ideas on liturgy, readings, rituals, music, or if you want to volunteer your time to work with us on this project, let us know and we’ll post the info on Tikkun magazine’s web-magazine (we are also still in print!) at www.tikkun.org. We can use that site as a resource for others who may wish to build a Passover Seder for the 99 percent or what I’ll risk calling an Easter Seder for the 99 percent. Send your suggestions, ideas, or willingness to volunteer (but then tell us what you want to do, where, and how others should contact you) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This initiative is being sponsored by the Network of Spiritual Progressives (please join our interfaith and open-to-atheists-and-agnostics education and social transformation organization at www.spiritualprogressives.org), but we don’t own it—we want to give it to you and everyone else who might find this a way of participating in the great “uprising” of the American people and the people of the world which began in 2011 and must continue for many years ahead!
Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun, chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, rabbi of Beyt Tikkun synagogue-without-walls in Berkeley, Ca. and author of 11 books including The Politics of Meaning, Jewish Renewal, Spirit Matters, The Left Hand of God, and most recently Embracing Israel/Palestine (published by North Atlantic Books, distributed to bookstores by Random House). You can also get it on Kindle.