It takes a village to celebrate rituals—and Lab/Shul’s Liberation Seder held on the first night of Passover in the sanctuary/social hall at Judson Memorial Church is the best example.
Officiants and participants representing the multitudes of faiths from the diverse communities in New York City, 200 celebrants in all, filled twenty-two tables replete with many of Passover’s ritual eats. The mix included Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and Atheists, observant, non-observant, and ritualists; each table was named for activists including biblical and artist-activists.
Interfaith couples joined regulars from the sponsoring congregations (Lab/Shul, Middle Church, East End Temple, and Judson and more) and social media found many looking for a Passover ritual observance to participate in.
The word seder means order and Lab/Shul transforms the traditional, adapting to today’s relevancy. For those present, the order was (re) titled: Sanctify Time and Space, Embody Cleanse, Sense Spring, Hear Potential, Tell Your Story, Ritual Water Immersion, Reach for Partnership, Taste Bread of Essential Truth, Taste Bitterness.
In Lab/Shul’s mode of observance, the program including traditional prayers are projected on a screen.
Acknowledging the extraordinary convergence of Passover, Holy Week, and the month of Ramadan, this communal ritual feast was particularly meaningful as the question was asked to the human family: Can we liberate each other? The evenings’ readings and inspirations are on also Lab/Shul’s website.
Primarily led by Lab/Shul’s Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie and Shira Kline, Judson’s Rev. Micha Bucey, East End Temple’s Rabbi Joshua Stanton, Sensei’s Chodo and Koshin, Imam Musa. Qabba, Rev. Derrick McQueen, and others from Lab/Shul moved the ritual forward.
Members of Middle Church’s choir sang led by John Del Cueto— including Let My People Go; their Rev. Jacqui Lewis attended on-screen and spoke of love.
Elenore Weill on wooden flutes and Martin Shamoonpour on the daf, an Iranian frame drum, provided musical accompaniment through much of the evening. Artist/activist Mathew Johnson Harris sang It’s a Wonderful World.
Through music, relevant liturgy, diners’ participation, and of course the meal, which was vegan, this unique seder reflected inclusivity and engagement, welcoming spring and potential new beginnings in what is seemingly troubled times.