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“Women belong on the bimah like an orange belongs on the Seder plate”. Generations have told this statement from a man to be the inspiration for the now popular women-only Seders celebrated around the country, including at Temple Beth El in Salinas.
For seven years Temple Beth El has held the non-traditional women’s only Seder dinner as a part of Passover. Each year women gather to sing songs, light candles, talk about the symbolic food they are eating, discuss the history of Passover, and eat food specially prepared for the event, such as cakes made with matzo rather than flour, and wine that has not been fermented.
Items on the mini Seder plates included a beet, as a symbol of bone, a bitter slice of horseradish symbolizing the bitter life Hebrews endured as slaves, parsley dipped in salt water – parsley representing spring and the water being tears. Charoset, usually a mixture of apples, nuts, and wine being the mortar the Hebrews used to bond bricks together, and an egg symbolizing life.
This year 18 women from Temple Beth El’s sisterhood, and their guests communed for the dinner. President of the sisterhood Nancy Mikita said the turnout has been larger in years past, however, with the passing of musical leader Lisa Beth Kaplar since the last Seder, who drew many folks, the RSVPs were less. In remembrance of Kaplar, the sisterhood set a place for her at the dinner.
Women-only Seder dinners began in the 60’s during the feminist movement, after thousands of years with most Jewish traditions being male-oriented, explained Mikita. She said the sisterhood comes together each year for the companionship it brings.
“We’re not trying to exclude men; we’re making up for years when women were excluded from the ritual” said Mikita.