The original Freedom Seder was published in 1969 by Ramparts magazine, thanks to the editorial creativity of Warren Hinckle and Robert Scheer, and in a tiny pocket-size booklet by a tiny independent publishing house -- the Micah Press -- out of contributions from the Waskow household and other members of Jews for Urban Justice in Washington DC.
Its appeal to thousands of Jews across America was so electric that in 1970, Holt Rinehart Winston co-published with Micah a considerably expanded, enriched, and improved edition. That edition is posted here in two PDF files -- the first, a full text of the body of the 1970 haggadah; the second, a number of appended texts at the end of the book that were suggested as possible insertions or items for thought and contemplation about the nature of freedom.
One of these, a quote from the Nazi murderer Adolf Eichmann, "I sat at my desk and got on with my job," was intended to be understood as a sardonic statement of the mindset exactly contradictory to that of the Exodus from slavery into freedom. It was a perfect statement of the likelihood that becoming a slave to one's own bosses and habits is all too often connected with enslaving -- or mass-murdering -- other people. I was surprised to receive a number of indignant letters from people who thought we were naming Eichmann as a teacher of freedom. Among the other comments at the back if the book were those from Pope John XXIII, Mohandas K. Gandhi, Rabbi Aaron Samuel Tamaret, Bob Moses, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Herbert Marcuse, and the Rolling Stones.
In both the 1969 and 1970 editions, there are graphics by Lloyd McNeill (probably the first Black artist to illustrate a haggadah). Printing of the tiny 1969 pocket-book was overseen by Lou Stovall. Alan Rinzler oversaw publication of the 1970 edition.
In 1969, the first Freedom Seder was sponsored by Jews for Urban Justice and was held in the basement of a Black church in the midst of Washington DC on April 4, the first anniversary of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King and the third night of Passover. About 800 people, half Jewish, half Christian (and that half again half white, half Black) took part.
In 1970, one Freedom Seder ended with a walk to the White House and then to the nearby Soviet Embassy, where in each place some of the Ten Plagues were symbolically reenacted to name the truth that both those governments were acting as oppressively as Pharaoh had and to call for resistance to their actions. But far bigger was a Freedom Seder held in the Cornell University field house with more than 2,000 people, honoring and celebrating the Berrigan brothers -- radical antiwar Catholic priests who wre committed to nonviolent opposition to the Vietnam war and had gone underground when absurdly charged by the FBI with various crimes against the state. Father Dan Berrigan emerged from underground in that Seder at Cornell, and then disappeared again into the underground as the Seder ended.
For the text of the 1970 Freedom Seder as PDF documents, please click below. Feel free to download them. If you decide to use the Freedom Seder or excerpts as the basis of a Seder of your own, please make a (tax-deductible) donation to The Shalom Center of $18 plus $1 for every participant in your Seder. Use the Donation bar on the left margin to contribute, or send a check (earmarked "Seder") to The Shalom Center, 6711 Lincoln Drive, Philadelphia PA 19119. Thanks!
With blessings of shalom, Rabbi Arthur Waskow