The Holy Spirit Transforms #FreedomSeder50

I’m amazed and delighted to share the remarkable results of #FreedomSeder50 just a week ago. They range from beginning to weave together a film of the Seder, to fulfilling the passionate call Reverend William Barber issued at the Seder for a march that is sure to go down in history: gathering 1,000 clergy of all faiths at the White House on June 6.

The energy at the Seder was extraordinary. It felt as if all 400 participants were reaching to be their best and highest selves, each lifting the All. It felt as if we were all being lifted by the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit Who interbreathes all life. (The Hebrew word “ruach” means “breath,” “wind,” and “spirit.”)

To have just a taste of the experience, click this link to watch and hear four minutes of Reverend Barber’s prophetic eloquence:


Once you have watched the video yourself, please send this letter to all your friends and post to social media with the hashtag #FreedomSeder50. Make sure to tag me by name or @RabbiArthur. Also tweet and retweet, referencing @RabbiArthur. On Instagram, be sure to tag @the_Shalom_Center.

We offer these videos as a gift for your own thought in the spirit of “In every generation, all human beings must look upon ourselves as if we ourselves, not our forebears only, go forth from slavery to freedom.”

We need your help to move forward with all that was catalyzed at the Seder, especially Reverend Barber's impassioned call for clergy to come to the White House on June 6. I have been invited by Reverend Barber to join the planning committee and the Council of Prophetic Voices for that action. Our work is certainly cut out for us – it will take time and money -- for us to reach out to Jewish and  other clergy, encourage support by all communities of Spirit, and engage the media so everyone is aware of this historic action. Please join us in making this Call a reality by making a contribution to The Shalom Center, and by spreading this message. Please click on the maroon “Contribute” button just below.

Blessings of freedom within, freedom among, and freedom beyond – from this Passover into our future!  Arthur


"Faith in Action": 2d front-page PHL Inqy article Interfaith Freedom Seder + 50

  • 8 Apr 2019, front page, above the fold.
  • The Philadelphia Inquirer
  • By Jeremy Roebuck STAFF WRITER

Faith in Action

Revived call for change from an interfaith Freedom Seder.

It was the social tumult of the ’60s — its battles for civil rights, impassioned protests against the Vietnam War, and political upheavals — that compelled Rabbi Arthur Ocean Waskow to organize his first groundbreaking reimagining of the traditional feast marking the beginning of Passover, an event he dubbed “The Freedom Seder.”

TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer For the 50th anniversary of his Freedom Seder, Rabbi Arthur Waskow brought the renowned rite to a mosque. The rabbi, right, and host Imam Abdul-Halim Hassan, of the Masjidullah mosque, are seen before the seder.

A half-century later, Waskow said, the political moment calls for another revision.

“We’re in at least as deep a crisis now — probably deeper — than we were 50 years ago,” he said. “There needed to be another incarnation of the Freedom Seder.”

And so, on Sunday, Waskow — founder of Mount Airy’s Shalom Center and one of the leading voices of liberal Judaism — celebrated the 50th anniversary of that first Freedom Seder with a new iteration, updated to address the economic, political, and religious divisions plaguing our nation today.

Joined by an interfaith, interracial program of speakers, Waskow led [Not accurate: Emcee of the Seder was in fact Rabbi Phyllis Ocean Berman. Rabbi Waskow was one of the lead speakers.]a crowd of more than 400 through his most recent adaptation of the Haggadah, the text recited during the observance. This time, even the venue — Masjidullah, a West Oak Lane mosque — was purposefully chosen as a call for people of all faiths to stand together against injustice and prejudice of any form.

Passover, the eight-day holiday that this year will begin at sundown on April 19, celebrates the story of the Jewish people’s liberation from slavery in Egypt.

And though the long, dark beard Waskow wore during the first Freedom Seder in 1969 may have long ago faded into a snowy white, the 85-year-old rabbi’s observance Sunday was no less barbed or “of the moment” in its message.

Speakers ranging from a Presbyterian minister to the founder of the first Arabic language public school in New York City decried the resurgence of white supremacist movements around the world and President Donald Trump’s family separation policy at the border.

They mourned for the victims of recent mass shootings at a Christian church in Charleston, S.C., at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, and at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. They called for economic support to impoverished communities and recited traditional blessings in English, Hebrew, Arabic, and Spanish.

“What is the pathway to freedom when far too many leaders — political and religious — cower and capitulate in the face of power for partisan and extremist advantage rooted in racism, classism, Islamophobia, homophobia, fear, and downright demonic meanness?” asked the Rev. William J. Barber II, an internationally known civil rights activist, as he delivered the rite’s concluding prophetic charge.

Abdul-Halim Hassan, imam at Masjidullah, said he didn’t hesitate when approached to host Waskow’s anniversary seder. He has long considered the rabbi an inspiration though they come from different faiths.

“There’s this term we use at the masjid — ‘ the shoulders who upon we stand,’ ” he said. “I’ve been standing on [ Waskow’s] shoulders for years.”

Still, holding a celebration of a Jewish holiday in a house of Muslim worship posed certain logistical issues.

For instance: How to handle a staple of any seder table — the kosher wine — in the home of a faith that prohibits alcohol? The answer — said Rabbi Phyllis Ocean Berman, Waskow’s wife and co-organizer of the celebration — was a specially designed grape juice that was both kosher and halal. [Not quite accurate report of what Rabbi Berman said: Charoset, which normally is a delicious paste of nuts, apples, spices, and wine, was for this occasion made with grape juice instead: thus charoset that was halal as well as kosher.And the Fpur Cups of the Seder were also grape juice, not wine.]

Meanwhile, the ritual naming of seven plagues visited upon Egypt — here replaced by scourges afflicting modern society including racism, militarism, materialism, and sexism — was interrupted briefly to accommodate the Muslim call to sunset prayers.

But interfaith roots have been a part of the Freedom Seder since its first iteration, held at an African American church in Washington on the first anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.

King’s murder provoked riots in cities across the country, including the nation’s capital, where President Lyndon Johnson called out the National Guard and imposed a curfew that put hundreds of people in jail.

Waskow, who was then working as a secular community activist, said the sight of military convoys rolling through his largely black neighborhood on the first night of Passover triggered something inside of him.

“My insides began saying, ‘This is Pharaoh’s army,’ ” he said. “I was going home to celebrate liberation and there’s Pharaoh’s armies on the streets. The seder became this volcano of energy I had to write. It was just an absolute necessity.”

The Haggadah he delivered the following year — published in 1969 in Ramparts magazine — became a phenomenon in liberal Judaism, launching a host of imitations penned around themes such as feminism, peace, and the environment.

But not everyone loved Waskow’s reimagination of the Passover observance. Some viewed it as an unwelcome distortion of tradition or an injection of divisive political debates into the celebration of a religious holiday.

Still, the need to challenge injustice is no less great today, said Waskow and his assorted speakers Sunday.

“It’s a different cast of characters but all of those ‘-isms’ still exist — all of those things that plague our society continue,” said Debbie Almontaser, board president of the Muslim Community Network. “It’s really a moral imperative for us all to band together.”

Hoping to enlist their audience in their fight, the seder’s organizers passed out postcards to each attendee, urging them to write down specific steps they intend to take to combat the modern world’s plagues.

The postcards will be mailed back to their authors in about a week — a reminder that commitment to their cause should extend beyond the holy days of their various faiths.

“Hopefully, people won’t just leave here thinking, ‘Well, that was great,’ ” Waskow said. “They’ll be reminded to make a real commitment.”

 Nodding, his fellow rabbi, Shawn Zevit, of Mishkan Shalom Synagogue in Roxborough, quipped: “It’s a Groupon for interfaith work.”


We Need Your Help to Grow the Green New Deal

The traditional Haggadah, the Telling of the liberation story for the Passover Seder,  says: “In every generation, all human beings must look upon ourselves as if we ourselves, not our forebears only, go forth from  slavery to freedom."

In every generation! 

Today we are living under pressure from a Pharaoh-in-Chief and many assistant pharaohs, including the Corporate Carbon Pharaohs whose boundless greed is aimed at burning Planet Earth, our Mother and our common Home, in order to multiply their Hyper-Wealth.

For Passover this year we need to gather everywhere to grow the Resistance again. In the Interfaith Freedom Seder + 50 we are holding in an African-American mosque in Philadelphia, but not there alone. Everywhere. Again. In every generation.

To make the Promise of Passover real, we need your help.  We need your help in gifts of money, we need  your help through invitations to come where you live to speak and teach, to weave new prayers of chant and breathing, new acts of justice. We need your help to keep doing our work to inspire and empower the Spirit-rooted Wind of the Resistance.

You can provide this help by clicking right now to the maroon "Contribute" banner on the left-hand margin of this page. Or you can read this Call to join in the work we plan, and then click to the maroon "Contribute" banner.

We seek  to grow the Garden of the Green New Deal. Inspiring and persuading religious communities – individuals, local congregations,  nation-wide religious denominations --  to support its call for Transformation.

The Green New Deal offers by far the best chance of success in our struggle to prevent climate chaos. And it calls for more -- for a society of ECO-SOCIAL JUSTICE. It demands action NOW to change our whole economy from Carbon to Renewable Energy, and to change our society from domination and despair to justice, equality, and freedom. From lies and subjugation to Truth and Transformation. 

   The matzah we eat for Passover physically embodies Dr. King's “fierce urgency of NOW.”  “The bread was not leavened," says the story, "for the Breath of Life, the Wind of Change, thrust them out of the Tight and Narrow Land: Do Not Delay!”

Indeed, much of Passover is directly relevant to the Green New Deal.

Every year, on the Shabbat just before Passover, we read the Call of the very last of the classical Hebrew Prophets (Malachi 3:21-22)  

“I [God, the Breath of Life] will send you Elijah the Prophet to turn the hearts of the parents and the children to each other, lest I come and smite the earth with utter destruction.”

It was our youth who sat-in in the office of Speaker Pelosi to put the Green New Deal on the map. Our children, our grandchildren. What are we doing to turn our hearts to them?

-– AND Passover reminds us that the Pharaoh who oppresses, enslaves, and orders the murder of the Israelite workers and children --  is the same Pharaoh who brings “Plagues” upon his own country.  All the Plagues were eco-disasters: undrinkable water; swarms of locusts that ate all the crops; unheard-of hailstorms; a climactic sandstorm of darkness so thick you could touch it.

There is no separation between “social justice” and “ecological sanity.” Passover tells us there is ONE Truth -- eco-social justice. The Green New Deal demands ONE response -- eco-social justice.

The Green New Deal takes into account the pent-up demands for social justice against the pharaohs of our day who rip families apart, imprison children, impoverish workers,  destroy jobs, turn poverty into hunger and hunger into famine, incite violence against religious and racial minorities --  just as the storied ancient Pharaoh did. The Green New Deal demands support to create the well-paid working-class jobs that will be needed to build –- literally build --  the green renewable-energy infrastructure and the ways of drawing-down CO2 that will save our planet from climate chaos.

 This approach can awaken a great new coalition that treats ECO-SOCIAL JUSTICE as a many-faceted but unified agenda. It can appeal to workers, to the disemployed, to wide swaths of the religious communities, to the “forgotten Americans,” to those already suffering from climate disasters and those who know what is coming.  

The Green New Deal also addresses the need for a just transition from Carbon to renewable energy by affirming the need for new jobs for those now locked into Carbon industries and for special aid to depressed and isolated communities, rural and urban.

To make this broad and deep coalition real and ready to resist, to be seeds of transformation, we need to work at the grass roots.  These are four ways The Shalom Center intends to do this:

  • Inspiring religious congregations to Move Our Money/ Protect Our Planet (MOM/POP); moving money --  out of banks that invest in burning the world,  into banks and credit unions that will invest in local neighborhoods and people. Our work has already inspired the MOM/POP decision of the first synagogue to do this; much more needs to happen. See --


  • Showing congregations, rabbis, and other spiritual leaders how to draw on the remarkable treasury The Shalom Center has developed of “Prayer and Bible Exploration as if the Earth Really Matters” --  renewing especially but not only Jewish prayer forms and interpretation of Torah for use in communal and public settings, to energize religious commitment to act on behalf of God’s Creation. We have been successful in unifying public prayer with public actions for eco-social justice.


  • Organizing Training Institutes to train activists of varied religious communities and traditions to draw on their distinctive wisdoms  -– their prayers, their stories, their sacred texts, their festivals and foods, their ceremonies --  to awaken activist commitment to heal the world from climate crisis.  

 Let me be clear and honest: To make this happen, we need your help.

In all of these grass-roots approaches, emails like the Shalom Report are helpful, but physical on-site presence is more effective.  I have seen and felt and heard how more changes after I actually meet with, speak with, and weave conversations and prayer experiences with congregations and their leaders. 

So I invite you to invite me to do this with your community -- a congregation, college classes, an interfaith conference. We can discuss this if you write me directly at Awaskow@theshalomcenter.org

And to keep making possible the range of writing, activism, interfaith cooperation, occasional arrests that The Shalom Center does and sponsors, please click to the maroon “Contribute” button on the left-hand margin of this page, and make your Passover contribution to The Shalom Center.

With blessings that we can all turn the hearts of the Elders and the Youth toward each other, bringing new life and energy, nrew freedom and compassion, into our varied religious, spiritual, and ethical communities, and renewing a planet, a climate, as life-giving for our grandchildren as it was for our grandparents!  --  Arthur

If You Trivialize the Holocaust, You’re Unfit to Lead White House Climate Panel

With all the talk of troubling comments about Jews, what about William Happer?

By David Waskow

[This article originally appeared in The Times of Israel, March 11, 2019David Waskow is an expert on international climate policy based in Washington, DC, where he is a member of the senior staff of a world-renowned research and policy center on global resources. He has graduate degrees from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and the University of Chicago Divinity School. Please note some additional comments after his essay, suggesting advocacy responses to the Happer appointment.]

Given the heated debate over anti-Semitism now taking place in Washington, you would imagine there would be a glaring spotlight on any White House official who had made deeply troubling comments about the Holocaust. Instead, sadly and disturbingly, there’s been hardly a peep about the appointment of William Happer to the staff at the National Security Council.

Last fall, Happer quietly slipped onto the NSC staff, without much fanfare. Now he’s the driving force behind the Trump administration’s new panel to counter widely accepted scientific research about the causes and consequences of global warming.

Though Happer’s a professor emeritus of physics at Princeton University, he’s not a climate scientist. Moreover, his belief that excess carbon dioxide is a positive force directly contradicts the widely-held scientific consensus on the dangerous impact of greenhouse gases on global temperature.

As a climate policy expert, I was disturbed when I heard of his role. As a Jew, I was appalled.

In an interview on CNBC in 2014 [ https://www.cnbc.com/video/2014/07/14/princeton-prof-shut-up-over-climat..., Happer said that “the demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler.” He has never retracted or apologized for his comments.

When word of the White House climate panel leaked in late February, there was a brief flurry of media attention about his past comments. But since then, all has gone silent. In a troubling sign of the times, his outrageous statement has largely been ignored by Congress and elsewhere.

Happer’s comparison of millions of slaughtered Jews to carbon dioxide blatantly trivializes the horrors of the Holocaust and the vast human suffering that resulted from the Nazis’ atrocities. Molecules of carbon dioxide can hardly be subject to the deprivations that the Nazis inflicted during their brutal attempt to destroy European Jewry. Conflating chemical compounds with millions of murdered Jews dishonors and grotesquely casts aside the memory of those who suffered and died.

Trivializing the meaning of the Holocaust in this way should always be unacceptable. With his ignorance of history and callousness about real suffering in the world, the last place he should be is on the National Security Council.

Furthermore, it means that he’s also not fit for the task that he’s set himself and the administration on climate change. Someone who is unable to comprehend the gravity of the Holocaust is not someone who should be trusted to understand the dire impacts on people’s lives that climate change is already causing and that will worsen dramatically over time.

Indeed, Happer’s views have already demonstrated his lack of concern for the severe threat that climate change poses for humanity. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, [https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887323528404578452483656067190... Happer tried to excuse impacts of carbon pollution by noting that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over 65 millions years ago was over 3,000 parts per million, well beyond the current levels approaching 410 parts per million.

But that entirely misses the point: What we are witnessing now is completely unprecedented for humans. The earth has not seen the current levels of carbon dioxide for more than 3 million years [see https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-chan..., at a time when sea levels were 50-80 feet higher than today and no humans lived on the planet.

We have never faced the type of changes that are coming. But given his thoughtless comments on the Holocaust, does Happer possess the capacity to care about the pain caused by climate change??

Will he care about the Alaskan communities whose livelihoods and way of life are threatened as ice melts and the sea intrudes? Or about the 1.6 billion people living downstream from the Himalayas who will face catastrophic water shortages as the mountain glaciers that provide their water melt away?

Will he care about those suffering from increasingly powerful and destructive hurricanes or terrifying and deadly fires in water-starved forests? Or about the island nations whose very existence will be endangered by rising sea levels?

In a superb essay at https://medium.com/s/story/sorry-yall-but-climate-change-ain-t-the-first..., climate author Mary Annaïse Heglar recently suggested that, though climate change does not have a direct historical parallel, we can still learn from the existential threats faced by specific communities, like the slavery and lynching of Blacks in the United States. Those past traumatic experiences can help us understand how to tackle the climate crisis that imperil the basic underpinnings of our society and millions of lives.

Unfortunately, William Happer’s views on the Holocaust demonstrate that he is dangerously unaware of the past and won’t be able to see or understand the devastating pain that climate change brings in its wake. At a time of heightened awareness of anti-Semitism, Happer’s utter insensitivity to the slaughter of millions of Jews should cause alarm. He should not be sitting on the National Security Council with the future of the planet –- and especially the people who live on it –- in his hands.


A Note from the Editor: This information, which connects the dog-whistle anti-Semitism expressed by some in the White House with the willingness to wreck and burn our planet for the sake of Hyper-Profits --  should be brought to much wider public awareness. We suggest writing your city's major newspaper and also a Jewish communal newspaper a letter to the editor quoting Willism Happer's contemptuous Holocaust-minimizing and calling for the rejection of Willism Happer from all governmental assignments, and especially from his appointment to head  a commision on the climate crisis.

Denial of the climate crisis is in some ways even worse than Holocaust denial, because the Holocaust is behind us -- its horror nust be remembered but cannot be prevented -- while the danger of Climate Chaos is still preventable, and climate denialism threatens hundreds of millions of lives.

With blessings of Truth, Justice, and Peace-- the three pillars that uphold the world -- Arthur

Murderous White Nationalists, Modern Pharaohs, and the Sea of Reeds

As virulent White Nationalism spreads, we must affirm and act on our solidarity and shared sorrow with the dead of “Tree of Life” and its site-sharing synagogues in Pittsburgh, of the Al Noor Mosque and Lynwood Mosque in New Zealand, of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

In Philadelphia, a dozen rabbis and about 20 other Jews  responded by joining the Jumaah (Friday afternoon) prayers at Masjidullah, a leading mosque.  We were warmly welcomed by the Muslim community. On Saturday evening, at LOVE Park near City Hall, about 300 people took part in a gathering initiated by CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic-Relations). Representatives of the city and state governments spoke alongside clergy from several religious traditions. I was able to share the seeing and the meaning of my Tallit (prayer shawl).



As you see, woven physically as well as symbolically into it are sacred places of Judaism and Islam – the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock – and if you look carefully between them, the Rock itself on which Abraham our Forebear bound Isaac and from which the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him,  leapt into his mystical journey to Heaven.

I arranged to have it woven for me in 1974 after I added “Ishmael” to my Hebrew name (“Avraham Yitzchak Yishmael,” =  "Ibrahim Is'haq" Ismail"“ = "Abraham Isaac Ishmael”) adding the traditional forebear of the Arab peoples and the transmitter of the values of islam taught by his parents Abraham and Hagar --  thus uniting in my name, my self, all the families of the Abrahamic tradition within me. 

 On Saturday night, I explained that ever since, when there is violence within the broader family between its different cohorts, I feel myself torn apart. When we turn to love and healing with each other, I feel whole within. I suggested we all need to see ourselves, each of us and each of our communities and traditions, with each of the others living within us. With that awareness expanding our tradition, not watering it down.

 Not Muslim “theys” died in New Zealand, not Christian “theys”in South Carolina, not Jewish “theys” in Pittsburgh, but ALL OF US in all three places.

 White Nationalism has become the Pharaoh oppressing us all. Just like the ancient Pharaoh who said to his folk of "pure blood and soil," --  

“There is a people, immigrants with a different religion and a different language from our pure-blood Egyptians. who may turn against us, become terrorists to join with our enemies. We must subjugate them, enslave them, even murder their children. We must deploy brutal “overseers” [=racist police], incite unofficial members of the public into hatred and murder, and ultimately mobilize my horse-chariot Army to repress them!” 

 And this ancient Pharaoh and our modern pharaohs brought plagues upon not only human communities but our shared Mother Earth herself. Plagues that were eco-disasters, killing human beings through undrinkable water, famine, and disease.


We must see the Modern Pharaohs' attacks on climate science and decent climate policy as part of the same White Nationalist mind-set: --  For the Hyper-Wealthy Corporate Carbon Pharaohs, everything. For those who drink water, breathe air, farm the land, eat the food, nothing.  


 Friday was a day of disaster.  It was also a day of grass-roots transformation. Tens of thousands of schoolchildren went on strike around the world, demanding that our governments act NOW to keep their lives livable 30 or 40 years from now.

Pharaohs always breed Resistance.  Which will be victorious?  The answer is blowing in the Wind, the Breath of Life, the Interbreathing Spirit of us all, that Holy ONE Whose Name can only be "pronounced" by breathing. And by Action.

The ancient Pharaoh's arrogance, stubbornness, cruelty ended when the Pharaoh’s power dissolved into the Sea of Reeds. 

 Today We the People must become the Sea of Reeds. Each of us a reed that may for a moment bend but never break, after each momentary bending springing upright to catch the Pharaohs and dissolve their power.

We can turn our own memories of resistance to Pharaoh past, encoded in the Passover Seder, into an “insightment” of future transformation.

RThat is what the Interfaith Freedom Seder + 50 will be, as national leaders of the Resistance and local survivors-and-resisters of plagues come together.  If you live in or near Philadelphia, you can register for a Dinner and/or the Seder at TINYURL.COM/FREEDOMSEDER50. The cost of both will rise on March 23, so register NOW. There will be no walk-ins.

 If you live more than 70 miles from Philadelphia, you can pick up the live-streamed Seder by registering here:


You can invite friends to join with you, or organize a larger Seder. You can watch and listen to it all, or single out some parts and bring your own local leaders and organizers to speak.

 Fifty years after the original Freedom Seder, in another time of deep crisis in American democracy and now in our planet’s history as well, I look forward to joining with you on April 7!

 Shalom, salaam, paz, peace –- at a moment when each of those languages radiates both hurt and transformation. --  Arthur


Living inside the Book of Exodus; Make the Seder activist again!

Today all Americans and most life-forms on Planet Earth are living inside the Book of Exodus --  our health and livelihoods, our freedom and our lives, endangered by modern Pharaohs.

One vigorous response: Turn the Passover Seder from a commemoration into an incitement.

In 1969, in the midst of a crisis over racism and war, we created a new kind of Seder. We called it the Freedom Seder. We held it on April 4, the first anniversary of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King.

This coming April 7, fifty years later, in the midst of an American and a planetary crisis even sharper, The Shalom Center is sponsoring a new Interfaith Freedom Seder + 50.

Among its leaders will be Reverends William Barber and Liz Theoharis, co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign;  Ana Maria Archila, who challenged Senator Flake in the famous elevator and who heads the Center for Popular Democracy; and Debbie Almontaser, who has both suffered from Islamophobia and transcended it.


There has been a rush of registrants in recent days. Space is limited, The time to register is NOW.


Fifty years ago, the Freedom Seder was held at an African-American church in Washington, DC. This year, the new Seder will be held at an African-American mosque in Philadelphia.

Fifty years ago, the Freedom Seder wove together the ancient story of liberation from slavery to Pharaoh with the story of the liberation struggle of Black America against racism. This year, it will address four overarching oppressions: racism, militarism, materialism, and sexism. 

Fifty years ago, it was broadcast by WBAI in New York and by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. This year, it will be live-streamed to groups around the country, large or small, that want to connect their own  Seders  with the Interfaith Freedom Seder + 50.

Why do we need to hold this Interfaith Freedom Seder + 50? Not to commemorate the past, but to once again change the future. And this year the Seder is even more appropriate as a form than it was fifty years ago,

We are dealing with a Pharaoh who has defined US citizens who are descendants of legal Spanish-speaking immigrants as a dangerous minority ethnic group, and US citizens who are members of at least one minority religious community as dangerous outsiders, likely to side with America's enemies, harboring terrorists.

A Pharaoh who is willing to subject hundreds of thousands of government workers to slavery, as they were required to work without being paid.

A Pharaoh who was willing to rip children from the arms of their parents because they were from a wave of "foreigners" he despised, and who created prisons for those children that have resulted in the deaths of at least two.

And a Pharaoh who is deliberately acting to worsen the climate crisis and bring far more Plagues than ten upon the Earth and all humanity. Who responded "I don't believe it" when a broad network of his own officials submitted a well-researched, comprehensive report that the suffusion of our atmosphere with CO2 and methane were already bringing about unnatural disasters and were sure to create climate chaos, deep economic dislocations, and massive medical emergencies unless major healing action were taken immediately. Just "I don't believe it."

And a Resistance emerges. On January 21, 2017, women, as in ancient times, were the first to challenge this despotic power.

Please take 3 1/2 minutes to watch this video of a street-theater action against the Carbon Pharaohs at


 All this is stunningly reminiscent of the Pharaoh in the first chapters of Exodus who tells his people that the Israelites living in an Egyptian province -- the grandchildren of immigrants to Egypt – – are having too many children of their own. He calls them Ivrim, “Cross-Overs,” a word of contempt analogous to “wetbacks, “rootless cosmopolitans,” or “globalists.”

Then he moves from words of hatred and contempt to acts of violence.  These Ivrim must be subjugated into slaves, and must be controlled by overseers who, we soon learn, are free to kill the Ivrim on a whim or a bias of their own. He sets up a program to murder their children.

When resistance begins, it is led by women -– Shifra and Puah, the midwives who invent a first stage of nonviolent resstance by refusing Pharaoh’s order to murder the boy-babies. Then Miriam and Pharaoh’s Daughter take positive rebellious action in a kind of international feminist conspiracy to save Moses’ life and nurture him.

And then there emerges a resistance movement, led by Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. When they challenge Pharaoh,  his stubbornness and cruelty and arrogance bring disasters – Plagues --  upon his own country. When his own officials urge him to let the Israelites go free because his stubbornness is wrecking Egypt, he keeps refusing – – and his refusal brings on more ecological disasters.

So the Exodus story is perhaps the first understanding of a linkage: what we at The Shalom Center today call “eco-social justice.” Racial, economic, and social justice cannot be separated from  ecological sanity.

 Today Corporate Carbon Pharaohs and their governmental enablers are using their Hyper-Wealth to choke the Breath of Life, the Wind of Change, and Its efforts -- our efforts -- to heal  the planet and our neighborhoods from abject economic inequality, deep racism and many dfferent phobias, endless war, subjugation and destruction. And their depredations harm and kill the poorest first and worst. These realities are the ultimate in eco-social INjustice.  

What to do? Today we need to create a new Resistance to these new Carbon Pharaohs.

The Interfaith Freedom Seder + 50 will gather people who are ready to resist the new Pharaohs with a new band of Resisters demanding eco-social justice. Register now at


And please begin paying attention to a new and brilliant campaign fpr eco-social justice called the Green New Deal.

It points to what Dr. King called “the fierce urgency of Now,” a fierce urgency that in the Exodus crisis we embodied in matzah – for there was no time for the bread to rise. It demands a swift transition to renewable energy with great numbers of well-paid green jobs, with special care for workers displaced as we move out of coal and oil and fracking. It demands special attention to the forgotten and forsaken in big-city neighborhoods and rural enclaves, and to the battered but resilient Native communities.

The Shalom Center has signed on as one of an array of organization supporting the Green New Deal.

I see this as the best hope for breaking through the greed of the Carbon Pharaohs and the despair of many people.

Can the Jewish community join this effort as our own generation’s renewal of the meaning of the Exodus?

The answer is blowing in the Wind -- the Wind of Change, the Breath of Life -- the breath we breathe into our own words and songs and arms and legs of action:

Go down Moses,

Way down in EVERY land --

Tell all Pharaohs --

Set My Creation free!

Please join us in eating together, singing together, learning together, taking action together --

Please register NOW at



MLK, Rev. Wm Barber, & new Freedom Seder + 50

Today, Dr. Martin Luther King’s official Birthday, and the day after the third great Women's March, we are living in the midst of a national and a planetary crisis that echoes his passionate commitment to freedom and justice.

So I am writing today to invite you to an event on April 7 that will link Dr. King to the long history of liberation struggles before him and to the “fusion struggles” for liberation we are living today.

For 3000 years, ancient Israelites and their Jewish descendants have each year, at the full moon of the moonth of spring, remembered and renewed an ancient liberation movement through the Passover Seder. It is a sacred ritual meal, framed by the Telling (in Hebrew, Haggadah) of the story of the ancient liberation of the children of Israel from slavery to Pharaoh in Mitzrayyim, the Hebrew for the “Tight and Narrow Place”  -- the Hebrew name for ancient Egypt.

The meal includes several ritual foods – among them a Bitter Herb in memory of the bitterness of slavery and Matzah, the unleavened bread that the runaway slaves baked and ate on the night of Exodus. – unleavened because there was no time to wait for the dough to rise. The matzah embodies what a half-century ago Dr. King called “the fierce urgency of Now.”

For all those centuries, the Passover Seder celebrated only moments of Jewish liberation. Fifty years ago, on April 4, 1969, for the first time in all those 3,000 years, we celebrated a “Freedom Seder” that wove together the Jewish liberation struggle with other struggles for freedom -- especially Black America’s struggle against racism. 

I wrote it because I was possessed by the gripping memory of the murder of Dr. King just a week before Passover 1968, and by the gripping memory of the military occupation of Washington DC by the US Army the day after Dr. King’s death – sent to put down an uprising of the grief-stricken, outraged Black community. “Pharaoh’s army,” it felt to me at the time.  

The next year, on the first anniversary of Dr. King’s death, the Freedom Seder that I wrote was held in the basement of a Black church in Washington, with 800 people  -- about half Jewish, the rest both Black and white Christians. It won a broad audience across the country.  

Fifty years later, we are in crisis again, facing four aspects of tyranny: the onslaught of racism, hatred of foreigners, and
religious bigotry; of militarism at home and overseas; of worsening poverty and overweening materialistic greed that extends even to wrecking all Earth for the sake of hyperprofits; and worsening official efforts to subjugate women and LGBTQ communities.

On this 50th anniversary, we will move forward again –- taking Dr. King’s clarity, his courage, his commitment into new worlds of freedom, to birth the Beloved Community we all call for.

We expect hundreds of people at the Interfaith Freedom Seder + 50 and at the dinner that precedes it.  Pre-registration is necessary – NO walk-ins. 
Dinner - 5:00-6:45pm Halal (fish and vegetarian with vegan, gluten-free option)
Seder -  7:00-9:30pm 
You can register through the link  TINYURL.COM/FREEDOMSEDER50

Congregations and other organizations can arrange a co-sponsorship bearing special benefits by writing Seder@theshalomcenter.org  We are planning a live feed for distant communities where you could link to your own Seder; write Seder@theshalomcenter.org  to make arrangements.

I look forward to celebrating with you!

Shalom, salaam, paz, peace --  Arthur

Trees, Earth, & Justice: Tu B'Shvat Seder as if all 3 Really Matter

Pray as if Trees, Earth, & Justice Truly Matter:

A Tu B’Shvat Seder

Created by students of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

and Rabbi Arthur Waskow
(Click here to download a pdf of this piece)


Written by Sarah Barasch-Hagans, Sarah Brammer-Shlay, Miriam Geronimus,

Lonnie Kleinman, Chayva Lerman, Michael Perice, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, May Ye

Formatted and Edited by Sarah Barasch-Hagans

As We Begin…

...We Pause and Ground Ourselves.


Leader: Tonight we are engaging in a 500-year-old tradition.

In some ways, the tradition is older than that. As Rabbi Rami Shapiro explains, “Tu B’Shvat, the full moon of midwinter, had been important only in Holy Temple days, in the calendar of tithing. It was the end of the “fiscal year” for trees. Fruit that appeared before that date was taxed for the previous year; fruit that appeared later, for the following year."

The Talmud called this legal date the “New Year for Trees.”

But the kabbalists [of Tzfat/ Safed in the sixteenth century] saw it as the New Year for the Tree of Life itself -- for God’s own Self, for the Tree whose roots are in Heaven and whose fruits are the world itself and all God’s creatures. To honor the reawakening of trees and of that Tree in deep midwinter, they created a mystical seder. The tradition of this Seder survived mostly in Jewsh communitiees of the East --  Iraq, Iran, India. It was not obseered in Western jewosh communities

In the late 19th/early 20th century, the Zionist movement created a new ritual for Tu B'Shvat: the planting of trees in the Land of Israel. This practice restored the physicality of what had anciently been the date of tithing fruit, and the physicality of connection to the Land of Israel.

Leader: Tonight, we are creating a similar seder to the Kabbalistic Seder that emerged from Tzfat. We will ascend through the cosmic tree from our material world to the spiritual realm. Our journey will take us through the world of Assiyah (action), the world of Yetzirah (emotion, formation, relating), the world of Briyah (thought, creation, knowing), and finally, the world of Atzilut (spirit, emanation, being). We will enact these four worlds through four cups of wine and four courses of nuts and fruit.

Leader: We are also engaging in another, newer tradition -- that of connecting Tu B’Shvat with a commitment to the physical health of  our entire planet, a commitment to act to protect trees and the Interbreathing of all life in which trees  and all vegetation breathe in the CO2 that humans and all animals breathe out, and all animals breathe in the oxygen that vegetation breathes out.

For some  of our communities, that Interbreathing is evoked by undeerstanding the ancient Name of God, YHWH,  as the sound of Breath, YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh. And that Interbreathing is now endangered by the unrestrained burning of fossil fuels.

So our Seder will conclude with our taking action to heal our planet  -- its trees and The Tree that encompasses all life -- by appealing to officials who make public policy to free themselves from subservience to the Fossil Fuel industry that is endangering the web of life and human civilization.

And in line with this renewed concern with the physicaliity of earth, our Seder will celebrate each of the four elements -- Earth, Water, Air, and Fire  -- that were traditionally associated with the Four Worlds of the Kabbalists..

Leader: As Rabbi Rami Shapiro writes, “Tu B’Shvat is not a call to go back to Nature…. [It] is a call to return to our nature.” Let us remember that we are of nature, not apart from it -- for we are adam, earthling, and we are made of adamah, earth.


Olam Ha’Asiyah

עולם העשייה

The World of Action // The World of Rootedness

Learning from the Forests

From The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben


But why are trees such social beings? Why do they share food with their own species and sometimes even go so far as to nourish their competitors? The reasons are the same as for human communities: there are advantages to working together. A tree is not a forest. On its own, a tree cannot establish a consistent local climate. It is at the mercy of the wind and weather. But together, many trees create an ecosystem that moderates extremes of heat and cold, stores a great deal of water, and generates a great deal of humidity. And in this protected environment, trees can live to be very old. To get to this point, the community must remain intact no matter what. If every tree were looking out only for itself, then quite a few of them would never reach old age. [...]

            Every tree, therefore, is valuable to the community and worth keeping around for as long as possible. And that is why even sick individuals are supported and nourished until they recover. Next time, perhaps it will be the other way round, and the supporting tree might be the one in need of assistance. When thick silver-gray beeches behave like this, they remind me of a herd of elephants. Like the herd, they, too, look after their own, and they help their sick and weak back up onto their feet.


Meditation with the Trees

Feel free to join a tree outside for this meditation if weather permits.

Leader: We start by seeing our foundation, our earth, and how it is lain out beneath us. Its composition affects everything that sits above it. Stone, rocks, dirt, mud, water, life.

We turn our attention to the trees in harmony with the earth...

Breathing in and out, lung to lung resuscitation between us. Our lungs to their leaves. And when their leaves are gone, our lungs look alike, winnowing from tracheal trunks down to the most minute of passages. But what will happen if their lungs, our partner lungs, disappear? Love their presence. Breathe all the way in, loving their gift.

Imagine you are…

A tree among many, roots entangled below

A sapling reaching, yearning for light and growth

An oak, branches gnarled, left standing but lonely in a concrete playground

A flowering dogwood, the belle of the forest ball

A redwood. The majestic. You have seen all and will see the rest. Not even the earth beneath you can shake you in its quaking. You and the earth are equal partners now.

As you sense the trees around you - see them for who they really are as individuals - feel the earth beneath you too. Root your feet into the soles of your shoes, feel the energy through the floor and through the building’s foundation all the way to the foundation of everything.

Dear God, our Rock and our Foundation, be still and firm underneath our feet. Be present for us, that we may remember the holy work of nurturing and defending the life that grows from You.

Take a moment and then return to your table.


Blessings and Nourishment

Fill your glass with white wine or juice  and gather some fruit with a tough outside and soft inside.

Leader: Tonight we eat the fruit and nuts that you have protected with a tough skin.

Through this act, we acknowledge that we need protection in life, both physical and emotional, as do all of Your creation. Our first cup of wine or juice is pure white. We see clearly through it, as through the leafless branches. But they are not lifeless. Blessed are You, Source of Life, who brings nature through its cycles.


בְּרוּכָה אַתְּ שֶׁחִינָּהּ אֱלֹהֵינוּ רוּחַ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵאת פְּרִי הַגָפֶן

B'rukhah At Shekhinah Eloheynu ruakh ha-olam boreit p'ri ha-gafen.

You are blessed, Shekhinah, Indwelling Spirit of the World, who creates the fruit of the vine.

Drink wine or juice, making sure to leave some of it.

בְּרוּכָה אַתְּ שֶׁחִינָּהּ אֱלֹהֵינוּ רוּחַ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵאת פְּרִי הָאֵץ

B'rukha at Shekhinah Eloheynu ruakh ha-olam boreit p'ri ha'etz.

Blessed are You, Shekhinah, Indwelling Spirit of the World, who creates the fruit of the tree.

Eat fruit.

Olam HaYetzirah

עולם היצירה

The World of Formation // The World of Water

Leader: As the Lakota People at Standing Rock have taught us: Water Is Life / Mni Wiconi.

Abridged from “Water Is Life”

By Craig Santos Perez, indigenous poet and professor of the Chamorro people of Guam

Poem in solidarity with Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all peoples protecting the sacred waters of this earth, September 10, 2016

Water is life

becuz my wife labored for 24 hours through wave contractions

becuz water broke forth from her body

becuz amniotic fluid is 90 percent water

becuz our daughter crowned like a coral island

becuz our blue planet is 70 percent water

becuz some say the ocean formed within the earth from the beginning

becuz we wage war over gods and waters

becuz we say stop, you are hurting our ancestors

becuz we say keep it in the ground

becuz we say stop, water is sacred

becuz we call ourselves protectors and water warriors

becuz they bring their banks and politicians and lawyers

becuz we bring our songs and prayers and ceremonies

becuz we bring all our relations and generations

becuz someday my daughter will ask me where the ocean ends

becuz we will tell her that the ocean has no end

becuz we will tell her that the ocean blesses the mountains with rain

becuz we will tell her that the rain feeds lakes and reservoirs

becuz we will tell her that water connects us to our cousins at Standing Rock

becuz i will whisper to her, while she is sleeping, hanom hanom hanom, my people’s word for water, so that in her dreams water will call her home

Please add, popcorn style, any lines you’d like to add for why you feel water is life.


            Becuz …

            Becuz ...



Reader: 60% of an adult human body is made of water. Every single cell in our body needs water to function. Without water, a human can survive for a week, at most. Three to four days is more likely.


In fact, every cell of every being needs water to function. Bacteria, plants, and animals, including humans, are all connected by this common necessity.


Reader: As climate change increases the frequency and severity of droughts across this planet, every life form is affected. For humans, this not only means less access to drinkable water, but also more chance of famine. Across Africa and the Middle East, water crises partially due to climate change have helped trigger civil unrest, mass migration, insurgency and war.


Reader: Climate change threatens the oceans and the life within them as well. As rising atmospheric temperatures raise sea surface temperatures and the oceans absorb CO2 and thus become increasingly acidic, coral reefs are dying. Teeming with life, coral reefs are among the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet and are home to almost one-third of all marine fish species. Corals provide the foundation for a complex web of life, of interdependent species who rely on each other for shelter and food. From one angle, the coral reef is made up of many individual organisms. From another, it is a single entity.


Reader: While we cannot drink salt water, the ocean and coral reefs are vital to our well-being as well. Almost 40% of the world’s population lives within 100 kilometers of a coast, and many of these people live in developing countries and are dependent on coral reefs for food and income. Coral reefs provide shelter, food, and breeding grounds for many fish that people eat. They serve as a natural barrier to tsunamis and hurricanes. They prevent coastal erosion by breaking waves and providing sand. They are a source of medical discoveries. And they attract millions of tourists to reefs and beaches every year, providing a substantial amount of revenue for tropical countries.


Reader: At the same time, rising temperatures are melting the ice caps, causing the sea level to rise, submerging island nations and flooding coastal cities.


While we are all impacted by the various ways that climate change is affecting the Earth’s waters, poor people and people of color across the globe are being hit first and hardest.


Together: There are so many ways, often invisible, that life on this planet is dependent on and connected by water. There are so many ways that those connections are endangered by human actions. We pray to YHWH, the source of becoming, for the world’s ability to regenerate itself. We pray for the awareness, wisdom, and strength to keep on fighting for the health of our planet and ourselves. We acknowledge with gratitude the ways that waters, fresh and salty, sustain our bodies and our souls. May water continue to be a source of life and a womb that nurtures us.


Ritual of Water

Leader: I’d like to share a water ritual I participated in when I was at Standing Rock. As the sun rose, we walked down to the water that surrounds Turtle Island. We each carried small jars filled with water from wherever on this planet we had come from. We brought water from Michigan, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Texas, the Sudan, Peru, Israel, and New Zealand. This was the end of November and the river was frozen. We broke a small hole in the ice and we poured the water from our jars, showing how each of us and this whole planet is interconnected by water.

Tonight, we also recognize the ways we are connected by water. Our bodies are 60% water but that water isn't stagnant. It is constantly flowing within and between us, evaporating and reabsorbing.

As we pass this goblet around the table, I invite you to pour a little water from your cup into the goblet. As you do this, think of the water you have brought with you tonight in your cells. Think of your ancestors and welcome them into this space. From what corners of the world did they find and absorb water? Imagine how water flows through and between all of us on this planet.

Pass around goblet and everyone adds a drop of water while singing.

We Sing Together

“As I Went Down in the River to Pray”

As I went down in the river to pray

Studying about that good ol’ way

And who shall wear the starry crown?
Good Lord, show me the way!
            O sisters let’s go down

            Let’s go down, come on down

            O sisters let’s go down

            Down in the river to pray

As I went down in the river to pray

Studying about that good ol’ way

And who shall wear the starry crown?
Good Lord, show me the way!

Once the goblet has made it around the whole table:

Together: Just as we have each contributed a drop of water to this cup, so are we interconnected by the water on this planet. May we continue to stand by the water, as it nourishes us.

Leader: Let us say Miigwetch, thank you, in whatever language, spoken or unspoken, is meaningful to each of us.

We all say thank you in the language of our choice.


Blessings and Nourishment

Add a little red wine or juice to your white wine or juice and gather some fruit with a tough inner core (such as a seed or a pit) surrounded by a soft outside.

Hold up wine or juice.

Leader: Red is the color of love -- may our love for the Earth overcome our fear and spur us to action.

Leader: Red is also the color of determination. As we bless and drink this wine, let us set our kavanot (intentions) and refocus our attention on the holy work ahead.


נְבָרֵךְ אֶת עֵין הַחַיִּים מַצְמִיחַת פְּרִי הַגָפֶן

N'varekh et Ein Ha-khayim matzmikhat p'ri ha-gafen.

Let us bless the source of life that nurtures the fruit of the vine

Drink some wine or juice, making sure to leave some behind. Pick up a piece of fruit.

Leader: The fruit you are holding is like a microcosm of this planet. Just as the earth’s crust is covered, on most parts, by water, so the pit of your fruit is covered by a watery flesh.

Leader: While the flesh of your fruit appears solid, it contains much water. Similarly, most of the water on this planet is hidden from plain view, whether it is in our cells or lies a few feet beneath the ground.

Leader: And, just as your fruit is exposed, without a shell to protect it, so too are the Earth’s waters vulnerable to pollution, easily absorbing excess CO2  from the atmosphere, excess fertilizer from our farms, and excess chemicals from our factories.

Leader: We bless and eat this fruit to remind ourselves of the centrality of water, seen and unseen, to our lives.


נְבָרֵךְ אֶת עֵין הַחַיִּים מַצְמִיחַת פְּרִי  הָאֵץ

N'varekh et Ein Ha-khayim matzmikhat p'ri ha-eitz.

Let us bless the source of life that nurtures the fruit of the tree

Eat the fruit.


Olam HaBriyah

עולם הבריאה

The World of Creation // The World of Air


”Who Has Seen the Wind?” by Christina Rossetti


Who has seen the wind?

Neither I nor you:

But when the leaves hang trembling,

The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?

Neither you nor I:

But when the trees bow down their heads,

The wind is passing by

“On Air” by Ellen Bernstein


Then YHWH God formed the human [adam] of the dust of the ground [adamah], and breathed into the human's nostrils the breath of life; and the human [adam] became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7)

            In Arabic, the wind is ‘ruh’ and the same word also means ‘breath’ and ‘spirit’, while in Hebrew “ruach” enlarges the sphere of influence to include wind, breath, spirit, and concepts of creation and divinity. And the Greek “pneuma” and Latin “animus” and "spiritus" are redolent, not just of air, but of the very stuff of the soul.

            Without wind, most of the Earth would be uninhabitable. The tropics would grow so unbearably hot that nothing could live there, and the rest of the planet would freeze. Moisture, if any existed, would be confined to the oceans, and all but the fringe of the great continents along a narrow temperate belt would be desert. There would be no erosion, no soil, and for any community that managed to evolve despite these rigors, no relief from suffocation by their own waste products.

            But with the wind, Earth comes truly alive. Winds provide the circulatory and nervous systems of the planet, sharing out energy information, distributing both warmth and awareness, making something out of nothing.


Story and Art Activity

The leaders of this section now lead us in a creative activity connecting us to Olam Ha’Briyah.  [For example: using crayons, draw what for you is a represenatation or a symbol of the winds that bring life.]


Raising Our Voices in Song

“Blowin’ in the Wind”

by Bob Dylan

[Verse 1]

How many roads must a man walk down

Before you call him a man?

Yes, and how many seas must a white dove sail

Before she sleeps in the sand?

Yes, and how many times must the cannonballs fly

Before they're forever banned?

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind

The answer is blowing in the wind

[Verse 2]

Yes, how many years can a mountain exist

Before it is washed to the sea?

Yes, and how many years can some people exist

Before they're allowed to be free?

Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head

And pretend that he just doesn't see?

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind

The answer is blowing in the wind

[Verse 3]

Yes, How many times must a man look up

Before he can see the sky?

Yes, and how many ears must one man have

Before he can hear people cry?

Yes, and how many deaths will it take till he knows

That too many people have died?

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind

The answer is blowing in the wind



Blessings and Nourishment

Gather fruits that are soft on both the outside and inside and pour a bit more red wine or juice into cup:


בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ חֵי הָעוֹלָמִים בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָפֶן

Baruch atah Yahh Eloheinu chey ha-olamim boreih p’ri ha-gafen

Blessed Are You God, Breath of Life in all the Worlds, Creator of the Fruit of the Vine

Drink all of your wine or juice.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ חֵי הָעוֹלָמִים בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָאֵץ

Baruch atah Yahh Eloheinu chey ha-olamim boreih p’ri ha-eitz

Blessed Are You Our God, Breath of Life in all the Worlds, Creator of the Fruit of the Tree.

Eat fruit.


Olam Ha’atzilut

עולם האצילות

The World of Essence // The World of Fire

A Prayer for Kindling Candles of Commitment

“Between the Fires”


We are the generation that stands  

between the fires:

Behind us the flame and smoke 

that rose from Auschwitz and from Hiroshima;

From the burning forests of the Amazon,

From the hottest years of human history

 that bring upon us

Melted ice fields. Flooded cities.

 Scorching droughts. Murderous wildfires.

Before us the nightmare of a Flood of Fire,

The heat and smoke that could consume all Earth.


"Here! The day is coming

That will flame like a furnace, “

Says the Infinite YHWH / Yahhhh,

The Breath of Life --

when all the arrogant, all evil-doers, 

root and branch, 

will like straw be burnt to ashes. 

Yet for all who revere My Interbreathing Name, 

a sun of justice will arise 

with healing in its wings, its rays, its winds. . . . 


“Here! Before the coming 

of the great and awesome day

 of YHWH/ the Breath of Life,

 I will send you the Prophet Elijah

 to turn the hearts of parents to their children 

and the hearts of children to their parents,

 lest I come and smite the earth with utter destruction."

 (Malachi 3: 20-21, 23-24.)


Here! we ourselves are coming

Before the great and terrible day

of  smiting Earth — 

For we ourselves shall turn the hearts

Of parents to their children

And the hearts of children to their parents

So that this day of smiting

Does not fall upon us.


It is our task to make from fire not an all-consuming blaze

But the light in which we see each other fully.

All of us different, All of us bearing 

One Spark.

We light these fires to see more clearly 

That the Earth and all who live as part of it

Are not for burning.                             

We light these fires to see more clearly

The rainbow in our many-colored faces.


Blessed is the One within the many.

Blessed are the many who make One.


Blessed are You —  our Source of Being, 

 Interbreathing Spirit of all life,  

Who makes us holy through connection with each other

And directs us to connect the past and future generations

By kindling the candles of Elijah’s Covenant.

(Light candles of commitment)

Baruch attah YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh /Yahhh 

elohenu ruakh ha’olam  

asher kidshanu b’mitzvot, 

vitzivanu l’hadlik ner shel brit Eliyahu

Beyn haDorot.


Singing Forth the Light

“This Little Light of Mine” // Or Hadash

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine

Let it shine, shine, shine

Let it shine!

[To same melody:]

Or chadash al tzion ta’ir

Or chadash al tzion ta’ir

Or chadash al tzion ta’ir

v’nizkeh chulanu m’hera l’oro


Fire in Our Time

Reader: “A messinger of YHWH appeared to [Moses]  in a flame of fire from within the bush, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not being consumed” (Exodus 3:2).

"But the bush was not being consumed." For the flame was a nondestructive source of power. When fossil fuels are burned to produce energy, they emit harmful gases that are the primary cause of air pollution and climate change. With every burning of coal or unnatural gas to generate electricity , every burning of gasoline to power a car ride down the street and heat a hot shower, we harm our planet.


But there is  a life-giving way, a sacred way, a way of love: At the same moment when we honor the rebirth of trees, the rebirth of the Tree of Life,  we honor the birthday of Martin Luther King and the rebirth of the energy he symbolized:
"A genuine revolution of values means that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to humankind [and the Earth] as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.


"This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all [life].


"Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate.


"We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late.


"Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: "Too late."  We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.


"If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.


"Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter but beautiful  struggle for a new world. The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history."


Renewable resources such as solar and wind provide us with natural, clean energy. Solar power is the conversion of energy from sunlight into electricity, and wind power is the use of airflow through wind turbines to produce electric power. However, as of 2018, wind power makes up only 2% of the total worldwide electricity production, while solar power makes up only 1.5%. But in some countries, these sources of energy have become much more fully used. The potential is great.

Reader: Throughout our history, in times of great sorrow and vast uncertainty, the power of hope has sustained the human spirit from complete and utter despair. That precious gem of human ingenuity remains our greatest dictum of ascendancy. But where does it come from?

In Jewish tradition, the Ner Tamid, “eternal flame,” is a light that shines in front of the ark in Jewish houses of worship.  It is said to represent G-d’s eternal presence in our holy sanctuary. However, it could also be said that we too have an eternal, or internal flame. Our eternal flame ignites our passion and desire to seek justice -- not only in the world but also for the world. In the Torah, God tells Moses that the Israelites will be a light unto all nations. That light represents a beacon of hope. It is thus our sacred responsibility to speak outan act n behalf of all  Earth and the sustainable management of its resources both in public policy and individual behavior. Only then can we truly be a light unto all nations. Only then will be worthy of calling this planet, our home.

A Leader:  We will distribute pens, paper, envelopes, and stamps, and invite each of us to write a public official to urge some action to protect our Earth. One possibility is to write a Senator, asking him or her to sign a pledge to take no campaign contributions from Fosssil Fuel companies.


Blessings and Nourishment

At the level of Spirit and the Will to Create, the fruit we eat is utterly perrmeable, beyond physicality , emotion, or intellect. We pause in contemplation of the Universe as the fruit of the Tree of All Life, and we eat no fruit.

Pour red wine or juice into your cup.


נְבָרֵךְ אֶת עֵין הַחַיִּים מַצְמִיחַת פְּרִי הַגָפֶן

N'varekh et Ein Ha-khayim matzmikhat p'ri ha-gafen.

Let us bless the source of life that nurtures the fruit of the vine.


Birkat Hamazon

ברכת המזון

Blessing After the Meal


V’akhalta ואכלת

Hebrew: Deuteronomy 8:10

English: Hanna Tiferet Siegel, hannatiferet.com

וְאָכַלְתָּ וְשָׂבָעְתָּ וּבֵרַכְתָּ

V’achalta, V'savata, Oo-vay-rach-ta

We ate when we were hungry

And now we’re satisfied

We thank the Source of Blessing

for all that S/He provides

וְאָכַלְתָּ וְשָׂבָעְתָּ וּבֵרַכְתָּ

V’achalta, V'savata, Oo-vay-rach-ta

Hunger is a yearning

In body and soul.

Earth Air Fire Water

And Spirit makes us whole.

וְאָכַלְתָּ וְשָׂבָעְתָּ וּבֵרַכְתָּ

V’achalta, V'savata, Oo-vay-rach-ta

Giving and receiving

We open up our hands

From Seedtime through Harvest

We’re partners with the land

וְאָכַלְתָּ וְשָׂבָעְתָּ וּבֵרַכְתָּ

V’achalta, V'savata, Oo-vay-rach-ta

We all share a vision

Of wholeness and release

Where every child is nourished

And we all live in peace {Ameyn!)

וְאָכַלְתָּ וְשָׂבָעְתָּ וּבֵרַכְתָּ

V’achalta, V'savata, Oo-vay-rach-ta


This ceremony for the Tu B'Shvat Seder, created in 2018,  has been modified in 2019 to honor the confluence pf Martin Luther King's Birthday with Tu B'Shvat.

Resources for the history, spiritual evolution, and practical celebration of Tu B'Shvat: See Trees, Earth, and Torah: A Tu B'Shvat Anthology, edited by Ari Elon, Naomi Mara Hyman, and Arthur Waskow (Jewish Publication Society, 1999).

Save the Date! 50th Anniversary of Interfaith Freedom Seder

   Sponsored by The Shalom Center 

A treasury of materials from this event is available at https://theshalomcenter.org/freedomseder50

Sunday April 7, 2019

Dinner - 5pm, Seder - 7pm


7401 Limekiln Pike, Philadelphia 19138

 Pre-registration required. It will start mid-January at 



Come co-create an interfaith pre-Passover Seder that transforms the ancient struggle of Israelites from slavery to Pharaoh to confronting the Pharaohs of today:

  • Racism – in official policies of white nationalism, religious bigotry,  and immigration injustice
  • Materialism – in the form of extreme economic inequality and devastation of the Earth
  • Militarism – overseas and at home
  • Sexism – the subjugation of women and LGBTQ people

This Seder’s central symbol is the Globe reframed as matzah, the unleavened bread of fierce urgency for freedom. It symbolizes our sense of the urgent need for global liberation.


Seder leaders include: 

  • Reverends William Barber and Liz Theoharis, co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign
  • Ana Maria Archila, director of the Center for Popular Democracy, who confronted Senator Flake in the US Capitol elevator during Kavanaugh nomination hearing
  • Debbie Almontaser, founder of the Khalil Gibran School, survivor and “transcender” of bitter Islamophobic attacks, and founder / director of Bridging Cultures
  • Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of The Shalom Center and author of the original Freedom Seder 

 The original Freedom Seder was held in 1969 on the first anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King. It was the first Seder in 3,000 years to weave together the Jewish liberation struggle with other struggles for freedom, especially Black America’s struggle against racism.  

On this 50th anniversary, we will move forward again – taking Dr. King’s clarity, his courage, his commitment into new worlds of freedom, to birth the Beloved Community we all call for.

 Organizations and congregations can co-sponsor.  Email Seder@theshalomcenter.org to learn      about co-sponsoring, live streaming to distant communities, or when registration opens.



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