With Passover right around the corner, Jewish educators across Wisconsin are looking forward to their seder meal. The Chronicle asked some winners of the Teacher Impact Awards which symbol on the Seder plate is the most meaningful to them and why. The awards are given annually to recognize impactful educators, sponsored by Milwaukee Jewish Federation’s Coalition for Jewish Learning.
Jodi Fox, teacher at Milwaukee Jewish Day School, votes karpas. “It represents spring. Spring brings the sun, plants grow, flowers and students bloom, birds chirp and families and neighbors begin to gather again,” she said.
No way, must be bitter herbs
A teacher for 44 years, Rabbi Yechiel Pinsky from Yeshiva Elementary School described why the bitter herbs are the most meaningful symbol for him.
“Jewish history is filled with bitter experiences for our people. The inspiration of the maror, which represents these bitter times, says, still celebrate that you are G-d’s children and [a] special nation,” Pinsky said.
Ann Meyers, an educator at Congregation Emanu-el of Waukesha, agrees, preferring the bitter herbs in the form of horseradish.
“Its harshness reminds us of bondage in Egypt and of the Eternal One’s directive to remember our experience forever and to liberate others. That is a serious and sacred obligation. In its service I am active in several organizations,” Meyers said.
“We overwhelmingly celebrate our lives even through the bitter/maror times which will come,” Pinsky said. “We celebrate Pesach/Passover/life, even as we eat the maror.”
Has to be charoset
For Jennifer Walker, educator at Gan Ami Early Childhood in Mequon, the charoset is the most meaningful.
“It is the glue that keeps everything together. For me it represents the sweetness that life can be or offer,” Walker said.
Catherine Ellis, teacher at Bader Hillel Academy, also believes the charoset is the most significant.
“The charoset represents the slavery of the Jews, and even though it was tragic, the Jews still survived. This provides me with hope for a better time and strength in humanity,” Ellis said.
The unconventional orange
Some Seder plates now include an orange, a newer tradition that is attributed to Susannah Heschel, a professor of Jewish studies at Dartmouth College. The orange is included for recognition of LGBTQ+ Jews and others who feel marginalized in the Jewish community. Participants eat a segment of the orange and spit out the seeds as a symbol of rejecting homophobia and sexism.
For Anastasia Esther, teacher at Congregation Emanu-El B’ne Jeshurun, the orange is the most important part of her Seder plate. “As a Jewish woman of Queer identity, I use it to start a conversation about how all of our siblings must be included in all parts of Judaism,” she said.