Nearly 150 members of the African-American and Jewish communities celebrated an early Passover Seder together April 2, focusing on the issue of hunger.
The JUF Hunger Seder was part of the year-long JUF
Hunger Awareness Project and was hosted by the Jewish United Fund of
Metropolitan Chicago, in partnership with Rabbi Michael Siegel of Anshe Emet
Synagogue in Lakeview and Pastor Chris Harris of Bright Star Church in
The Seder, adapted from the Jewish Council for Public Affairs/MAZON Hunger Seder Haggadah (the prayer book used at a Seder), reframed the historical tale of redemption from slavery as the modern struggle faced by hungry people across our country. Attendees experienced all of the traditional Passover Seder rituals and symbols, including the meal.
The program provided an opportunity for meaningful dialogue between the African-American and Jewish communities. It included inspirational singing by the Bright Star Church Choir, including "Lean on Me," "Let My People Go," and "Glory, Glory Hallelujah."
Skip Schrayer, chair of JUF's Jewish Community Relations Council, remarked that the Seder was meant "to promote awareness about important issues, such as hunger, and to bring communities together to engage in dialogue and build relationships that can lift all of us up and bridge divides. This is what I hope will be just another meaningful moment that our communities can share in together."
He also extended special thanks to representatives from the Greater Chicago Food Depository, Lakeview Pantry, Northern Illinois Food Bank, Bread for the World, and the JUF Uptown Café, which all do critical work on hunger issues.
"Tonight, we are one family," Rabbi Siegel said. "Tonight, our focus is on the oppression of hunger, the slavery that so many are enjoined to. We will tell that story and we will pledge to make a difference - because I know we can." Pastor Harris remarked, "Tonight, I'm grateful to be here with all of you - to make wonderful harmony together - because we are all better together."
The Seder was supported by generous grants from the JCPA and the Crown Discretionary Fund.
Stephanie Sklar is Director of Domestic Affairs for the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.