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Canadian Seder

With the growing prevalence of intermarriage making it increasingly likely that large traditionally Jewish families will include at least one (if not more) person of a different religious heritage, the issue of inclusion in rites such as the Passover Seder is bound to arise. As the Canadian Jewish News describes, though, this shift from an insular to a more inclusive community is not without complications.

To some, the inclusion of people of other religious backgrounds at a Seder is troubling, and brings up a number of pressing questions. In a positive development, however, the president of the Conservative movement’s Ontario Rabbinical Assembly, Rabbi Wayne Allen, attempted to answer all of those questions in a way that welcomed outsiders. After addressing several of the questions surrounding the issue , Rabbi Allen came to the conclusion, “We are left with no serious objections [to having non-Jewish guests at the seder].” He then went on to say, “But what about positive statements?” Not only can the inclusion of people of other faith backgrounds be justified, but Rabbi Allen is taking it a step further and encouraging the Jewish community to look at the ways their celebration can be enhanced by the presence of these new guests.

This line of thinking matches up perfectly with what we believe at JOI, and is a real-world example of outreach best practices. Also noteworthy was an endorsement of inclusion issued by an Orthodox author, Rabbi Maurice Lamm. Having guests of other religious denominations at a Seder, Lamm says, “enhances the integrity of the Jewish people. One of the fine things [guests] will learn is the important values for which we stand.” Rabbi Allen and Rabbi Lamm both focus solely on accentuating positive aspects and celebrating what new guests can add to the proceedings – they “welcome the stranger” rather than excluding them.



2 Comments

  1. Nice to see that after much thought and debate, these rabbis decided that common sense make sense!

    We have always thought of our seders as great opportunities to share Jewish values and culture with those members of our family (both Jewish and non-Jewish) who are less familiar with these things. A warm, happy family gathering provides a great, non-threatening opportunity to educate, and people seem very open to learning and experiencing. Pretty much a no-brainer to be doing this….actually it would be kind of rude to not be doing it.

    Comment by Jeff — March 20, 2007 @ 11:37 pm

  2. When I was attending a military school in the US with a very small Jewish population, we would always invite the Commanding General of the Academy and other dignitaries and professors (mostly on-Jewish) to the annual Seder. I also made sure a few of my best friends (also non-Jewish) were there. The guests even read out certain sections of the Haggadah. I always felt very proud about the attendence of these guests, as it was a beautiful example to them of Jewish values and history which was conducted in a non-threatening and inclusive manner…all the while retaining the essential Jewish aspect of the ceremony.

    Comment by Brian Freund — March 26, 2007 @ 9:14 am

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