AJC Expands Diversity With Seder Outreach
Local NewsPre-Passover Celebration

AJC Expands Diversity With Seder Outreach

The biennial Black-Jewish Seder has become the Unity Seder, set for March 13 at The Temple.

Patrice Worthy

Patrice Worthy is a contributor at the Atlanta Jewish Times.

Clergy members at the head table of the 2016 Black-Jewish Seder include Rabbis Ruth Abusch-Magder, Mario Karpuj and Loren Filson Lapidus. Rabbi Lapidus is leading the more diverse Unity Seder this month.
Clergy members at the head table of the 2016 Black-Jewish Seder include Rabbis Ruth Abusch-Magder, Mario Karpuj and Loren Filson Lapidus. Rabbi Lapidus is leading the more diverse Unity Seder this month.

American Jewish Committee Atlanta is expanding its biennial Black-Jewish Seder to be more inclusive and changing the name to Unity Seder.

The entire Atlanta community is invited to the first Unity Seder, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 13, at The Temple.

“AJC has increasing partnerships within the Atlanta community, and we wanted to include our community partners in the Passover experience,” said Rabbi Loren Filson Lapidus of The Temple, who will lead the seder.

The Atlanta Black-Jewish Coalition ran the Black-Jewish Seder to build bridges between those two communities. Since then, AJC has forged strong relationships with the Latino, Indian, Muslim and Christian communities. Rabbi Lapidus said the successful history of the Black-Jewish Seder laid the foundation for a more diverse event.

This year’s service will feature a new haggadah, a musical performance by California-based Israeli artist Lior Ben-Hur and a new structure to the seder.

Rabbi Lapidus said that trying to translate the seder to non-Jewish clergy members can be a difficult process because they aren’t necessarily familiar with the tradition.

Marita and Rabbi Spike Anderson of Temple Emanu-El and their children participate in the 2016 Black-Jewish Seder.

Rather than have clergy craft discussion questions during the seder, that task is left to the seder participants at each table.

“We’re trying to be realistic about what can happen in a two-hour seder,” Rabbi Lapidus said. “We’re seating people from different communities at each table to get a different perspective on the liturgy.”

Ben-Hur’s performance is connected with the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival, which runs from March 8 through March 25. His primary source of income is playing events at Jewish congregations around the world, so he was excited about the focus on diversity.

“I just want there to be a lot of different people from different backgrounds,” he said. “That’s what I’m interested in.”

Ben-Hur tours with Sol Tevel, his seven-piece band, and sings Jewish text and liturgy over reggae beats. During the Unity Seder, Ben-Hur will perform songs off his latest album, “So I Wander.”

“When I do reggae, I see a big connection between the Rastafarians and Jewish text,” he said. “If you look at Rastafarian songs, they are based on the Old Testament. A lot of the lyrics are 100 percent Jewish text.”

Collaborating with the music festival is one of the exciting new elements of the Unity Seder, AJC Atlanta Regional Director Dov Wilker said. There also will be more dignitaries at the tables, a change that he hopes will become a tradition.

“The number of consulate generals attending has increased,” Wilker said. “Usually we get about 300 people, but this year we’re expecting 400 people. By expanding the seder, we increased attendance by 25 percent.”

Two years ago at the last Black-Jewish Seder, AJC saw more attendees who were not Jewish or black, Wilker said. Creating a more inclusive seder gives more Atlantans the opportunity to learn about the weeklong holiday while honoring the themes of oppression and freedom.

“Passover is the most celebrated Jewish holiday in the world,” Wilker said. “We wanted to provide an experience that would make it easy for anyone to be a part of.”

What: AJC Unity Seder
Where: The Temple, 1589 Peachtree St., Midtown
When: Registration at 6 p.m., program at 6:30, Tuesday, March 13
Admission: $36 ($18 for students and young professionals); www.ajc.org/atlanta

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