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1969 Freedom Seder: "It would not be sufficient"

Introduction

During Passover 1969, Jews and African Americans came together on the first anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination to remember him. A seder with new readings that connected the Jewish exodus from Egypt with the struggle for Civil Rights in America and Social Justice around the world seemed the perfect way to commemorate, celebrate, and call to action. The text below is a short excerpt from that seder. In an inverted dayenu, the list of God's "gifts" to the Jewish people and the refrain of "it would have been sufficient" found in the original text of dayenu (traditionally sung or recited at the Passover seder) are changed to a list of contemporary injustices and a refrain of "it would not be sufficient."

1969 Freedom Seder, Excerpt - Dayenu opposite

So the struggles for freedom that remain will be more dark and difficult than any we have met so far. For we must struggle for a freedom that enfolds stern justice, stern bravery, and stern love. Blessed art thou, O Lord our God! who hast confronted us with the necessity of choice and of creating our own book of thy Law. How many and how hard are the choices and the tasks the Almighty has set before us!

For if we were to end a single genocide but not to stop the other wars that kill men and women as we sit here, it would not be sufficient;

If we were to end those bloody wars but not disarm the nations of the weapons that could destroy all mankind, it would not be sufficient;

If we were to disarm the nations but not to end the brutality with which the police attack black people in some countries, brown people in others; Moslems in some countries, Hindus in other; Baptists in some countries, atheists in others; Communists in some countries, conservatives in others, it would not be sufficient;

If we were to end outright police brutality but not prevent some people from wallowing in luxury while others starved, it would not be sufficient;

If we were to make sure that no one starved but were not to free the daring poets from their jails, it would not be sufficient;

If we were to free the poets from their jails but to train the minds of people so that they could not understand the poets, it would not be sufficient;

If we educated all men and women to understand the free creative poets but forbade them to explore their own inner ecstasies, it would not be sufficient;

If we allowed men and women to explore their inner ecstasies but would not allow them to love one another and share in the human fraternity, it would not be sufficient.

How much then are we in duty bound to struggle, work, share, give, think, plan, feel, organize, sit-in, speak out, hope, and be on behalf of Mankind! For we must end the genocide [in Vietnam], stop the bloody wars that are killing men and women as we sit here, disarm the nations of the deadly weapons that threaten to destroy us all, end the brutality with which the police beat minorities in many countries, make sure that no one starves, free the poets from their jails, educate us all to understand their poetry, allow us all to explore our inner ecstasies, and encourage and aid us to love one another and share in the human fraternity. All these!

Details

Arthur Waskow, “The Original 1969 Freedom Seder,” http://www.theshalomcenter.org/node/899, accessed 1/4/2010. Copyright (c) 1969, 1970, by Arthur Waskow. See this and the entire Freedom Seder and related materials by linking to http://www/theshalomcenter.org/treasury/105.

Discussion Questions

  1. According to this text, what are "the struggles for freedom that remain"?
  2. What choices and tasks set by God do you think this reading refers to? Why are these so difficult?
  3. What traditional seder liturgy is this reading modeled after? What is the traditional refrain? What is the new refrain? Why do you think this change was made?
  4. Does this text recommend working within the Jewish community? Outside of the Jewish community? Some combination of both? Point to evidence in the text.
  5. In what ways does this text draw upon lessons of the Civil Rights Movement?

Tableaux Vivants

With your group, plan two tableaux vivants ("living pictures" in French) that will help teach your classmates about the document you just discussed. What would a painting or photograph illustrating this document look like? Recreate that picture with members of your group stepping in as the characters represented.

  1. The first tableau vivant pose should illustrate "the way things were"—the circumstances that the activists wanted to change, (based on your document).
  2. The second pose should illustrate that change (based on your document). In the second pose, each member of your group should be clear who their character is, what role that character plays, and what s/he believes. (see below)

After completing your poses, you will be asked to communicate the following to your classmates about the document you discussed, while staying in character:

  • What is the Freedom Seder? Who are you?
  • What concerns do you have?
  • Is your activism focused within the Jewish community or more about the broader community?
  • How, if at all, do you see your struggle as connected to the Civil Rights Movement?
  • How do you plan to bring about the change you want to see? (if known from the document)

You should also be prepared to answer other questions posed by other students in the class, while staying in character.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "1969 Freedom Seder: "It would not be sufficient"." (Viewed on October 1, 2014) <http://jwa.org/teach/livingthelegacy/documentstudies/1969-freedom-seder-it-would-not-be-sufficient>.

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