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Jewish Holidays

Following in Miriam's Path

At every Passover Seder, there are the traditional items on the table: the Seder plate, a place for Elijah, and that gnawing hunger before finally feasting. On my table there is another item that makes a quiet appearance every year. A Kiddush cup, the same one my family uses for Shabbat, is given a new name for Pesach. The Kos Miriyam, or Miriam’s Cup, has its own part of our Seder rituals. After a certain number of parody songs about the holiday, and some acting out of the plagues—aided by ketchup (blood) and sunglasses (darkness)—the Kos Miriyam finally gets its turn. Passing the cup around, we listen as my mother tells us about Miriam’s well and the divine healing power held by the water. This water brought the Jewish nation from a place of physical and emotional slavery to a free, spiritual, lively community. She explains that as Jews and as individuals we are still on journeys to a better place.

There are times in our own lives when we try to reach a land of milk and honey, but often there are roadblocks, speed bumps, and detours along the way. We can take on these challenges single-handedly, but if we do, we are more likely to work ourselves into the ground, unable to continue moving forward. Instead, we can choose to reach out to the women surrounding us for assistance. With their help, we can overcome obstacles and continue on our individual journeys. The women in our lives provide support to each of us, as Miriam supported the Israelites on their grueling journey to the Holy Land.

A Joyful Struggle

I have always struggled at my family’s Passover Seders. My difficulties have not been emotional or spiritual, religious or psychological. My troubles have been purely physical; every year, I wrestle with the giant stack of haggadot next to my plate, which seems intent on toppling over. I spread the books around me, trying to follow my family’s traditional Seder in five or more disparate texts, a linguistic comment here, a poem there.

Death of Ruth Fredman Cernea, cultural anthropologist of Jews in Myanmar and Washington, DC

March 31, 2009

Ruth Fredman Cernea said, "Jewish humor is not silly, but it is absurd absurdity. It is the opposite of deep seriousness."

Laverne Cox's Brave New Platform

I consider myself a feminist, and I also strive to combat other axes of oppression in my daily life, but sometimes I fall through. Far too often, I’ll stay quiet when I hear someone make a transphobic comment or a misogynistic remark. Some days I’m really not up to challenging that person, but other times I just let myself believe that it’s not my battle, that it doesn’t matter, that someone else will take care of it.

Bella and Esther: If You've Got It, Flaunt It

How did Esther and Bella Abzug make change in their communities? How have Jewish women used costumes to help them achieve their goals? What can these stories teach us about gender and Judaism today?

Magda Altman Schaloum

Holocaust survivor Magda Altman Schaloum speaks out on behalf of all Holocaust survivors and their families. Born and raised in Hungary, she endured acts of antisemitism throughout her childhood, and in 1944 and 1945 Magda was sent to several concentration camps. She lost both her parents and her brother. Magda met her husband, Isaac Schaloum, in a Displaced Persons Camp in Germany. Isaac was from Salonika, Greece. They emigrated to Seattle in 1950, where Isaac became a tailor and businessman, and they raised three children. Although of Hungarian descent, Magda became an active and beloved member of Seattle’s Sephardic community. She volunteers for many Jewish organizations, including the Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center, and continues to bear witness to the horrors of hatred and antisemitism.

Singer Shirley Cohen Steinberg records the beloved Passover song “One Morning”

February 23, 1951

Singer Shirley Cohen Steinberg records the beloved Passover song One Morning.

Barbara Dobkin

Barbara Dobkin is the Founding Chair of the Jewish Women’s Archive’s Board of Directors. She is also the founder and Chair of Ma’yan: The Jewish Women’s Project of the JCC in Manhattan and Chair of the Board of The Hadassah Foundation.

Kim Chernin

After a moment’s thought, I know: I come from a Russian-Jewish, Marxist family that had set aside its practice of Judaism. I didn’t even realize until long after he was dead that my father, who was born to an Orthodox family, had been a bar mitzvah and as an adult still read Hebrew. I have had to discover Judaism on my own, educate myself, and learn what it means to be a Jewish woman who worships Shekhinah (the feminine presence of God). I am proud of this accomplishment. I am a Jewish writer. What more is there to say?

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Jewish Holidays." (Viewed on January 25, 2015) <http://jwa.org/topics/jewish-holidays>.

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