Justice, Religion, Uncategorized

An Empty Place at the Table

The very good Rabbi David Levin-Kruss of Pardes has a nice idea for not only marking the genocide happening in the world today at our seders, but using the seder as a chance to raise a little money for those attempting to stop it. He writes,

Dear All
My name is David Levin-Kruss and I am a Jewish educator living in Jerusalem. Like many I watch the genocide unfolding in Darfurand wonder what I can do to help. In a situation eerily reminiscent of many in our own history, the world looks on as a people is destroyed. Jews have the collective trauma of being persecuted with none coming to our aid. We dare not make the same mistake ourselves.
This year I have decided to incorporate activism on Darfur into our seder and I suggest you do the same. Rather as in the days of the Soviet Jewry movement I propose that we leave a chair empty for those in Sudan and, more importantly, donate the cost of one meal to a charity working to alleviate and change the situation. We could also ask our guests to donate rather than to bring gifts.
In the Vehee She’amda prayer in the hagada we read that in every generation others have stood against us to destroy us but the blessed Holy One saved us. This is an appropriate point to say something along the following lines:
“In this prayer we read that we are and have been persecuted. Let’s remember that we are not the only persecuted in the world and that others suffer too e.g. those in Darfur. Let us pledge today to act as G-d’s mouth and hands by speaking truth to power and doing what we can (politically, militarily, financially, and personally) to bring about a better situation. Let us hope that next year we will not need to leave a chair open to mark those who do not share the freedom we have.” This basic reading can, of course, be added to and changed and this is a good point to share salient facts about the situation.
Suggested charities include:
American Jewish World Service
Hotline for Migrant Workers
Jewish World Watch
Save Darfur
This is a private venture and I am not connected to any particular charity.
Please forward this email to everybody who may be interested – to listserves, shuls, organizations, Hillels, youth movements, print and email publications, etc. I do not know of anybody doing exactly this this year but feel free to adapt and spread this idea – no need to ask for permission or to mention the source.
I look forward to hearing your reactions, comments and suggestions.
With best wishes for a Pesach of freedom for am yisrael and the entire world.

6 thoughts on “An Empty Place at the Table

  1. If you have a possible empty chair, invite a lonely Jew to fill it – there should be no empty chairs at the table.

  2. The idea is nice, but it seems silly. Instead of leaving a symbolic empty chair, why not just donate the money that an extra meal would cost to IRC (a charity he missed) and actually do some good, instead of a meaningless gesture.

  3. Annie – just to clarify, I think you might have missed the point that Rabbi Levin-Kruss made, which was to leave the empty chair as a symbolic way of reminding everyone at the seder to think about and act on this issue, while ALSO making a donation of the cost of the “missing” meal (or more). He did NOT suggest just doing a “meaningless gesture.” Just making the donation without also calling attention to the issue during the seder would partly miss the point. Both are important. Rabbi Levin-Kruss is an incredibly thoughtful person, so I just didn’t want anyone to misunderstand the intentions here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.