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Frederick's First Women's Seder Was April 14, 2011. By Besty Nicholas
“Look at all the hands of women around this table. Think how much they give…. The most difficult task for women is to put our hands in our laps and let them stay still” said Julie Heifetz, setting a warm and contemplative tone at the start of Frederick’s first Women’s Seder held at Beth Sholom on April 14. Julie, a poet and playwright, spoke to the eighty women present of the nurturing roles women play. All in attendance were encouraged to “let our hands lie still” and enjoy the seder “intended…to honor and nurture all of the nurturers present.”
Women’s seders became popular in the 1970’s, as the women’s movement gained strength. The Frederick Women’s Seder was sponsored jointly by NCJW, Beth Sholom Congregation, Hadassah and Congregation Kol Ami. Members of these organizations met over a six month period to plan the event. Marcy Taylor, Sharon Kuebbing, Lisa Bordenick, Irene Stephen, Perri Slosky and Betsy Nicholas drew on other Women’s Seder Hagaddahs to create a Hagaddah celebrating the importance of Moses’ sister Miriam and other women in the Exodus from Egypt. Miriam’s Well, the miraculous source of water that followed the Israelites in the desert for forty years was commemorated. The readings also honored the sacrifices made by courageous women dedicated to saving Jewish lives and enjoined us to free our world from the social ills that effectively enslave so many.
The dinner tables, featuring Irene Stephen’s hand-made seder plates, matzo covers, Elijah cups and Miriam goblets were beautifully set by Irene, Phyllis Schwartz and Sandra Goldberg.
Sharon Kuebbing and Alice Haber led the Seder skillfully and with great warmth. Micki Cohen was our “Phil Donahue,” passing the microphone so efficiently to the attendees reading from the Hagaddah, there was no down time. Recorded music accompanied the singing of Dayenu and other Passover favorites and soon it was time for dinner.
Stacee Springer created a fantastic menu featuring gefilte fish, matzo ball soup, chopped liver, orange chicken, vegetarian stuffed cabbage, candied carrots, vegetable gratin, potato kugel, chocolate matzo and gorgeous chocolate-covered strawberries and apricots. Stacee worked tirelessly in the kitchen and had help from Betsy Nicholas, Chris Eissenstat, Eileen Marcus, Susan Dwyer, Sylvia Haber and Marianne Erlichman. Paula Nathanson, Diane Levant and Sheila Blank contributed ideas and elbow grease. We have Diane to thank for the beautiful flyers publicizing the Seder. We also thank the teens who did a read-through of the Hagaddah while it was still a work in progress.
To ensure that the nurturers were indeed being nurtured, dinner was served by some of our favorite men-folk – Marty Erlichman, Dan Kuebbing, Gary Schwartz and Paul Kessler. Thank you guys – you worked very hard so that we could enjoy the evening. Thanks also to the Beth Sholom staff for hosting the seder.
The seder concluded after opening the door for Elijah and Miriam, evoking a future when all will be free.
Those on the seder-planning committee hope the Women’s Seder may become a Frederick tradition. At present, we plan to hold the next Women’s Seder in two years.