Humanistic Jews seek the real story of Passover, while engaging in a cultural celebration of this ancient festival.
Read more about the Humanistic celebration of Passover. Click here.
You will find a selection of Humanistic Haggadahs in our bookstore for your Seder at home.
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What if there were no exodus?
Humanistic Jews view the biblical Exodus story as one of the most powerful myths of the Jewish people, a tale that relates the courage and determination of a people fleeing slavery for freedom. Secular Humanistic Judaism views Passover as a time to celebrate the modern, as well as the ancient, quest for freedom. A Humanist Haggadah includes both the legendary tale of the exodus from Egypt and modern Jewish exodus stories, as well as the themes of its origin as a spring festival.
There is no evidence that the Exodus occurred or that the Hebrew people were in Egypt in the numbers described. The traditional Haggadah includes an anthropomorphic, active, ethnocentric God and the passive deliverance of the Hebrews by their God. There are few, if any, women in this Haggadah, and there are no daughters while four sons are described. A secular Passover relates a nontheistic tale. Humanistic Jews celebrate the actions people take to improve their own lives. A cultural Passover recognizes gender equality and the value of inclusiveness so that girls and boys, men and women feel connected to their history.
To the original symbols on the Seder table (haroset, bitter herbs, roasted egg, parsley, lamb shank bone), the Seder plate in Jewish humanism might include:
- An orange, representing the historical marginalization of lesbians and gay men. It also suggested the fruitfulness for all Jews who contribute to Judaism.
- A potato, symbolizing the exodus of Ethiopian Jews from oppression to freedom, from famine to plenty, and recognizing the suffering and starvation of those in concentration camps during the Holocaust.
- A Miriam’s Cup (of water) next to the cup of wine for Elijah. The rabbis tell us that Miriam traveled with a well of healing waters throughout the desert journey of the Hebrew people. The addition of Miriam’s Cup thus acknowledges and symbolizes the significant role of women within the history of the Jewish people.
The retelling of our modern struggles for freedom from oppression contributes to making Passover a more meaningful and powerful community celebration for Secular Humanistic Jews.