Orange for Passover

March 28, 2013

Folks have been turning their Facebook pages red in solidarity with the GLBT community and particularly to support gay marriage this week as the Supremes hear oral arguments on two key cases before them.

At this time of Passover, I think we should go Orange as we have on the Seder Plate.  Here is the origin (pun intended):

The Origin of the Orange on the Seder Plate
In the early 1980s, the Hillel Foundation invited me to speak
on a panel at Oberlin College. While on campus, I came
across a Haggada that had been written by some Oberlin
students to express feminist concerns. One ritual they devised
was placing a crust of bread on the Seder plate, as a sign of
solidarity with Jewish lesbians (“there’s as much room for a
lesbian in Judaism as there is for a crust of bread on the Seder
At the next Passover, I placed an orange on our family’s Seder
plate. During the first part of the Seder, I asked everyone to
take a segment of the orange, make the blessing over fruit,
and eat it as a gesture of solidarity with Jewish lesbians and
gay men, and others who are marginalized within the Jewish
community (I mentioned widows in particular).
Bread on the Seder plate brings an end to Pesach – it renders
everything chometz. And its symbolism suggests that being
lesbian is being transgressive, violating Judaism. I felt that an
orange was suggestive of something else: the fruitfulness for
all Jews when lesbians and gay men are contributing and
active members of Jewish life. In addition, each orange
segment had a few seeds that had to be spit out – a gesture of
spitting out, repudiating the homophobia that poisons too
many Jews.
When lecturing, I often mentioned my custom as one of many
new feminist rituals that had been developed in the last
twenty years. Somehow, though, the typical patriarchal
maneuver occurred: My idea of an orange and my intention of
affirming lesbians and gay men were transformed. Now the
story circulates that a MAN stood up after I lecture I
delivered and said to me, in anger, that a woman belongs on
the bimah as much as an orange on the Seder plate. My idea,
a woman’s words, are attributed to a man, and the affirmation
of lesbians and gay men is simply erased. Isn’t that precisely
what’s happened over the centuries to women’s ideas?

—Susannah Heschel, April, 2001 Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies Dartmouth College

I’m changing my Facebook profile photo to an Orange.  Now that’s Iconic.