Let Your Wife Go!

By Rachel Putterman

For those who follow the cycle of the Jewish year, we’re about to wrap up the interim period between the Israelites’ redemption from slavery in Egypt that we commemorated at the Passover seder, and the paradigmatic moment of revelation at Mount Sinai that we will soon celebrate at Shavuot.  As we metaphorically complete our wandering in the desert and prepare to accept God’s law as a free people, it is worth taking a look at modern issues of slavery particularly within the Jewish world. In so doing, it’s hard not to be struck by the resiliency of the agunah issue. Despite years of activism on behalf of agunot, the issue remains a Gordian knot in our midst. Yet a recent civil court decision from the far-flung reaches of Australia signals that the perception of get refusal as domestic abuse is becoming axiomatic. Perhaps most inspiring, the decision demonstrates how civil courts and Beit Dins (Jewish religious courts) can work together to free women from dead marriages.

Under Jewish law, a man must voluntarily give a woman a Jewish divorce, and the woman must voluntarily accept it. The woman is the passive recipient of the man’s act of divorcing her, an act that the Beit Din merely facilitates. This is in stark contrast to U.S. civil law, where either party may initiate a divorce case, and it is the court that issues the final divorce judgment. Traditionally, an agunah was a woman whose husband was unable to give her a divorce either because he had disappeared or didn’t have the requisite mental or physical capacity. In the last 50 years or so, the term agunah has shifted to refer primarily to the situation where a man refuses to give his wife a get, despite being capable of doing so. Sometimes the husband simply doesn’t want his wife to be free to remarry, and other times he uses the threat of get refusal as a means of extorting concessions on other issues connected to the divorce case such as financial support, division of property or access to the children. In either situation, men are leveraging the power differential inherent in Jewish divorce to their advantage. Moreover, as was successfully argued in the Australian case, get refusal often is a continuation of a pattern of domestic abuse that has gone on throughout the marriage.

In response to the tireless activism on behalf of agunot, there have been some recent legal developments that bode well, of which the Australian case is but the latest. Following an Agunot Summit convened in New York in the summer of 2013, Orthodox feminist Blu Greenberg announced the formation of a new International Beit Din whose raison d’etre is the resolution of complicated get refusal cases. Another novel solution that has been gaining traction throughout the U.S. is the signing of the halachic prenuptial agreement, whereby the husband agrees that in the event of separation, he will pay his wife a certain amount for every day that he refuses to give her a get. In the wake of these high profile legal remedies within the U.S., the landmark decision from Australia shows that Jewish communities around the world are making strides in the struggle to free agunot.

Earlier this year, in a case involving a woman’s request for an extension of an order of protection, an Australian magistrate held that get refusal per se constitutes family violence as articulated by the applicable family law regulation. The woman seeking the order of protection had already been civilly divorced from her husband yet he was refusing to give her a get unless she paid him $200,000. The woman’s attorney argued that the order of protection should be granted at least in part due to the man’s refusal to give his wife a get. She crafted this argument in consultation with the Melbourne Beit Din to ensure the validity of any get her client would eventually receive. The Magistrate granted the extension of the order of protection, and explicitly found that the man’s “refusal to finally release her from a violent marriage [was] the ultimate exercise of dominance and control.” Acknowledging the synergy between civil and religious authorities in this case, the head rabbi on the Melbourne Beit Din welcomed the decision and stated: “[t]his precedent would allow us another method of using the civil court system to help provide a gett [sic] from a recalcitrant husband.”

Not only does this Australian case provide the first legal finding that get refusal constitutes domestic abuse, it also exemplifies the effectiveness of religious and civil courts working together to send the message that get refusal is a violation of law that will not be sanctioned. In other words, all authorities agree that women should not continue to be enslaved in marriages that they want to be free of, and hence it’s time for all recalcitrant husbands to heed the call: Let Your Wife Go!

rachel_puttermanRachel Putterman is a Helen Gartner Hammer Scholar-in-Residence and a rabbinical student at Hebrew College.

 

Let’s Talk About Israel’s Blacklist

By Susan Weiss

It’s time to talk about Israel’s blacklist. This state sanctioned registry of “untouchables” — the last public accounting of it in 2004 lists 5,305 Israelis — is a motley crew who fall under three general categorizations:

  1. People who can’t marry any type of Jew (2,835)
  2. “Unkosher” Jews who can’t marry “kosher Jews” but can marry other “unkosher Jews” or converts (235)
  3. “Kosher Jews” with issues that limit who they can marry (2,235)

Included in the first group are: Gentiles; those suspected of being Gentiles; “lapsed” converts whose conversions were repealed because of conduct deemed “wayward” by Israeli state rabbis, and the children of those lapsed converts. In the second category of “unkosher Jews” are mamzerim and suspected mamzerim — children born of their mother’s adulterous relationships, or of their incestuous relationships, even if coerced. These include children born of “consanguineous” incestuous relations (among blood relatives) like a father and daughter, as well as “affinal” incestuous relations (non-blood relatives) like a woman with her sister’s ex-husband, or a widow with her brother-in-law if she had had children with her husband. In the third category of “kosher Jews” whose options are limited are, among others: Cohanim or priests who live with divorcees or converts and whose daughters are not permitted to marry other priests; divorced couples who slept together after divorce and need to redo the get ceremony if they want to marry other people; as well as women suspected of adultery who are barred from marrying their ex-husbands or lovers.

All of the above kinship rules are based on ancient, Biblical and rabbinic laws and have been incorporated into the operative, family law of the land in the State of Israel by way of the Rabbinic Court Jurisdiction (Marriage and Divorce) Law of 1953. In 1976, then Attorney General, and later Chief Justice, Aaron Barak, approved the blacklist, implicitly and prospectively expanding the rabbinic court’s jurisdiction in a matter on which law was silent. In 2003, Barak’s opinion was reviewed by the new Attorney General and re-confirmed.

On the (liberal) face of things, it’s pretty bad. Ancient laws infringe on Israeli citizens’ rights to marriage, freedom of conscience, and privacy. But when you watch it operate up close, which has been my professional lot as the director of the Center for Women’s Justice (CWJ) where we represent people on the list and others, the picture gets even more daunting. It is more than just the state offering up a few unfortunate souls for the sake of the Jewish polity. It’s about how state secular actors like the Attorney General’s Office, the Justice Department, and the Israeli Supreme Court sacrifice, again and again, the democratic heart of the Jewish State, allowing state actors with the violent power of the state behind them to aggressively enter into our bedrooms, kitchens, and the private recesses of our consciences.

Take for example “Miriam”, a recent CWJ client who “found” herself on the blacklist after she was divorced from her husband. When the get was being arranged, her soon-to-be ex-husband told the rabbis that he suspected that she had had an affair with “Yossi”. That suspicion was enough for the presiding rabbi to put “Miriam” on the blacklist. Though she did not want to marry “Yossi”, “Miriam” wanted her name off the (offensive) list. CWJ petitioned the rabbinic court to remove her name. We claimed both that the procedure by which “Miriam” had “found” herself on the list had been flawed and that the court had no jurisdiction at all to put her on the list in the first place. Since “Miriam” had gotten divorced by agreement (i.e. the divorce was not contested), we argued, the issue of whether she had, or had not, slept with “Yossi” during her marriage was not relevant to the divorce proceeding and hence not within the parameters of the Rabbinic Court Jurisdiction Law. The District Rabbinic Court disagreed but was willing to conduct a retrial on the matter. Our client did not want to undergo such a demeaning trial— where her sex life would be discussed— and we appealed the decision to the High Rabbinic Court on both procedural and substantive grounds. When we lost, we appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Asher Grunis, was not sympathetic. The Court wasn’t willing to help out “Miriam” since she had refused to undergo a retrial. And it also wasn’t willing to accept our principled claim that the rabbinic court had no jurisdiction at all to conduct sex trials in uncontested divorced proceedings, rejecting our request that it examine the Jurisdiction Law with “strict scrutiny.” Instead, the Court deferred to the opinion of the Justice Department attorney appointed to represent the State against us on the matter. That attorney, in response to our substantive jurisdictional claim, referred the Court back to Barak’s 1976 opinion with regard to the blacklist. As for our procedural claim, the Court sent me to the negotiating table to draft regulations with the government attorneys to make sure that blacklisting and sex trials would meet the standards of fair trial and due process. I used the time, unsuccessfully, to try to convince the public servants that they should be working to protect my and my clients’ human rights, not the state’s interest. They used the time, unsuccessfully, to try to get me to lend my hand to the regulations. About 10 days ago, after the Chief Rabbi approved of the draft regulations, the Supreme Court threw out our case, leaving us a somewhat ambiguous opening to challenge the newly minted regulations with another concrete case.

Bottom line: “Miriam” is still blacklisted. We have official regulations authorizing sex trials drafted by the Justice Department and more or less ok’d by the Supreme Court. Ex-husbands are dragging their ex-wives to state rabbinic courts if they apply to marry persons that their ex-husbands suspect that they had slept with during their marriage. Rabbinic courts are hearing these cases and women, sometimes years after their divorce, are bearing the burden of disproving their, often vindictive, ex-husband’s suspicions.

Everything is wrong with this picture. It is a picture of a theocracy gone wild, financed with tax-payer money, regulated and bureaucratized, and supported by a shortsighted, unimaginative, and unfocused secular democratic arm of the state. Max Weber, Ben Gurion, John Stuart Mill, Ahad Ha’am, God Himself, and many others are all rolling over in their graves. This is not what a Jewish State should look like. And it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s time for both Israelis and those interested in Israel’s future to call on the Israeli government to set up a civil rights division in the Justice Department.

susanweiss_smSusan Weiss is the founder and director of the Center of Women’s Justice in Jerusalem and is the Estanne Fawer scholar-in-residence at the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute. This blog first appeared in the Sisterhood Blog of The Forward.

Ruth Bader Ginger? Let’s Make it Happen

What does ice cream have to do with feminism? A lot, according to Yael Mazor-Garfinkle, an HBI internship alumna and the creator of a petition to create “Ruth Bader Ginger” ice cream. The petition — which has gained attention from sources such as TIME, Fox News, Bustle, and The Daily Mail —  has reached over 4,000 signatures. Fresh Ideas from HBI wanted to find out more about the petition, so we asked Yael to share her thoughts.

Q: What inspired you to start your petition?

Y: A few weeks ago, I read a BuzzFeed article which points out that Ben & Jerry’s has named 20-plus flavors after people over the past 30 years, but only two of those honorees have been women. In response to that article, another author notes that perceptions of gender parity are generally skewed and that most people don’t notice the relative absence of women in popular culture. To change this mentality, she argues, we need Ruth Bader Ginger ice cream. “Ruth Bader Ginger?” I thought. The idea was too perfect — someone just needed to propose the idea to Ben & Jerry’s. That’s when I decided to create the petition.

Q: Why did you decide to nominate Ruth Bader Ginsburg?  rbg

Y: Ruth Bader Ginsburg inspires me in so many ways. As the first Jewish woman to sit on the Supreme Court, Justice Ginsburg broke gender barriers from a young age. She graduated first in her class at Harvard Law and co-founded the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project. She has dedicated her life to pursuing tzedek, and our country is better for it. As I wrote in my petition, I want Ben & Jerry’s to recognize the contributions that women like Ruth Bader Ginsburg have made to make our nation great.

Q: Your petition rapidly grew from a few hundred signatures to over 4,000 in just a matter of days. How did you manage to spread the word?

Y: My professional background is in marketing. My first marketing “gig” was at HBI, interning with Lindsey Fieldman, former communications director. I developed a social media strategy to spread the word. I began by posting about the petition to close friends who would be interested, but I then expanded my reach by targeting Twitter users who are passionate about the same issues as Justice Ginsburg: women’s rights, marriage equality, Judaism, etc. Justice Ginsburg has a lot of fans out there, so it wasn’t so hard to rally them around the cause.

Q: Do you think the petition will work?

Y: I certainly hope so! The reason I chose to petition Ben & Jerry’s is that they seemed like such an obvious fit for this kind of initiative. The brand is one, which has used its platform to promote social justice, including many of the same issues (i.e., marriage equality, keeping corporate money out of elections) Justice Ginsburg has defended in the Supreme Court. If Ben & Jerry’s truly supports social justice, then it’s time for the brand to prove it! Furthermore, the company already has a legacy of taking flavor suggestions from consumers. If fans can create “Cherry Garcia,” why not “Ruth Bader Ginger?”

Q: Have you heard anything back from Ben & Jerry’s?

Y: A recent news clip from Burlington, Vermont said that Ben & Jerry’s is “aware” of the petition and in the process of preparing a statement. I haven’t received it yet, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed! In the meantime, I’m focusing on gathering as many signatures as possible.

Yael Mazor-Garfinkle is a Marketing Coach at the MaidPro Franchise Corporation. She is a Brandeis University alumna (BA, 2008) and received her graduate degree in Integrated Marketing Yael - HeadshotCommunication from Emerson College in 2014. Yael currently lives in Melrose, MA with her husband.

 

The Vienna of Klimt, Adele Bloch-Bauer and Hitler

By Laura Morowitz

The new film, Woman in Gold is playing in many theaters around the country this week. The movie tells the victorious story of how Maria Altmann won back the Gustav Klimt painting stolen from her family by the Nazis.

On a cold January day in 1939, Nazi administrators and museum officials raided the palais of the Bloch-Bauers — one of the wealthiest and most cultured Jewish families in Vienna — “Aryanizing” its contents and shipping them off to storage facilities and museums. Vienna, under the Anschluss, was the darkest and most tragic period in the city’s history. But Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer I (1907), around which the current film focuses, was created in another Vienna, one sparkling with life and light, enlivened by the vivid Jewish culture of the city. In 1907, the very year the portrait was created, a young Adolf Hitler came to settle in Vienna and later vowed to crush the brilliant, daring society that flourished there.

In turn-of-the-century Vienna, Modernism had caught fire and exploded. In nearly every domain of culture, from painting, architecture and design, to theater, philosophy and psychology, brilliant artists and thinkers carried out experiments in the buttoned-up capital of the Habsburg Empire, and altered our understanding of human nature.

Vienna: A Radical Modernist City

Vienna  in 1900 was not only the most radical Modernist city, but the most Jewish. It had the largest population of Jews in Western Europe (8 percent) and its wealthy Jewish families firmly ruled the city’s cultural life. Its artistic and intellectual superstars were often of Jewish origin: Gustav Mahler, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Sigmund Freud, Arnold Schnitzler, Hugo von Hoffmannsthal, Arnold Schoenberg, etc. And in the fields where Jews didn’t dominate, their financial support made many of the most important commissions and support possible. (Klimt’s patrons were so often Jewish that critics begin to complain of his “gôut juif”–his Jewish taste.)

It’s a true irony of history, then, that the individual most bent on the destruction of Jewish culture and Jewish life walked the very same streets, at the very same time as the Jewish luminaries above. Who among the artistic and intellectual groundbreakers of this city — Stefan Zweig, Karl Krauss — passed the scraggly teen-aged Adolf Hitler without giving him a second look? As he paid his small fee to watch Gustav Mahler conduct Wagner at the Hofopera, did Hitler stand beside Theodor Herzl, who was also smitten by the conductor’s Romantic dream worlds? (Herzl would later claim them as inspiration for his Zionist vision.) Did he pass un-noticed in the Kunsthistorische Museum as Adele and Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer took in the collections? For Hitler had arrived in Vienna to make his own mark artistically. He failed, and that failure was the first great disappointment of his life. He would never let the city forget it.

Hitler Arrived at Age 17

He’d come first at the age of seventeen, with a small fee saved by his mother. Arriving from Linz, Hitler was enchanted by the Ringstrasse, the Imperial collections, the statues and glittering monuments. Convinced of his artistic greatness, he vowed to return and attend the Vienna Academy of Art. He came back in September of 1907, sitting for the drawing exam the next month.

He failed.

A few days later he received word from Linz that his mother was dying of cancer. He went home and stayed beside her as she suffered and died.

When Hitler returned to Vienna in 1908, he was miserable and deeply receptive to the wide-spread anti-Semitism of the city. It’s yet another historical irony that a city so rich in Jewish talent was also the first to come under the sway of a politician who succeeded on an anti-Semitic platform. Mayor Karl Lueger—“handsome Karl”—was a Christian Socialist who made it clear that the Jews would no longer run his city. Hitler admired him, and became a regular reader of the pan-Germanist Georg Schoenerer, whose vicious racial anti-Semitism Hitler would take over as his own.

This time Hitler, still struggling to make it as an artist, was sent with a letter of introduction from his neighbor, to ease the way. The letter recommended him to Alfred Roller, co-founder of the Secession (his sets for Wagner’s operas would impress Hitler all his life; In 1933 he brought the designer to Bayreuth to design a new production of Parsifal). But the eighteen year old Hitler was too intimidated to use the introduction, hesitating three times in front of Roller’s office.

Gustav Klimt, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, 1907 (exhibited as “The Lady in Gold” in 1943)

Gustav Klimt, Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907, oil, silver and gold on canvas, Neue Galerie New York. This acquisition made available in part through the generosity of the heirs of the Estates of Ferdinand and Adele Bloch-Bauer

Instead, Hitler ignored the modern art igniting all around him. In the spring of 1908, Gustav Klimt organized the Kunstschau, exhibiting 176 artists, and revealing Adele Bloch Bauer I to the Viennese public. If Hitler went to the most important artistic event of the season, he was silent on it.

While artists like Klimt and Oskar Kokoschka caused scandals, Hitler did nothing worthy of attention. Mostly he walked the streets, arguing with the other men in the homeless shelters where he stayed, painting postcards to earn a small living. Later in Mein Kampf, Hitler would claim Vienna as the place where he first became aware of “the Jewish question.”

Creators and Destroyer Share Time in Vienna

Seldom in history do the creators and the destroyer of a culture come so closely in to contact. As a young man, Hitler had stood close enough to feel the heat emanating from Mahler’s symphonies, Klimt’s portraits and Zweig’s stories. But he was too consumed by the fires of his own rage to feel it. As the clouds of the war rolled over Europe in 1913, Hitler left Vienna, refusing to fight for what he saw as a mongrel and dilapidated Austro-Hungarian Empire. He headed for Munich, joining the first World War, and cultivating the hatred that would lead to the second.

When he rose to power, Hitler was determined to keep both this past, and Vienna itself, in the shadows.

On Tuesday, March 15, 1938 Adolf Hitler rode his Mercedes triumphantly into Vienna. The crowds that lined the streets threw roses, rang bells and hoisted their children in the air. The next morning hundreds of thousands of Viennese jammed the Heldenplatz to hear Hitler’s speech from the balcony. Vienna adored their new Führer. The life enjoyed by Maria Altmann, and the rest of Vienna’s Jews, came to an end forever.

Despite the roaring crowds that greeted his arrival, Hitler still carried his hatred for the “Jewish” city. In a diary entry Josef Goebbels, Reichminister for Propaganda, summed up Hitler’s plans for the city: “Under no circumstances must anything be given to Vienna; rather whatever can be taken away, should be taken away.” While other important cities—Berlin, Munich and above all his hometown, Linz–would receive grand redesigns, Vienna would indeed get nothing “It was my mistake to have sent you to Vienna,” Hitler screamed at the mayor of the city in 1943, “It was a mistake that I ever brought these Viennese into the Greater German Reich. I know these people. In my youth I lived among them. They are the enemies of Germany.”

Turn-of –the-century Vienna, an intoxicating and profoundly Jewish city, nearly consigned Hitler to the dustbin of history. While art like Adele Bloch Bauer I still exists to testify to its glory, the light and genius of that city can never be brought back to life.

lauracloseupLaura Morowitz is Professor of Art History at Wagner College, New York. She is the author of many articles and reviews appearing in The Art Bulletin, The Oxford Art Journal, Art Criticism, The Journal of Popular Film and Television and The Journal of the History of Collecting among others. In the Fall of 2014 she was an invited speaker at Duke University’s Art History Speaker Series, Art, Conflict and the Politics Memory where she spoke on “Erasing Fin-de-Siècle Vienna: The 1943 Gustav Klimt Retrospective and the Making of an Artistic Hero.” Her work on the art of the fin de siècle and Vienna under the Anschluss has been supported by the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute.

Passover Matzo and Bitter Herbs – The Song of Freedom of the Passover Seder

By Rabba Ayala Miron-Shashua

At the height of the pre-Passover cleaning chaos, I remember my young son asking me, “Mother, what are you doing?” Without a pause, I answered, “I’m making seder” (Hebrew for “order”)! When he didn’t respond, I looked up and saw the confusion on his face: nothing around us looked in any way like what he associated with a Seder. I sighed and explained, “What choice do we have? In order for there to be a Seder, there first has to be a big mess!”

Such are my thoughts these days about freedom. Freedom is only reached after passing through a corridor of confusion, blurred boundaries, discomfort, and even suffocation. And then, generally without great fanfare, a door opens to freedom.

In my experience, the expectation that freedom will be sweet is usually met with disappointment. Indeed, the taste of freedom is bitter. In The Prince of Egypt, Universal Studios’ animated movie version of the Exodus story, the journey out of Egypt is made in high spirits and with enthusiastic song that anticipates the Song of the Sea, but the impression that arises from the Biblical story, even though, not surprisingly with only some of its details, is that the exodus from Egypt occurred in the middle of the night, in secret, in a hurry and without pillars of fire and billows of smoke leading the tribal wanderers. On the contrary, it seems that more than anything else the sounds that accompanied the exodus from Egypt were the screams from the Egyptian homes, mourning the death of their first-born children.

The songs of wonder, the thanksgiving and the elevated spirits came, as mentioned above, only later, after the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea. Even the four expressions of redemption: ”Delivered, Saved, Redeemed, and Taken,” relate to the description of the exodus from Egypt in retrospect, after the fact, in the memory of the Passover holiday that is observed for generations to come, and it is difficult to imagine that those who left Egypt experienced them in all their power. This also in the personal sphere: when we are in a position of freedom we are generally aware of the true significance of it in retrospect, and then the joy appears.

I would like to suggest a modest observation on freedom.

Freedom is experienced in my opinion in two possible scenarios: the first is the capacity to create for ourselves an opening, window or channel where we once perceived a dead end. The second is the capacity to discover a cascade of options when it seems like we’ve entered a one-way path.

This relates to the most important lesson from the Exodus story and the parting of the Red Sea: an opening of possibilities and choices in places where it seemed there weren’t any. Choice. This may be one of the ways to understand the concept of ‘Chosen People’ – the people who believe in the ability, perhaps even the imperative, to choose.

And here lies the question: how does the Passover holiday or the Seder itself reflect the idea, the potential of freedom? The Seder ceremony reflects a simple principle upon which freedom is also based: the courage to observe reality in a way that is different from what we are accustomed to. Our ability to step outside our comfort zone – to change our perspective, assume a different vantage point, investigate a different pattern of behavior without checking it within ourselves first.

The symbols most clearly identified with the Seder, eating while reclining, the four cups of wine, and the unleavened bread, all resonate with this basic assumption: the exodus from our comfort zone and usual habits is equated with freedom. We sit in a different, and strange way, the most basic food on the table, bread, takes on a different form, without its familiar, comforting consistency, and furthermore, no less than four glasses of wine!

All of this illustrates an idea that is almost painfully simple – that freedom demands change: change of positions, change of interpretations, and reconsideration of the ways that we act and react. Without blurring the borders of the known and familiar, the practiced and routine, there will be no exodus from Egypt.

And if we don’t remember this – then the children ask and remind us with their questions during the Seder: “Why is this night different?”

I also find an expression of this basic idea of freedom in the three elements of the Seder mentioned by Rabbi Gamliel: Passover, Matzo and Maror (Bitter Herbs).

Passover – Since we allow ourselves to “pass over” two customary actions: not to respond automatically and not to enter into regular habits.

Matzo – Since we consciously desist from the option of swelling our egos and adhering to our opinions, while blockading ourselves in a fortress of our own righteousness. We make an effort to reduce the ongoing run-around of the ego, which tends to swell up and ferment, we do everything in our power to observe ourselves from a distance.

Bitter Herbs – The unavoidable taste of choice and of freedom, as I explained above, is not sweet. The consistency of freedom is not airy nor does it slide smoothly down the throat. Perhaps the contrary: freedom leaves a bitter taste, and maybe even gets stuck in the throat. But this bitterness is stimulating, energizing, and demands the kind of attention that the sweet and the smooth don’t. And the understanding in retrospect of what we have done, of the way we have behaved, of the choices that we have made, ultimately will bring with it a bit of sweetness, like the maror that we eat during the Seder.

And after we have fulfilled our obligation to these three things: the Passover, Matzo and Bitter Herbs, comes the part that, for me is engraved in my earliest memory and even today I eagerly and joyfully await: the sandwich of Hillel the Elder. To take two pieces of matzo, which is the bread of poverty and of freedom together, and fill them with some bitter herb, which is the memory of slavery but also of the possibility of freedom from it, and the Haroset, which symbolizes mortar and hard labor but also adds sweetness and complexity to the mixture – and the opportunity to experience all those flavors and memories together, to assemble them in one sandwich – dripping, crumbling, bitter and sweet. That, to me, is the song of freedom of the Seder night.

The invitation from the Song of Songs: “Lkha Dodi, Nitze l’sadeh” can be interpreted as an invitation or command to step out from what is comfortable and familiar.

What or how is it different” How are we going to make the difference?

Rabba Ayala Miron-Shashua, is Rabbi of Congregation Bat Ayin in Rosh Hayin and is a contrayalaibutor to V’hee Sheamda – a Passover Haggadah with a new women’s midrash produced by the Elga Stulman Institute at HaMidrasha. It is the first Feminist Israeli Haggadah and includes the traditional text.