Our weekly(-ish) editorials at New Voices are created by the New Voices editorial board, which consists of myself and two other editors. This week, as longtime readers of this blog’s predecessor will no doubt suspect, the idea to use our editorial as a chance to discourage people from putting the whole damn produce section on their seder plate was entirely mine. But, as always, the editorial we ended up with was a team effort.
Anyway, read it:
Behold the tomato: the new world fruit, the staple of Italian cuisine, juicy, red and a member of the nightshade family.
And, because of the often mistreated migrant workers who pick them, some say it should be the latest addition to that growing pile of produce on your Passover seder plate. (And when we say “that growing pile of produce on your seder plate,” we mean, that bushel overrunning your seder plate, overflowing its edges, truly in need of an auxiliary seder plate.)
If you follow the suggestion of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America (a branch of the Israel-based organization that is exactly what it sounds like) by adding a tomato to your Passover shopping list, your tomato will be “a symbol of the farmworker who picked it.” And perhaps it will join the already relatively venerable Miriam’s Cup or some of these other foods that have been suggested over the years:
- Potato peelings (what Jewish ritual would be complete without some extraneous bit of Holocaust-obsession tacked on?)
- A fourth piece of matzah (which has variously been used to represent Darfur, Soviet Jewry, and others)
- More potato (for Ethiopians, obviously)
- An olive (to symbolize the hope for peace in the Middle East)
- An orange (in recognition of the historical exclusion of women — its origin, by the way, is not what you think it is)
- An artichoke (for interfaith families)
- A plantain (for oppression in Cuba — no word yet on whether it’s for internal Cuban-on-Cuban oppression or the economic oppression of the U.S. trade embargo)
- And — are you ready for this? — an oyster (for Deepwater Horizon)
And the list grows beyond food: There is also the brick that a Civil War soldier used in place of charoset and the empty picture frame for the Chinese law that prohibits the display of images of the Dalai Lama!
Passover and the seder are unique among Jewish holiday rites. It is by far the most complex Jewish in-home ritual. And it is by far the most widely observed Jewish holiday — not just by Jews, but by non-Jewish members of intermarried families, non-Jewish friends of Jewish families, African American groups who often cosponsor “freedom seders” with Jewish groups and, of course, the (somewhat misguided) efforts of church groups trying to understand what Jesus’ last meal was like.