Living inside the Book of Exodus; Make the Seder activist again!

Today all Americans and most life-forms on Planet Earth are living inside the Book of Exodus --  our health and livelihoods, our freedom and our lives, endangered by modern Pharaohs.

One vigorous response: Turn the Passover Seder from a commemoration into an incitement.

In 1969, in the midst of a crisis over racism and war, we created a new kind of Seder. We called it the Freedom Seder. We held it on April 4, the first anniversary of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King.

This coming April 7, fifty years later, in the midst of an American and a planetary crisis even sharper, The Shalom Center is sponsoring a new Interfaith Freedom Seder + 50.

Among its leaders will be Reverends William Barber and Liz Theoharis, co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign;  Ana Maria Archila, who challenged Senator Flake in the famous elevator and who heads the Center for Popular Democracy; and Debbie Almontaser, who has both suffered from Islamophobia and transcended it.


There has been a rush of registrants in recent days. Space is limited, The time to register is NOW.

Fifty years ago, the Freedom Seder was held at an African-American church in Washington, DC. This year, the new Seder will be held at an African-American mosque in Philadelphia.

Fifty years ago, the Freedom Seder wove together the ancient story of liberation from slavery to Pharaoh with the story of the liberation struggle of Black America against racism. This year, it will address four overarching oppressions: racism, militarism, materialism, and sexism. 

Fifty years ago, it was broadcast by WBAI in New York and by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. This year, it will be live-streamed to groups around the country, large or small, that want to connect their own  Seders  with the Interfaith Freedom Seder + 50.

Why do we need to hold this Interfaith Freedom Seder + 50? Not to commemorate the past, but to once again change the future. And this year the Seder is even more appropriate as a form than it was fifty years ago,

We are dealing with a Pharaoh who has defined US citizens who are descendants of legal Spanish-speaking immigrants as a dangerous minority ethnic group, and US citizens who are members of at least one minority religious community as dangerous outsiders, likely to side with America's enemies, harboring terrorists.

A Pharaoh who is willing to subject hundreds of thousands of government workers to slavery, as they were required to work without being paid.

A Pharaoh who was willing to rip children from the arms of their parents because they were from a wave of "foreigners" he despised, and who created prisons for those children that have resulted in the deaths of at least two.

And a Pharaoh who is deliberately acting to worsen the climate crisis and bring far more Plagues than ten upon the Earth and all humanity. Who responded "I don't believe it" when a broad network of his own officials submitted a well-researched, comprehensive report that the suffusion of our atmosphere with CO2 and methane were already bringing about unnatural disasters and were sure to create climate chaos, deep economic dislocations, and massive medical emergencies unless major healing action were taken immediately. Just "I don't believe it."

And a Resistance emerges. On January 21, 2017, women, as in ancient times, were the first to challenge this despotic power.

Please take 3 1/2 minutes to watch this video of a street-theater action against the Carbon Pharaohs at

 All this is stunningly reminiscent of the Pharaoh in the first chapters of Exodus who tells his people that the Israelites living in an Egyptian province -- the grandchildren of immigrants to Egypt – – are having too many children of their own. He calls them Ivrim, “Cross-Overs,” a word of contempt analogous to “wetbacks, “rootless cosmopolitans,” or “globalists.”

Then he moves from words of hatred and contempt to acts of violence.  These Ivrim must be subjugated into slaves, and must be controlled by overseers who, we soon learn, are free to kill the Ivrim on a whim or a bias of their own. He sets up a program to murder their children.

When resistance begins, it is led by women -– Shifra and Puah, the midwives who invent a first stage of nonviolent resstance by refusing Pharaoh’s order to murder the boy-babies. Then Miriam and Pharaoh’s Daughter take positive rebellious action in a kind of international feminist conspiracy to save Moses’ life and nurture him.

And then there emerges a resistance movement, led by Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. When they challenge Pharaoh,  his stubbornness and cruelty and arrogance bring disasters – Plagues --  upon his own country. When his own officials urge him to let the Israelites go free because his stubbornness is wrecking Egypt, he keeps refusing – – and his refusal brings on more ecological disasters.

So the Exodus story is perhaps the first understanding of a linkage: what we at The Shalom Center today call “eco-social justice.” Racial, economic, and social justice cannot be separated from  ecological sanity.

 Today Corporate Carbon Pharaohs and their governmental enablers are using their Hyper-Wealth to choke the Breath of Life, the Wind of Change, and Its efforts -- our efforts -- to heal  the planet and our neighborhoods from abject economic inequality, deep racism and many dfferent phobias, endless war, subjugation and destruction. And their depredations harm and kill the poorest first and worst. These realities are the ultimate in eco-social INjustice.  

What to do? Today we need to create a new Resistance to these new Carbon Pharaohs.

The Interfaith Freedom Seder + 50 will gather people who are ready to resist the new Pharaohs with a new band of Resisters demanding eco-social justice. Register now at

And please begin paying attention to a new and brilliant campaign fpr eco-social justice called the Green New Deal.

It points to what Dr. King called “the fierce urgency of Now,” a fierce urgency that in the Exodus crisis we embodied in matzah – for there was no time for the bread to rise. It demands a swift transition to renewable energy with great numbers of well-paid green jobs, with special care for workers displaced as we move out of coal and oil and fracking. It demands special attention to the forgotten and forsaken in big-city neighborhoods and rural enclaves, and to the battered but resilient Native communities.

The Shalom Center has signed on as one of an array of organization supporting the Green New Deal.

I see this as the best hope for breaking through the greed of the Carbon Pharaohs and the despair of many people.

Can the Jewish community join this effort as our own generation’s renewal of the meaning of the Exodus?

The answer is blowing in the Wind -- the Wind of Change, the Breath of Life -- the breath we breathe into our own words and songs and arms and legs of action:

Go down Moses,

Way down in EVERY land --

Tell all Pharaohs --

Set My Creation free!

Please join us in eating together, singing together, learning together, taking action together --

Please register NOW at



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