Each year, we gather around the Seder table to regale friends and family with the story of our ancestors escaping bondage in Egypt. We share stories of Moses’ growth from a boy who doesn’t know his true identity to a leader whom the Israelite people can turn to.
We honor Aaron’s righteousness as he aids his brother in the holy endeavor of convincing Pharaoh to free the Israelites. And we pay tribute to Miriam, our prophetess who helps the Israelite community find hope and joy in the face of an uncertain future.
This year, as we make our way around the Seder plate, we strive to see our ancestors’ suffering as a call to pursue justice for all people suffering from oppression and bondage. Here, we pair each item on the Seder plate with a piece of legislation that, if passed, would create a more free and just world.
Charoset – This mixture of apples, nuts, spices, and wine reminds us of the mortar our ancestors used to build Egyptian structures. Our Israelite ancestors were forced to build structures for Egyptian taskmasters without rights or workplace protections. In current times, we lack a safety net for our California’s farm workers. Senate Bill 227 would create an Excluded Workers Program to pay undocumented workers $300 per week for each week of unemployment, up to 20 weeks.
Maror – The bitter herbs, usually horseradish, represent the bitter yoke of slavery the Israelites experienced while enslaved in Pharaoh’s Egypt. And few things are more bitter or brutal in our world than solitary confinement. California Assembly Bill 280 would prohibit state detention facilities from holding an incarcerated person in segregated confinement for more than 15 consecutive days and no more than 45 days in a 180-day period.
Bietzah – The roasted egg is representative of the ancient festival sacrifice and the spring season during which we celebrate Passover. The egg on our Seder plate also reminds us of life and renewal. Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, numerous states have enacted anti-abortion legislation that put mothers’ lives at risk. S. 701, or the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2023, would restore the right to comprehensive reproductive health for millions of Americans.
Zeroa – The shank bone represents the paschal lamb which was sacrificed as the Passover offering. Our Passover story shares that the blood from this lamb was put over Israelite doors prior to the final plague, which brought the death of Egyptian firstborn children. Here, God acted as the Israelites’ caregiver, ensuring their families were protected. Today, too many people who serve as caregivers are discriminated against by employers. California Assembly Bill 524 provides additional legal protections against discrimination for family caregivers.
Karpas – Parsley, which is dipped into salt water, reminds us of the tears shed by our ancestors during their enslavement. Still today, too many working people cannot adequately provide for their family. Unfortunately, many of these individuals end up unhoused and living on the streets. AB 920 would expand the list of protected categories in California’s anti-discrimination law to include housing status. This would protect unhoused people from being targeted or denied access to programs and benefits by the state or state-funded agencies simply because of their housing status.
Orange – A modern addition to our Seder plates, the orange represents the members of the LGBTQ+ community who have been marginalized in our communities. If passed, SB 407 would ensure that California’s LGBTQ+ youth in foster care are placed in homes that are accepting of LGBTQ+ identities.