Feminist Seder Prayers for Reproductive Justice

As Jews around the world begin marking Passover, The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice has shared a series of Seder prayers that lift up women’s journey toward freedom and struggles against oppression.  This “collaborative compendium of reproductive justice Passover readings” was put together in partnership with Jewish Women International, the National Council of Jewish Women, and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in conjunction with Women of Reform Judaism.

From the introduction:

The four cups of wine we drink this evening are symbols of our freedom and God’s presence in our lives. But, as the seder ritual reminds us, freedom is an ongoing journey. True freedom can only be enjoyed when all our sisters, brothers and others are freed of the many burdens that would delay or deny their inherent dignity.

Tonight, we retell the story of the Exodus and consider how it applies to our lives today. We are reminded that there is still bitterness in the world and iniquity in our homes and communities: politicians seeking to control women’s reproductive destinies; perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence seeking to control women’s bodies; and societal barriers seeking, perhaps inadvertently, to limit a woman’s ability to recognize her full potential. These examples and others are today’s plagues; they remind us of the constraints Pharaoh placed on our Israelite ancestors.

Prayer with the first cup:

So we raise the cup and recall: Our heartaches, the four promises, their fulfillment and our commitment to establish fairness and freedom for all. And we recommit ourselves to strengthen and extend the promise of reproductive justice, thereby honoring the integrity and sanctity of each woman’s conscience and protecting her safe access to the legal medical attention that she and her doctor believes is right for her.

Prayer with the second cup:

Let this cup of liberation remind us that freedom is already within us and must not be taken away. No matter your age, your gender or your orientation (which is to say, no matter your practical concern), each of us and all of us were liberated from enslavement and none of us is going back.

Prayer with the third cup: 

As we drink our third cup of wine, let us reflect: why is this right [to access abortion care] different from all other rights?  What can we do to help bring us out of the slavery of judgment and injustice and into the light of freedom that tonight’s seder celebrates and represents? What can we do to redeem and value the personal choices that women and families make and, in process, redeem ourselves and our community?

Prayer with the fourth cup:

This cup is for the women who do not find themselves embraced by a community, as we are tonight.

Women who endure injury, humiliation, and sexual assault and cannot talk about it.  Women who suffered unspeakable abuses and did not live to tell.

This cup is for the shattered souls who never dreamed it would happen to them.

On Passover, as we celebrate liberation, we reaffirm our commitment to make all women safe in their homes and relationships.

This cup is for the women who find this night is no different from any other night.  They are our sisters, they are ourselves, and they are not alone.

For other feminist seder rituals, head over to Miriam’s Cup.

 

About Caryn Riswold

Caryn D. Riswold is a feminist theologian in the Lutheran tradition. She is Professor of Religion and Chair of Gender and Women’s Studies at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, where she has worked for over a decade teaching undergraduates to think critically and creatively about religion. She earned her Ph.D. and Th.M. from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, holds a master’s degree from the Claremont School of Theology, and received her B.A. from Augustana College in her childhood hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

  • Theodore Seeber

    The problem with your prayer for the first cup- if it is granted, there will be no future generations. Feminism that denies the freedom of motherhood and pregnancy is against ethnic survival. Isn’t it enough that the various governments of the 20th century tried to exterminate the Jews? Do Jewish Feminists have to commit to trying to do it to?

  • Nikos

    Feminism is the only things that’s more comical than religion. You have nailed every burden that holds back our society.

  • pagansister

    Actually Theodore, it means a woman doesn’t HAVE to get pregnant (or stay pregnant) if she chooses not to.


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