After her mother-in-law Joyce was killed in the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Pittsburg, Marnie Fienberg saw an opportunity to establish ties with non-Jews and help in the fight against anti-Semitism.
She created an initiative called 2 for Seder, to encourage people hosting seders to invite at least two guests who have never attended one. It’s is designed to replace ignorance with knowledge and to build bridges between Jewish people and their neighbours.
Fienberg believes that ignorance and misunderstanding are the foundation of hate. Thus, inviting people to a seder who have never experienced one before will hopefully allow them to gain a greater understanding of what it means to be Jewish.
“Passover is that moment when we actually go from being slaves to being the Jewish nation, and every year we take that journey,” said Fienberg. “For them to be with us when we do that, and to bear witness when we do that, and to be part of the good, the bad, the crazy, the fun – I mean all those things that are Passover seders – it really gives you an insight into the Jewish soul.”
Fienberg worked with the Anti-Defamation League to create a kit for people who sign up to participate in 2 for Seder. Each kit includes notes for the leader of the seder, a special welcome for the non-Jewish guests, questions to pose to the table, suggestions for raising the issues of anti-Semitism and hate with children, as well as some of Joyce Fienberg’s Passover recipes.
The kits also contain background information about the fight against anti-Semitism in North America. Originally, it only contained a timeline of key events in the United States, but a Toronto woman reached out to Fienberg and offered to make a similar timeline of Canadian milestones.
Fienberg lives in Washington, D.C., where she worked for two decades as a communications and business consultant to the United States government. But after her mother-in-law was murdered, and after seeing the outpouring of support for her family, Fienberg decided to dedicate herself to fighting against anti-Semitism.
“There are strangers coming from the Jewish community and from the Muslim community and Christian community and Hindu community … all over the world, people have been sending love and support and asking what can I do to stop this from happening again,” said Fienberg.
“In times of so much grief and stress, I’ve never felt so much support and love. And it really led me to my hypothesis that average, everyday people want to do something to fight anti-Semitism.”
Fienberg won’t be hosting a seder herself this year. She said that the only seders she’s hosted were with her mother-in-law, and that that she can’t bring herself to host one without her. But she and her family are going to their cousins’ seder in Chicago, where five or six neighbours have been invited to partake in a seder for the first time.
Alina Ianson – the executive director of Canadian Hadassah-WIZO, which is supporting the project and helping to promote it in Canada – said that the 2 for Seder initiative was a natural fit for the organization and that the response has been overwhelmingly positive so far.
“We encourage all our members, friends and supporters to embark on this very important initiative. This is not about fundraising, this is about social activism for us, as members of the Jewish community, to bring awareness and to build bridges, regardless of religion,” she said.
As of March 26, almost 300 people throughout North America have signed up for 2 for Seder. Fienberg said that her goal is for 1,000 seders to join in the program.
To sign up for 2 for Seder, go to 2forseder.org/participate.