1969 Hagaddah Preaches the Radical Idea of Equality


We shall overcome. This phrase is not found in the Torah, but the sentiment emanates from every page.

It may seem a radical idea for 800 Jews and Blacks to hold a seder together in 1969 in the basement of a black church in the nation’s capital.  But it also made perfect sense. Two minorities bonded over a mutual history of oppression – much of it still very much in evidence 24 years after the end of the Holocaust and exactly one year after Martin Luther King’s assassination.

A watershed moment in the Civil Rights Movement, the Freedom Seder drew Jews and Christians, rabbis and ministers, black and white together to read a brand new Haggadah written by activist-turned-rabbi Arthur Waskow.

Rabbi Waskow traded the shofar for the bullhorn during the Civil Rights Movement

Honoring another Jewish value – the importance of remembrance – CU’s Program in Jewish Studies is mounting a tribute to the Freedom Seder, replete with a visit by Rabbi Waskow, on November 12. The Second Biannual Embodied Judaism Symposium examines the moment in history from the perspectives of American Judaism and Social Justice. A Tour of the Freedom Seder Exhibition follows the event in Norlin Library. (RSVPs required to CUJewishStudies@colorado.edu.)

Moshe square
Moshe Kornfeld is a post-doc visiting lecturer at CU

In anticipation of this program, Menorah has invited its lead curator, Moshe Kornfeld, to speak about the project at the Boulder JCC at 7 pm on Thursday, October 22. Kornfeld received his doctorate in sociocultural anthropology from the University of Michigan. A post-doc visiting lecturer at CU, his  research applies anthropological methods and theories to the study of contemporary American Jewish life and culture. This project is part of a recent trend in academia to examine the intersection of religion and social justice – and CU’s Program in Jewish Studies is on the cutting edge.

As racism and anti-Semitism continue to raise their ugly heads around the world, it is important to remember the message of equality and the power of solidarity. We shall overcome. Someday.

To register for Menorah’s Scholars Series’ “The Freedom Seder: Tradition Collides with Social Action,” PLEASE CLICK HERE.

To view a 10-minute video of the Freedom Seder CLICK HERE.


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About Kathryn Bernheimer

Founding Director of the Boulder Jewish Film Festival, Boulder JCC. The former film and theater critic for the Boulder Daily Camera, Kathryn is the author of "The Fifty Greatest Jewish Movies" and "The Fifty Funniest Films of All Time." She was also Director of Menorah and ACE at the J from 2003 through August, 2019.

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