Congregation Or Chadash held something different from the traditional Passover seder with "Journey to Freedom: Pesach and the LGBTQ Experience" at Anshe Emet Synagogue May 3.
"Journey to Freedom: Pesach and the LGBTQ Experience" was set up like a Passover dinner for about 60 guests. However, the Haggadah ( prayer book ) was the first of its kind, with its creative LGBTQ-focused passages mixed with traditional prayer.
Guests ate a Passover meal, went around the room reading from the haggadah and sang together. Rabbi Cindy Enger led the service.
"I think the significance is we set out to create a seder that used the traditional Passover Exodus story in a way that illustrates the modern coming out story," said Or Chadash Board President Lilli Kornblum. "From restriction to freedom. This Haggadah is the story of our members, the story of our participants, but it's really the story of Or Chadash."
Usually the congregation has a traditional Passover seder among other holiday services. This event was born from a workshop by the same name, which was modeled after a similar workshop in Seattle that worked through the lens of women who had experienced domestic violence. Enger brought this concept back to this Chicago congregation with a Jewish LGBTQ lens.
The program ran in the earlier part of 2015 with workshops for writing, music and art. This event was the debut of this tailor-made haggadah, made-up of poems and passages from participants, most sitting in the room May 3.
"I'm very thrilled and it's been a great celebration and perfect culminating event to what's been a really wonderful series of workshops and pulling together of the creative energy and product that people so soulfully offered," said Enger.
Or Chadash is a 40-year-old organization, founded exclusively as an LGBTQ social organization. Over time, according to Kornblum, it has grown into a full service synagogue, open to anybody interested in being part of the Jewish community, although LGBTQ remains the focus.
A Breakthough Fund Grant from the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago supported the project. About 13 organizations served as community partners with the congregation to develop the project. With time constraints during the actual holiday this event came in the following weeks.
"What I really appreciate is not only do we have permission to make each seder unique and relevant to ourselves, but that's part of the obligation," said Enger of the resulting event. "It has to be our own story, so that's where this becomes so powerful and special that we are weaving our own stories through the template of both the Passover narrative and Passover seder."
For more information, visit: www.orchadash.org .