Dayenu not enough at marriage equality seder in S.F.

At the Marriage Equality Freedom Seder in San Francisco on April 14, it was a Lutheran pastor who delivered perhaps the most thought-provoking statement.

The Rev. Christian Jennert, just after telling seder guests he is gay as well as from Germany, asked, “What would have happened to me if I was born 50 years earlier?”

The murmuring crowd fell silent, realizing that had Jennert been a young man during the Holocaust, he likely would have been one of the 100,000 homosexuals placed into concentration camps in Nazi Germany.

Today he is the associate pastor at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in San Francisco. He was one of a number of Christian clergy who attended the 13th annual freedom seder — this year with the words “Marriage Equality” tacked onto the title — at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.

The event was organized by the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council and the Taube Center for Jewish Life at the JCCSF.

 

David Levinsky

Rabbi David Levinsky lights the candle at the Marriage Equality Freedom Seder. photo/scott wall

Jennert was one of many to express his gratitude for being there. “It is an honor to participate in my first real Jewish seder meal,” he told the group. “It’s so deepening, so enriching.”

 

The JCRC this year specifically reached out to Christian clergy, said Abby Porth, associate director of JCRC. Leaders from Lutheran and Episcopal churches sat beside leaders from the gay and lesbian community.

“After Proposition 8 passed, there was a lot of finger pointing, and many blamed faith communities,” Porth said. “We wanted to demonstrate that there are people of faith who support marriage equality.”

About 100 people attended, and many of them read from a haggadah compiled by Congregation Sha’ar Zahav in San Francisco, B’nai Jeshurun in New York and Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion.

Each part of the seder was tweaked to make it relevant to the fight for gay and lesbian civil rights and marriage equality.

For instance, the four questions were about LGBT inclusiveness; the 10 plagues included not boils or locusts, but shame, despair and loneliness; there was even a modified version of “Dayenu.”

Instead of telling God “it would have been enough,” seder guests proclaimed “lo dayenu,” or “it is not enough for us.”

The song was read aloud in English by the group:

“If we were proud of ourselves, but were still afraid to come out to family and friends, then it is not enough for us. If we were not afraid to come out to family and friends, but did not have a spiritual home that celebrated us, then it is not enough for us. Lo dayenu.”

The haggadah also included all of the standard seder symbols. The leader, Rabbi David Levinsky of the JCCSF, invited guests to participate and share stories with those at their table and with the larger group.

A variety of religious and non-religious leaders took turns reading from the haggadah, including Andrea Shorter, outreach coordinator for the nonprofit Equality California.

She was involved in the first freedom seder in 1997, which grew out of the Isaiah Project, a JCRC-organized alliance of blacks and Jews who collaborated on social justice initiatives.

Since then, the freedom seder has expanded to become a multicultural event, each year focusing on an oppressed group. Last year, the focus was on workers’ rights.

“It’s always a pleasure to see how the celebration of liberation continues,” Shorter said.

Stacey Palevsky

Stacey Palevsky is a former J. staff writer.