Passover | Make our matriarchs proud by adding girl power to the seder

Consider honoring the matriarchal roots of Judaism this Passover by adding some girl power to your seder. Weave one, a few or all 10 of these tips into your family traditions — it’ll add fun and meaning to the ritual.

1. Add an orange and coffee bean to your seder plate

The orange represents both inclusion and solidarity with women and the LGBT community. The new tradition was started by Professor Susannah Heschel, who was inspired by women at Oberlin College in 1984 who made space on their seder plate to represent all who were not explicitly present in the Passover story.

The coffee bean represents and honors both the bitterness and strength of juggling work life and family life — something we’re pretty sure you can relate to.

The seder can be enriched by focusing on the women and girls on the sidelines of the traditional stories. photo/jta-flash 90-nati shohat

2. Miriam’s Cup

In addition to the traditional cup of Elijah, include Miriam’s Cup and begin your seder by filling it up together. It serves as the symbol of Miriam’s Well — the source of water for the Israelites in the desert. Pass the cup around the table and let each guest add a bit of water from his or her own cup, establishing that the seder is an inclusive and participatory one. Remind your guests that while we may enjoy drinking our four cups of wine, water is just as important. Like Miriam’s Well, water sustains and nourishes us — and prevents hangovers.

3. Lighting candles

Candlelighting has traditionally fallen to women in Jewish practice. Honor this by recognizing that the lighting of candles brings light into the darkness and allows us to begin our holidays peacefully. This poem, written by Hannah Senesh, is an excellent way to help usher in that feeling:

Blessed is the match

consumed in kindling flame.

Blessed is the flame that burns in the secret fastness of the heart.

Blessed is the heart with the strength to stop its beating for honor’s sake.

Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame.

4. The four mothers

Speaking of those four cups of wine, you can note during your seder that some scholars connect the four cups of wine with the four mothers: Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah. After all, the only thing better than one Jewish mother is four.

5. Honor the women in your life

The four cups of wine are also excellent opportunities to honor the women in your own life, both past and present. With each glass of wine, take a moment to dedicate it to a woman who has affected your life in some way. (Tip: If your own mother is in attendance, you might want to go ahead and include her.)

6. The four daughters

While we’re familiar with the story of the four sons from the traditional Haggadah, why not also give a nod to the four biblical daughters, a wonderful addition from “A Night to Remember: The Haggadah of Contemporary Voices” by Mishael and Noam Zion. The reading shares wisdom from Miriam, Tamar, Ruth and “The Beautiful Captive.”

7. Four alternative questions

After reciting “Ma Nishtanah,” the traditional Four Questions, take time to ask four alternative questions, ones that feel relevant to you and your family. Here’s one example to get you started: What still enslaves us as Jewish women today, and how do we seek freedom from our own Pharaohs (or Sheryl Sandbergs, if you will)?

8. Add to the story

There are many women who play crucial roles in the Exodus story, yet they’re usually left out of the retelling. Take some time to sing their praises.

Shifra and Puah: These two midwives were respected members of their community. Despite risk of punishment, they defied the Pharaoh’s orders and continued to help deliver baby boys for Jewish women in Egypt.

Yocheved: Having gone into labor early, Moses’ mother kept her secret from the Egyptians, saving Moses’ life. She then made the ultimate mother’s sacrifice by sending him down the river — her only hope in saving him from otherwise certain death. Now there’s a birth story to remember.

Batya: Pharaoh’s daughter found Moses in the reeds of the Nile and decided to raise him as her own, knowingly going against her father’s decree to kill all male Jewish babies. Without her defiance and bravery, our Passover story might have looked very different.

Miriam: One of the most well-known women in the Bible, Moses’ sister was the brave young woman who ensured Moses was safe during his journey down the Nile River. She also was the one to bring Yocheved to Batya to be used as a nursemaid, ensuring that mother and son were never far apart. We don’t hear much about Miriam again until the Exodus from Egypt, but when we do, it is her strength and song that stick with us, which brings us to …

9. Miriam’s Song

One of Debbie Friedman’s most joyful songs, “Miriam’s Song” is rooted in the Exodus verse describing how Miriam led the Israelite women in song and dance after they crossed the sea. “Miriam the Prophet … took a timbrel in her hand and all the women went after her with timbrels, dancing. And Miriam called to them: Sing to God …”

10. Wise women

Many songs, poems and stories written by women are a perfect match for Passover —  include them in your seder. Some of my favorites:

• Marge Piercy’s poem “Season of the Egg.”

• Rabbi Rachel Berenblat (aka “The Velveteen Rabbi”) has a poem about what happens after the seder.

• Rabbi Jill Hammer’s “Orah Hi,” a feminist version of the traditional end of seder song “Adir Hu.”