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Community second seder to emphasize hunger

Rabbi Arthur Nemitoff shared the statistic that there are about a billion people who go to bed every day hungry, without enough food to sustain them, people who are starving. The senior rabbi of The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah said that there is another billion people on our planet who are undernourished and are just one step away to spiraling down into the vortex of hunger from which there is little chance of survival.

So he, and the other rabbis organizing the Rabbinical Assocation’s annual second night of Passover seder, wants to bring the issue of devastating hunger to the attention of the local Jewish community. One of the best ways to do that is at a Passover seder, where the focus is on two things: freedom and food.

“What’s the story of Passover about? It’s a story of liberation and about freedom. What is more shackling, what is more imprisoning, than to be hungry?” Rabbi Nemitoff said. “How do we pay attention to that?”

This year the seder will be held at Congregation Beth Shalom. Rabbi David Glickman said the Conservative congregation is looking forward to hosting the event and he is “excited to help lead the seder with Rabbi Nemitoff.”

Rabbi Alexandria Shuval-Weiner of B’nai Jehudah always finds the second night seder to be a great opportunity for members of different congregations to engage together.

“They are learning together, they are experiencing the beauty of seder together and they are sharing in dialogues,” she said.
“It also gives people who are unaffiliated a nice introduction to meeting the different rabbis in the community and helping to foster a sense of connection, so hopefully they can find a spiritual home,” she continued.

In addition to Rabbis Glickman, Nemitoff and Shuval-Weiner, the seder will also be led by Rabbis Doug Alpert and Scott White and Cantor Sharon Kohn.

The food will be prepared at Beth Shalom by Kosher Connection catering under the supervision of the Vaad HaKashruth of Greater Kansas City.

“Even though Beth Shalom has a kosher kitchen year round and we would make our kitchen kosher for Passover anyway, we are partnering with the Vaad HaKashruth so that anyone from the entire community can easily participate,” Rabbi Glickman explained. At the seder, the food will be served under his supervision.

A continued focus on hunger

Rabbi Nemitoff explained that for the past few years the community seder has tried to create a sense of moving from slavery to freedom in several ways. The first part of the seder was done in a physically uncomfortable setting. Then a creative maggid  (story) section allowed the participant to experience the seder in a lot of different ways.

“We concluded with what one would consider a festive Pesach meal at the conclusion of the service,” Rabbi Nemitoff said.

He said the difference is this year the seder will focus solely on the issue of food and the issue of hunger.

“We did that in the past with cooking for the homeless during the seder during the maggid experience. But the entire seder this year is going to focus on food,” he said.

Rabbi Nemitoff noted one of the most important lines of the seder comes at the very beginning, and it’s focus is food.

“We say, ‘Ha lachma anya. This is the bread of affliction, let all who are hungry come and eat.’ What does that mean to us, we who live in a very privileged world?” he asked.

Because we say, “let all who are hungry come and eat,” Rabbi Glickman said there is a natural synthesis between the themes of the seder and centering this particular seder around the issue of hunger. In addition, he pointed out that hunger and food uncertainty issues have been widely discussed by the Rabbinical Association over the past few months, as has the new JFS Food Pantry.

“So this is a natural overlap for the Rabbinical Association,” he said.

Partnering with MAZON

This is the first time the event will partner with MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. The MAZON Haggadah will be used to retell the story of the Jewish people’s journey from slavery to freedom with story, song and interactive discussion.

“The overwhelming feeling of the Rabbincal Association was if there is a way to not only have this be a spiritually meaningful seder, but also one that points us toward action in the world with such a great partner organization such as MAZON, we should leap at that opportunity,” Rabbi Glickman said.

It was Rabbi Shuval-Weiner who suggested the use of the MAZON Haggadah this year. She believes this Haggadah will give the rabbis the opportunity to “beautifully articulate” the issues of hunger and the “broader issues that as Jews we have an obligation to deal with.”

Overall she believes our community is already doing great things regarding the issue of hunger.

“Every congregation does amazing food drives. The JFS Food Pantry has been established. Kosher Meals on Wheels is getting started. We’re doing a lot on the ground to feed the hungry, but we need to be thinking above that,” she said.

“It’s my prayer that this seder will give us the language to start having this conversation,” she continued.

In the spirit of the seder, participants are also encouraged to contribute 3 percent of their meal cost to MAZON. Rabbi Nemitoff explained that from its inception, MAZON has asked people to donate 3 percent of the cost of the food they served at their simcha as a way of helping some of the hungry in this country and in other parts of North America. Here in Kansas City, Harvesters receives funds from MAZON.

“What’s lovely is there is an anonymous donor from B’nai Jehudah who has volunteered to match all of those 3 percent donations. It will end up being 6 percent that will be donated on behalf of the Kansas City Jewish community to MAZON,” Rabbi Nemitoff said.

Community Hunger Seder details

The Jewish community’s annual second night of Passover seder will take place at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 26, at Congregation Beth Shalom. Advance reservations are mandatory and must be received by Monday, March 18; fees increase after that date. Seating is limited so organizers suggest making reservations early to be assured a spot at the seder.

Registration forms are available online at www.kcrabbis.org and at area congregations. For information or to inquire about confidential financial assistance, contact Annette Fish, administrator/program director of the Rabbinical Association, by email, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 913-327-4622.

The community seder is sponsored by the Rabbinical Association of Greater Kansas City, Jewish Family Services, the Hy and Bella Vile Legacy Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater KC and supported by congregations.