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San Diego Seder

“And the children of Israel journeyed from Ramses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children.” (Ex. 12:37) The Exodus: the men were counted; the children were mentioned. But where were the women? About 3,000 years later, 25 women gather together at a seder held by the San Diego Jewish Women’s Institute to honor those women and to search out the lost names and the legacy not only of the women who played a part in the Exodus, but also those of who passed on the legends about them.

Twenty-five women lift their glasses of wine, saying, “Blessings to our foremothers,” asking four questions and giving four answers about the bitter story of women and the sweet searching together through history to discover their legacy. Later in the evening, they lift their glasses in a toast to the author of the hagada, Arlene Saidman.

Women’s role in the Exodus is examined. A recounting of the story of Hebrew midwives’ disobeying the Pharaoh and not killing the first-bom male Jewish children. The story of the Pharaoh’s daughter adopting Moses, a Hebrew child. Listening as the inheritance of Miriam is recounted. Acknowledging, honoring Miriam, a leader.

The seder service draws to a close. “We are told that Miriam, the prophet, visits every house where a women’s seder is being held.” Irene Fine, Director of the Women’s Institute, is saying, “We open the door to welcome her.” Opening the door. Opening the circle. Ghosts of women from over 3,000 years flushing the room with warmth.

And then leaving the door open.