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All Photos: Bradley

Fun fact of the day: The BYGays are 3/8 Jewish! As such we felt it was our Hebraic duty to attend the 2011 National Rainbow Seder at the Human Rights Campaign. The National Rainbow Seder began in 2007 as a program of the DC JCC’s Kurlander Program for GLBT Outreach and Engagement (GLOE) and celebrated it’s fourth year this past Sunday.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Passover holiday, it follows the typical Jewish holiday storyline of “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat.” You and your extended and/or chosen family gather together to recount the story of the Jews being brought out of slavery in Egypt. Except you’re on the Atkins diet for 8 days.

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Passover is, in the great tradition of Jewish holidays, a melding of joy and sorrow, oppression and freedom. And in the greater tradition of Jewish questioning and self-examination, it has evolved over time and through various channels to incorporate not only Jewish suffering in the storytelling, but the injustices done to oppressed people worldwide.

In 2007, GLOE established a queer Seder to further a sense of community among DC’s Jewish queer population, using the Passover story as a vehicle to both celebrate the queer community and examine its continuing struggles. GLOE is unique in that it is the only full-time JCC program in the country to focus on LGBT outreach (yes, you read that correctly… they don’t even have this kind of program in San Francisco). So this program has become a model for other communities all across the country.

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And what a model it is. Communal tables were filled with queers of all ages, gender presentations, and backgrounds. There were gaybies! And rainbow headcoverings! Gay kitsch blended with Jewish tradition as attendees were encouraged to play with the jumping frogs and plague finger-puppets at their tables (this of course led to several inter-plagual puppet relations). As a bonus, we enjoyed treats like cupcakes since Passover actually starts next week and the “no bread” rule doesn’t yet apply.

Rabbi Toby Manewith did her best “Phil Donahue,” walking the room and encouraging each table to participate in the retelling of the Passover story. Though the Seder retained traditional prayers and readings, it was altered to explore and highlight the unique struggles of LGBT people here in America and around the world. We read about the recent violence in Uganda, reminded ourselves how HIV/AIDS impacts various queer populations, called out inequalities in access to healthcare and celebrated legislative victories around the world for the protection of gender expression.

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All this interspersed by glasses of wine and well-timed quips by Rabbi Manewith such as, “If you’re out of water for hand-washing, there are bottles of San Pelligrino. If there were ever a sign of freedom, its washing your hands with San Pelligrino.”

Amen. And Chag Sameach!

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For more information on GLOE: http://washingtondcjcc.org/social-networks/gloe/