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Labor Seder

Stories of freedom
New York Teacher

Teacher Marci Pepper from PS 94 at PS 188 in District 75 serves gefilte fish to

The Seder tray is passed during the ceremony.
“May the light of these candles not only bring light to our own places of darkness, but also shed light on the darkness of economic injustice.” Members of the UFT Jewish Heritage Committee, the educator’s chapter of the Jewish Labor Committee, the Workmen’s Circle and the New York State Public Employees Federation recited these words together while sharing a traditional kosher Passover dinner at the 11th annual Labor Seder on March 28 at UFT headquarters in Manhattan. Passover commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery and the annual Seder likens it to the story of organized labor. Passover is “a holiday that revolves around freedom,” said Michael Friedman, a special education teacher in Queens and the chapter leader of Pathways to Graduation, who has attended most of the Labor Seders. “Freedom doesn’t just mean going to the Promised Land; it also means to work at a job and have dignity. This puts everything together.” Staten Island UFT special representative Donna Coppola brought daughters Vanessa, 12, and Gianna, 14. “Because I’m Jewish and my husband is Catholic, we like to expose them to both traditions.” The Labor Seder, she said, “is their opportunity to experience this part of the Jewish religion.” The youngest Seder celebrant is called upon to ask four questions about the Seder rituals and “each year, this is my daughters’ part to play,’’ Coppola said. Spanish teacher Karina Arciniegas and social studies teacher Mike Schirtzer, both of Goldstein HS for the Sciences in Brooklyn, enjoyed their first Labor Seder, which featured symbolic foods including maror (bitter herbs to symbolize the bitter lot of the enslaved Israelites) and baytza (egg, symbolic of the renewal of life). “Every year at this time, we take students on overseas trips and we never really get to celebrate Passover,” said Schirtzer, a UFT delegate and Executive Board member, “so we came here to do it for the first time, and it’s wonderful.”

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Related Topics: Jewish Heritage
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