Remembering Tibet on Pesach

I recently came across this intruiging new campaign for raising awareness about the Chinese occupation of Tibet at the seder table this year. It’s called “An Unlit Candle: Solidarity with Tibet at Passover.” Their website instructs thus:

Since 1950, the Chinese military has brutally occupied Tibet. Hundreds of thousands have died. Thousands have been jailed, tortured, raped. Countless monasteries have been destroyed.

And now, as the Chinese Olympic torch is met with protests around the globe, we call on you to join the effort to shed light on Tibet’s suffering by extinguishing a torch of your own.

We call on all Jews to include an unlit candle on their Seder Tables this year. The candle symbolizes both the Olympic torch, whose light has been dimmed, and the unmet hopes of a people still living without freedom.

The point is not just to have another symbol on your table.  Rather, as with the rest of the Seder, the point is to stimulate discussion and action.  When your loved ones ask about the unlit candle on the Seder table, talk with them about the Tibetans’ struggle for freedom. Demand that the Chinese government meet with the Dalai Lama, who has condemned all acts of violence, who asks only for autonomy for his people, and who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent efforts. Demand that the Chinese regime immediately lift restrictions on Tibetan religious and political expression. And ask our leaders not to attend the Olympics’ opening ceremony, and our athletes to display symbols of solidarity with Tibet.

Click here for the site. It’s certainly a worthy symbolic statement, tho I am disappointed it doesn’t really include any concrete action components. Click here for some campaigns sponsored by Free Tibet that you can promote at your seder as well…

7 thoughts on “Remembering Tibet on Pesach

  1. Shirley Gould

    A worthy point, and sure to stimulate discussion. But it says “demand” certain things. Of whom are we to demand them? No protest can be effective unless it is appropriately directed.

    I’m all for stimulating discussion. Especially when we are celebrating our own liberation it’s appropriate to think of others who do not have freedom.

  2. Boontong

    Without the intervention of the Chinese Government, Tibetan would continue to live under the slavery of the religious masters. Go to youtube and search the videos on the lies of Dalai Lama. The free tibet movements are just the agents of USA and western world, who are afraid. originally at the spread of communism and now the growth of China. They are the masters who continue to exploit the Tibetan.

    Instead of lighting more candles to promote love and peace, you are spreading hate and violent. Look at the video clips from youtube. It was riots in Tibet and the Chinese government was just enforcing law and order to ensure peace and harmony. There was no clamp down. The Chinese government is not stupid to choose this time to clamp down the separatists and western interference of China internal affairs.

  3. Ross

    The additions to the Seder of the orange and the water glass for Miriam’s well are about recognizing and confronting oppressive aspects of Jewish tradition and practice that we need to confront (namely inequitable treatment based on sexual orientation and gender). Jewish Voice for Peace’s suggestion of adding an olive to the Seder plate is specifically about the occupation of Palestine but it has a broader meaning and is thoroughly within the tradition of the orange and water glass by calling us to recognize and confront Jewish tradition and practice of inequitable treatment of non-Jews. These are three big elephants in the living room that liberal Jews are called to challenge and deserve their place as symbols on the Seder table.

    Tibet and other topical issues should be discussed at the Seder but I think the table should be reserved for objects directly related to Jews as oppressor or as oppressed.

    Also, having a symbol about the occupation of Tibet on the table and not having a symbol about the occupation of Palestine on the table would not be a neutral statement.

  4. Ross

    I should have added that the reason why the orange, water glass, and olive should be on the table is that we have the power to change our institutions. We don’t have anywhere near the same power to change Chinese institutions. This is perhaps why you feel the lack of a concrete action component, while for the orange/water glass/olive the kinds of actions within our own communities and institutions we can do to promote an equitable and ethical Judaism are a little more obvious.

  5. A


    Sorry, I just can’t let your comments pass.

    First off, one is not permitted to add anything to the Seder plate. (correct me if I’m wrong Rabbi) You might add something to your Seder table…

    That aside, you are not correct on the reason for the orange or water. It’s not to recognize “oppressive aspects of Jewish tradition and practice…” There are so many explanations around for the orange and Kos Miriam, but most often it’s to place a special and specific recognition of the role of women, and to ensure that you do not exclude them. (See, you can be liberal and positive about Jewish life and tradition, if you wish).

    So, outside of the fact that I don’t believe adding an olive to a Seder plate would be halachically correct (just put it on your table, I suspect that’s ok) your point is pretty short-sighted and one sided. The Palestinians also have some, relatively major, responsibility in the oppression they face and the situation they are in. But your Pesach suggestion makes no room for that.

    The Recon. alternative al het makes it clear that we should not accept in ourselves what we oppose in others. It also points out that we should not place blame on ourselves that we wouldn’t on others.

    Your “supplement” shows absolutely no balance. It talks about Jewish created oppression. But it says nothing, at all, regarding any aspect of Palestinian or Arab responsibility for the situation there. Just ’cause you use the word ‘peace’ doesn’t mean you are doing something to support it.

    So for those who feel the need to bring the Arab-Israeli conflict to their Seder table…for those who want to add to their sedar readings and discussion (supplemental readings, and home made haggadot do seem to be a long held tradition, even much of what we usually think of as traditional is actually supplemental), may I suggest this link to Americans for Peace Now. It is much more balanced:

  6. Ross

    Ok. Here’s another idea that doesn’t add anything to the seder plate, and I perhaps adresses some of A’s other concerns. The charoset is usually thought of as the morter that binds the bricks of slavery together but it is sweet. Perhaps the charoset represents the sweetness from all people, Jews and non-Jews, binding themselves together to work for justice and peace.

  7. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author

    Whether one puts an olive on or next to the seder plate (an issue that depends on the level to which one is strictly guided by halacha),I think the question of finding balance in the theme of oppression during the seder is an profoundly important one.

    Whether we are comfortable with it or not, Palestinians experience Israel almost exclusively as oppressors. The extent to which they accept responsibility for their part in this situation is ultimately up to them, not us. For our part, as difficult as it may be, I think it is perfectly acceptable to ask ourselves during the seder about the ways we Jews have become oppressors (i.e. Pharoah) – and to explore how we might respond to and deal with this reality. Whether we do this thru the symbolism of an olive or other means, I think this is central question for the Jewish community of the 21st century.


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