Ari Ballaban — In Conversation
Lessons Learned from the Seder Plate
Yes, the humble seder plate. I’m fascinated by it. Effectively, it’s a metaphoric sandbox. Off the seder plate, objects exist in the realm of the literal. They are what they appear to be. On it, things can only be understood through a figurative prism. All it contains is presumed to symbolize something greater than its physical being.
The metaphorization of objects on the seder plate is itself a microcosm of how we do business in Judaism. It’s the same way we use our tradition and texts to inspire contemporary meaning and action. This bold and global mindset allows us (and our work) to represent so much more than the physical sum of the matter of which we are made.
When we meet with politicians,* when we share about our culture with others in the community,** or when we join coalitions to push for social justice,*** we do it with this weighty backdrop as our guide. We are never “just” ourselves—we are the embodiment of so much more. That’s why, even two-plus millennia after its inception, a holiday like Passover can have so much power for Jews worldwide. It reignites our engagement with the metaphorical and ensures we bring our whole history into our present work.
*Like Matt Dolan, who we hosted on March 27; or Jay Edwards, Seth Walsh, and Aftab Pureval who we will meet with on April 24.
**As we recently did at Saint Xavier High School or with attendees of UC’s Equity & Inclusion conference.
***Like we do with partners on the Cincinnati Regional Coalition Against Hate, the Greater Cincinnati Voter Collaborative, or in the push to protect the right to abortion.
(Yes—all these represent efforts of your JCRC in just the last few weeks.)