An Orange on the Seder Plate?

According to the last National Jewish Population Survey (conducted in 2000 by the United Jewish Communities and the Jewish federation system), about 60% of American Jews hold or attend a Passover seder. Which means that most of us are at least somewhat familiar with what one finds on a seder plate: maror, charoset, karpas, z’roa, beitzah, chazeret, an orange…Wait. An orange?
Oranges have been showing up on seder plates for about the past 20 years. The story goes: a man once said that a woman belongs on the bimah as much as an orange belongs on a seder plate. So, placing an orange on the seder plate shows support for women clergy.
I’ve never actually seen an orange appear at any seder I’ve participated in and the idea kind of makes me feel like bursting into that “Which One of These Things is Not Like the Other” song from Sesame Street. It’s that same childlike curiosity of figuring out which one of these things is not like the other that had me wondering how the orange actually got there. So I Googled.
I stumbled across a 2007 post on Jewesses With Attitude, run by our friends over at the Jewish Women’s Archive. In “What’s in an Orange”, I learned that the story behind the orange started not with an orange at all and not as a symbol of support for women leaders and rabbis. Rather, it started with a crust of bread and a symbol for gay/lesbian solidarity. It’s a fascinating post – with even more fascinating comments – questioning how the story changed over the years and what that means. Well worth the read (Go, click, read).
And if you happen to see an orange on a seder plate tonight or tomorrow, you’ll know how it got there and you can decide what it represents for you.
(Photo: / CC BY 2.0)