The Jewish Observer
News from Middle Tennessee's Jewish Community | Thursday, May 30, 2024
The Jewish Observer

Rabbi Tamar Manasseh to Lead Social Justice Seder and Focus on Building Resilient Communities

Rabbi Tamar Manasseh knows something about resilience. It took her 13 years to become an ordained rabbi, and in fact, she was the first woman ever ordained through the Israelite Academy. During those years, and in the years since, she founded an organization, Mothers/Men Against Senseless Killings (MASK), that combats violent crime in her home community of Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, one of the roughest parts of town. Over the years, MASK has evolved into a valuable asset for the community by helping the community gain access to various community services and assistance programs. 

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Rabbi Tamar Manasseh will lead this year’s JCRC Social Justice Seder on April 11.

Rabbi Manasseh’s work, which began by simply showing up on the street corner with a folding chair, is the inspiration for this year’s Social Justice Seder, presented by the Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville and centered on the them of “Building Resilient Communities.” Deborah Oleshansky, director of the Jewish Community Relations Committee, says, “She is a tour de force. Her primary work is outreach to the community and being on the street. Being out in the community is the best tool we have addressing anti-Judaism.” 

Manasseh will lead the seder, which includes a Haggadah, or seder prayer book, created especially for this year’s program. There will be the traditional ritual foods on the table, and music will figure prominently into the event. Cantor Tracy Fishbein, of The Temple, is organizing the musical aspects of the seder. “Passover in its nature lends itself to so many relevant themes about where we are today in the Jewish world, and in the global sphere,” she says. 

This year, the musical presenters include Cantor Josh Goldberg, and song leader Julia Motis of local community group Jewsic City. “Musically speaking the three of us reflect our community here in Nashville,” says Fishbein. She adds that the music itself will be diverse. “Themes of Passover can be expressed through music that is Jewish and secular. Not all of us are free and there is power in using secular music in worship, even songs on the radio.” 

The terrorist attacks of October 7th will figure prominently into this year’s seder theme and lends an extra weight to the historically joyous nature of the retelling of the Jewish people’s journey from slavery to freedom. “Passover will have a special meaning this year,” says Fishbein, “It will be a really poignant experience.” 

Another key aspect to building resilient communities is a recognition of the diversity of the Jewish world. Manasseh, who is Black, believes that Black Jews are an underutilized resource. “Become the bridge between the white Jewish community and the Black Christian community. Right now, we need each other. Antisemitism and racism aren’t going anywhere. Right now, Black people in this country and Jewish people in this country have the same monster under the bed. And it is white Christian nationalism,” she said in an interview with the Observer early last year. Goldberg says, “It’s really great to bring guests who can shine a light on diversity, equity, and inclusion and how diverse we are here in Nashville.” 

The seder is being co-chaired by Quin Evans-Segall and her husband Josh Segall. Evans-Segall, who is also a member of Metro Nashville’s City Council, says she was galvanized into action after the Covenant School mass murders last year, and again after October 7th. “After Covenant, I founded [the organization] Voices for a Safer Tennessee, right in our living room. It’s turned into something I never imagined,” she says, “And as a community, sticking together since October 7th is more important than ever.” Evans-Segall says Manasseh is the right person at this moment to be this year’s seder leader. “She brings energy and passion to everything she does. Being able to do this with Rabbi Manasseh and be part of her work is amazing.” 

The idea for a social justice seder was brought to Nashville by the late activist Avi Poster, who spearheaded a similar event in his native Chicago. Support for the seder comes from a fund created in his memory. Goldberg is pleased to be part of carrying on Poster ‘s legacy, “Avi would be so proud of how the seder has blossomed an become a staple program in our community.”  

This year’s social justice seder will be on April 11 at the Gordon Jewish Community Center. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit 




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