Desert Island Texts

Desert Island Texts

If you were cast away on an island with just one Jewish text for company, which would you choose?

Professor Margaret Greenfields, principal investigator of Ritual Reconstructed, selects Why Is There An Orange On The Seder Plate?

[6th Voice:] Why an orange? Because the orange carries within itself the seeds of its own rebirth. So have gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender people, women, Jews by choice within Judaism given birth to their own inclusion within the tradition.

In the early 1980s, Susannah Heschel, the Jewish feminist scholar, included an orange as a new symbolic item on the Seder plate.

She used it as a symbol of inclusion of gay men, lesbians, transpeople and ‘others’ who are marginalised within many parts of the Jewish community as a result of the traditional gender binary within our faith.

The orange represents the rich fruitfulness which enters into the spiritual life for all Jews when LGBTQI [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex] people are enabled to contribute to and be active members within communal Jewish life. This idea, and the text that complements it helped inspire Ritual Reconstructed, a community and academic partnership running until November, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and led by Buckinghamshire New University.

Heschel’s orange was selected deliberately as the project’s logo, demonstrating the symbolic core of this ground-breaking and inclusive LGBTQI faith programme. Ritual Reconstructed concludes with a public event where LGBTQI Jews, friends, relatives and allies will celebrate our theological, artistic and community achievements and explore how LGBTQI Jewish people engage with religious and community life.

We have rabbinic representation in this project through Liberal Judaism and are delivering outputs so we can discuss the reasons and processes behind how and why we perform ritual in certain ways.