Darchei Shalom: Building Paths of Peace with 2 for Seder

by | Feb 27, 2020 | What’s Happening

After the Pittsburgh Synagogue massacre, one woman’s journey from victim to activist

Tuesday, March 24, 7:30 pm, Kempsville Conservative Synagogue, KBH

On Shabbat morning, October 27, 2018, 11 people were murdered in the Tree of Life massacre in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Marnie Fienberg, founder of 2 for Seder.

Joyce Fienberg, a 75-year-old member of the congregation, was one of the victims. Her family, including daughter-in-law, Marnie Fienberg, heard many people ask, “what can I do?” Fienberg realized that these people didn’t just mean “what can I do to comfort you right now,” they also meant “what can I do to help make sure this never happens again?” In response, Fienberg switched careers from business consulting for the Federal government, to focus on social action—fighting hate and anti-Semitism at a grass-roots level. Her first project, along with partner Lauren Kline, is 2 for Seder, an initiative that encourages Jews from across the United States and Canada to invite at least two people of other faiths to their first Seder—fighting hate through first-hand experiences about Judaism.

Joyce Fienberg.

Fienberg will visit Tidewater as a part of the Milton “Mickey” Kramer Scholar-in-Residence Fund of the Congregation Beth El Foundation’s Tidewater Together series, in partnership with all area synagogues. She will lead a conversation about how communities and individuals can join her in combating anti-Semitism.

In preparation for the program, Alene Kaufman, of KBH, had a conversation with Fienberg.

Alene Kaufman: How did the shooting in Pittsburgh, and the loss of your mother-in-law, lead to your decision to change your career path?
Marnie Fienberg: When Joyce was murdered, I was at a complete loss. Everything in my life seemed empty. How could someone so gentle, so sweet be murdered for praying in her own synagogue?
As a Jewish woman, I needed to take action. Creating 2 for Seder was a direct way for me to take action to do what I can to prevent this tragedy from happening ever again.

AK: How has this change impacted your family?
MF: We all deeply miss Joyce. My American and Canadian family has been really supportive of 2 for Seder, almost all of them participate and it helps us all keep Joyce’s beautiful and generous spirit alive. My immediate family has supported me in so many ways—my daughter even created the idea for the matzah heart that we use in a lot of our communications.

AK: In the short amount of time since you founded 2 for Seder, have you noticed any positive impacts?
MF: The pilot in 2019 had a little less than 1,000 participating Seders, so most of the impact has been anecdotal. Both hosts and guests were extremely positive about the experience. There was a lot of new understanding and mutual respect. The bigger impact will come when we do this year after year and we see the exponential effect.

AK: Have you had any unanticipated outcomes?
MF: I was surprised at two things. The first was how much our Jewish hosts/hostesses were deeply proud of their family traditions for Seder and how these traditions were honored and made such an impression on their guests.

The second thing that surprised me was the emails from folks who were not Jewish who wanted to participate. As Americans, we take it for granted that neighbors are naturally curious about each other’s religions. That doesn’t happen in a lot of other countries, it’s very special.

We also rewrote the 2 for Seder Kit that we give to each participant. I’m really proud of it and think it will be a valuable asset to anyone who wants to be a part of 2 for Seder this year.

AK: What can members of the Tidewater community expect to get out of Darchei Shalom: Building Paths of Peace?
MF: The shootings in Pittsburgh, Poway, New York, and New Jersey show that we can’t go back to thinking that we are safe in America. Fighting anti-Semitism and hate is unbelievably frustrating. It’s big and constantly morphing. Fortunately, the Jewish philosophy of Tikkun Olam guides us towards bringing these overwhelming problems down to a scale that can be approached, that can be acted on.

At the program, we will look at how you can take action in good times and bad. I will share more about 2 for Seder, as well as a variety of other specific actionable ways that each individual can leverage their own strengths and network to repair the world and build bridges to our neighbors. If we all work together, every small action will have a huge impact.

The program is free and open to the community with RSVP. Register for Tidewater Together’s Darchei Shalom: Building Paths of Peace at jewishva.org/TidewaterTogether.

The Milton “Mickey” Kramer Scholar -in-Residence Fund of the Congregation Beth El Foundation’s Tidewater Together series is a collaboration between the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater and area synagogues to provide opportunities to connect Jewishly on a variety of topics, offering something for everyone. To learn more about Tidewater Together, or to register for upcoming events, visit JewishVA.org/TidewaterTogether, or contact Sierra Lautman, director of Jewish Innovation, at slautman@ujft.org or 757-965-6107.