What the Soviets Did to Passover

Passover is a Jewish religious observance to commemorate the Hebrews' exodus from Egypt. The name comes from the night the angel of death passed over their homes when killing the Egyptian's firstborn children. The traditional Seder is a meal in which every dish and every procedure has a story behind it, to teach and reinforce that history for the next generations.

However, this was a problem in the Soviet Union. Jews in Russia had suffered under many regimes, and the Bolsheviks were the least oppressive, considering their communist idea of equality. The communists wanted to welcome Jews into the fold, but they also wanted to stamp out religion. Their solution was to make Jews into an ethnic group instead of a religious group, by changing their religious traditions to suit the new ideology. That was the impetus behind the "Red Seder," in which the traditions were bent to reflect communist themes of throwing off the shackles of the capitalist bourgeois. Red Seders were promoted in the 1920s and '30s, after which they were deemed successful and then discarded under Stalin, who had his own feelings about Jews as an ethnic group. Read about the Bolshevik Red Seders at Atlas Obscura. 

(Image source: Hagadah far gloybers un apikorsim, 1923)

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