MAZON Holds Its 15th Annual Hunger Seder (Jewish Journal)

April 26, 2024

This article originally appeared in the Jewish Journal on April 25, 2024.


On April 11, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger held its 15th annual National Hunger Seder on Capitol Hill. Members of congress, government officials and anti-hunger advocates gathered to participate in Passover traditions and call attention to food insecurity. This year’s National Hunger Seder was held in conjunction with the House Hunger Caucus. 

“This truly is one of the most unique events that takes place on Capitol Hill,” Liza Lieberman, MAZON’s vice president of public affairs, told the Journal. “It offers an opportunity to take a step back and reflect on the key themes that guide our anti-hunger advocacy, such as freedom, redemption and justice.”

Inspired by Jewish values and ideals, MAZON is a national advocacy organization working to end hunger among people of all faiths and backgrounds in the United States and Israel.

“It was eye-opening to everyone in the room to understand that together, we can reverse the course of hunger in this country.”  – Liza Lieberman

“It’s not every day that you see advocates and government officials come together to partake in ancient traditions that foster discussions about how we can work together and advance policies that reflect our shared values,” Lieberman said. “It was eye-opening to everyone in the room to understand that together, we can reverse the course of hunger in this country.”  

Participants read from MAZON’s 2024 Hunger Seder Haggadah, which frames the Passover rituals around hunger issues. Also, each year, MAZON, along with the traditional Four Questions of Passover, creates and distributes a Fifth Question to bring a new reflection about hunger to the seder table. 

This year’s question, “How will we find our way to freedom and justice?” highlights the fact that 44 million Americans are “bound by the burden of hunger.” MAZON said policymakers must learn from the effectiveness of pandemic-era protections, flexibilities and benefit boosts for programs like SNAP. 

“This is my first Seder experience, but the message and the overall intent is not new to me,” Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.) told the Journal. Hayes is the ranking member of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Foreign Agriculture and Horticulture. “It has become my clarion call in Congress: Hunger is something incredibly basic that speaks to all of humanity.”

Hayes was one of eight members of Congress in attendance, along with .U.S. representatives Tracey Mann (R-Kan.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Becca Balint (D-Vt.), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.).

“Shame on us; it’s shameful that we need to fight to ensure millions of people have enough money for food,” Schakowsky told the Journal. “We must demand that every person in this country, whoever they are and wherever they come from, has enough to eat.” 

She added, “We can do this.”

Abby J. Leibman, MAZON’s president & CEO, called this National Hunger Seder the best one yet. “This annual event allows us to create a unique space for community, which is one of the core themes of Passover,” Leibman said. “The Passover story illustrates how [the] community created bonds and purpose, so that our ancestors could move toward the promised land — together. “It was the strength and courage of community in action that allowed our ancestors to find freedom,” she said. “Today, it is the strength and courage of our community in action that can bring an end to the pain and indignity of hunger.” 

Although U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), House minority whip and chair of the Democratic Faith Working Group, was unable to attend the Seder, he offered a quote of support. 

“During this Passover season, as we reflect on shared traditions and find strength in the story of the Israelites’ escape from hunger and hardship, let us not forget those in our own communities who face challenges such as food insecurity,” Clyburn told the Journal. “My Democratic colleagues and I stand for policies that ensure sufficient sustenance reaches every American. Wishing all who celebrate a meaningful holiday of liberation!”