Mostly what I did during my first Williams College Jewish Association board meeting a few weeks ago was listen. I asked a couple of questions, but my purpose there was to begin learning: about who the students are, and what matters to them, and what they're working on.
At the end of the hour, as they gathered their coats to leave, Evan -- the co-president of WCJA -- said to me, "Wait a second, I have something for you." What he handed me was a piece of my own history: an original copy of the haggadah from the Williams College Feminist Seder from 1996.
1996 was my senior year at Williams, and I was an active participant in creating that haggadah and that seder. (The cover is my own handwriting -- I remember sitting at my desk, pencilling and then inking that intertwined woman symbol and Star of David.) It was wild to stand in the very room where our feminist seders took place, holding that staple-bound booklet.
I have some Williams feminist haggadot in my archives. Ten years ago, WCJA invited me to come and speak at the Jewish Religious Center about my experiences with the Williams College feminist seder, which inspired me to find those old haggadot and reread them. (I wrote about that at the time: Six years of Williams College feminist haggadot.)
But there's something extra-special to me now about this one, because someone saved it. Someone saved it, and passed it down, and handed it on, until it came into the hands of the current leadership of the Jewish Association, twenty years after it was assembled and printed and used.
Leafing through it now, I'm moved by several things. One is how I can see glimmers of this haggadah in my Velveteen Rabbi's Haggadah for Pesach, the haggadah that I have for years shared online as a free download. Another is the poetry we chose -- and the fact that many of the poets there who were simply revered names to me twenty years ago are now colleagues and friends. (That feels to me like a sign that I am doing something right with my life.)
I'm moved, also, by the awareness that this haggadah represents a particular moment in the evolution of Jewish feminism. Today's students express their Jewishness in an intersectional framework for which we didn't have the language twenty years ago -- or at least I didn't. I know that there haven't been feminist seders at Williams in many years. I wonder whether the spiritual yearnings that used to be expressed through the vehicle of that experience are now bubbling up in some other way.
This physical object teleports me temporarily through time. I'm grateful to have this tangible reminder of what was important to me in college, and I'm gratified at the reminder that the work I'm doing now has its roots in who I was then.