Just this week, I was poking around my grandparents' home and found an old, scuffed white box with “Passover Seder” scrolled across the top. Opening it revealed familiar friends of my childhood - stuffed plagues, a few (torn, stained, well-loved) children’s Haggadah, and more toy locusts than any one family should need. As I held a plush frog and slid a felt cow mask over my face, I remembered sitting at the Passover table as a child, asking the Four Questions as Seder began, and reflecting on why this night is indeed, different from all other nights.

Each of the Four Questions have an answer - we eat reclining like royalty to remind us of our freedom, eat matzah and maror (bitter herbs or horseradish) to commemorate the Jewish people’s haste in the journey to flee enslavement and the bitterness of that slavery, and dipping karpas (parsley) in saltwater dually reminds us of the tears of enslaved ancestors and newfound freedom to dip twice. Now as I reflect on asking these questions and their answers, I’m inspired to ask: How are these times different from all other times? How do we recognize that these times are different, while honoring the time-held and sacred traditions of Passover?

I find my answer in an alternative name for Passover, Chag Ha Aviv – the Spring Holiday. This year Passover coincides with Earth Day and the time when our tree's first buds emerge and flowers are unfurling their earliest blossoms. In ancient Egypt, Passover coincided with the growth of karpas, which is featured on the Seder plate and symbolizes Spring and rebirth. Today, I recognize these times are different as we live within the throes of the climate crisis. Throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, we’ve experienced a warmer winter than is normal for several years now. Spring is chugging along early, too – trees begun to bud and open their leaves and flowers have broken through the soil’s surface, too early for both. No doubt as we celebrate Passover, the Spring Holiday, we’ve taken note of how the past several Springs have been different from all other Springs. 

The story of Passover, too, alludes to the need to take care of Earth. Changes to and in the land are thematic of the plagues. The first plague G-d befell upon Egypt was the waters of the Nile turning to blood. Today, many of our rivers are polluted with toxins, and waterways that once ran fresh are inundated with saltwater. Following the Nile turning to blood, Egypt experienced the plague of frogs. The frogs were driven from their home in the waters, and were forced onto land, where they overran Egypt. After three days, the frogs died throughout Egypt. As humans pollute waterways, we force the animals who call them home to retreat and sometimes, our actions cause devastation to their populations. Likewise, the seventh plague, hail, was an environmental disaster. Exodus 9:24 tells us "It was the worst storm in all the land of Egypt since it had become a nation." Today, as Earth's climate changes, we see more intense storms and unusual extreme weather, such as hail. 

Taking note of the differences of this age can help us uphold the time-honored traditions of Passover. And, if you celebrate Passover, there are several actions you can take to ensure that your Seder is environmentally conscious to recognize these differences. 

  • Host a vegetarian or vegan Seder - there are many vegan Seder menus online, and vegan recipes to complement them! If you’re not ready to commit to a full-vegan Seder, consider swapping out a few recipes and replacing them with vegan ones. Likewise, Seder non-vegan items on the Seder plate can be swapped out. The roasted shank bone can be swapped out for roasted beets, and a daffodil or other Spring flower can replace the hard-boiled egg. Check out IPC's Director of Outreach, Bonnie Sorak, vegetarian Passover recipes and shopping list! (Some of these recipes contain soy products which are not considered to be "Kosher for Passover" though many vegan Jews will still use them).
  • Buy local Passover foods - shopping locally helps cut down on emissions from transporting foods. On average, food in the United States is transported about 1,500 miles. Local items are transported no more than 100 miles, drastically reducing its environmental impact. 
  • Compost - if you're not already composting, now is a great time to get started! Composters suitable for both residential homes and apartment balconies can be purchased or built. If you're not ready to start composting yourself, there are many organizations that will pick up compost from residential homes. Find one near you!

As I reflect upon how this Spring is different from all other Springs, I find myself thinking of the emergence of the spring peepers. Late in February, I could hear them calling from the woods, and remember hoping to myself that they would be okay should a frost come. As we recognize that these times are different than all other times, we can be inspired by the persistence of all people who take action to combat the climate crisis in care for our Common Home. For as we come together as people of faith, we're resilient and united in advocating for this common cause.

Mollie Rudow


Outreach Coordinator (Anne Arundel, Baltimore County, Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico, Worcester, Caroline, Talbot)