Passover Seder Plates

Learn about Passover by discovering Seder plates in the Jewish Museum Collection through this exhibit.

Passover Plate (c. 1928) by Boris SchatzThe Jewish Museum, New York

Each year in the springtime, Jewish families around the world gather together to tell the story of Passover. The holiday celebrates the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt, and their subsequent Exodus.

Seder Plate (1986) by Robert LipnickThe Jewish Museum, New York

Passover starts on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan, which falls in March or April in the Gregorian calendar, and traditionally lasts for 8 days. In most countries, the holiday is commemorated with a Seder on the first and second evenings.

Seder Plate (1983) by Hana GeberThe Jewish Museum, New York

Passover is intended to honor and preserve the story of the Exodus. The Passover Seder serves to pass on the traditions and narratives of the holiday from one generation to the next. This is done through the asking of the Four Questions recited by the youngest person at the Seder, and the reading of the Haggadah, which contains the rituals, prayers, songs, and stories of Passover.

Seder Plate (2015) by Nicole EisenmanThe Jewish Museum, New York

The centerpiece of the table is the Seder plate, which holds six symbolic food items. While any plate can be considered a Seder plate, most people use a special one, divided into six part

Seder Plate (1997) by Amy Klein ReichertThe Jewish Museum, New York

In this video, culinary historian and author Michael Twitty and the Museum’s Curator of Judaica Abigail Rapoport reflect on the layers of meaning embodied in the Seder plate.

Passover Dish (1864/1889)The Jewish Museum, New York

The foods on the Seder plate evoke the bitterness of bondage and celebrate hope for new beginnings. These foods traditionally include two types of bitter herbs; a paste of spices, nuts, and apples known as “charoset;” a shank bone (or a vegetable substitute); a roasted egg; and parsley dipped in saltwater. Some place an orange among the traditional symbolic foods as a gesture of solidarity with LGBTQIA+ Jews and others who are marginalized within the Jewish community.

Passover Plate (with later engraving) by Sebald Ruprecht IIIThe Jewish Museum, New York

The Seder table also includes three pieces of matzah, which is an unleavened bread eaten during Passover to symbolize the haste with which the Israelites fled from Egypt before their bread had time to finish rising.

In the center scene of this pewter Seder plate, a man at the head of the table holds a piece of matzah in his hand.

Seder Plate (1996) by Neil GoldbergThe Jewish Museum, New York

Neil Goldberg tackles the Passover story with a dose of humor. The artist demonstrates the symbolism of the matzah by mounting a piece of the unleavened bread on industrial wheels. The Seder plate encapsulates haste, past and present, while also providing “food for thought.”

Tiered Seder Set (18th-19th century) by Unknown Artist/MakerThe Jewish Museum, New York

The appearance of the “Tiered Seder Set” stems from its function: the three-in-one Seder plate is designed to hold the ritual foods; plates for pieces of matzah; and the cup of Elijah.

Tiered Seder Set (1700/1899)The Jewish Museum, New York

The latter holds wine symbolically set aside for the prophet Elijah in anticipation of his visit to the participants’ Seder table, heralding redemption, peace, and spiritual bliss.

Passover Set (1930/1978) by Ludwig Yehuda WolpertThe Jewish Museum, New York

Ludwig Wolpert was a pioneer in the field of Jewish ceremonial art. This Passover service, a copy after a lost original designed in 1930, may be his masterpiece. The cutout Hebrew inscription “I will lift the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord” appears on the glass-lined silver goblet. This receptacle also holds the wine symbolically set aside for the prophet Elijah.

Seder Plate (2009) by Allan WexlerThe Jewish Museum, New York

Allan Wexler’s “Scaffold Seder Plate” gives each ritual food its own ceramic dish raised on a brass stand, which looks like a miniature table. The plates are designed according to the size and shape of the individual foods, highlighting their uniqueness.

Passover Plate (1948) by Jewish DPs, Displaced Persons Camp, BavariaThe Jewish Museum, New York

This plate was made in 1948 at a displaced persons camp near Munich where survivors lived as they eagerly awaited new homes. This sentiment, specifically an urgent desire to immigrate to Israel, is expressed in the plate’s Hebrew inscription―“This year in Jerusalem”―on the lower rim, instead of the customary phrase “Next year in Jerusalem,” which is traditionally recited at the end of the Seder. This plate serves as a powerful reminder of painful histories, while also expressing the hope for brighter futures—a central theme of the Passover Seder regardless of its time and place.

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