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Times Square Seder

Times Square Seder, Featuring the Matzah Ball Soup Kitchen (2002) was a public art/social action event that mobilizes art in service of activism using the ritual of the Jewish Passover Seder. Conceived by Shiff as a multimedia event, it consisted of readings, performances, video projections, art installations, and a “Matzah Ball Soup Kitchen” for the homeless. Shiff took the Passover Haggadah’s mandate to “feed the hungry” as a call for social action and to a place where New York’s hungry and homeless had been most visibly banished Times Square.

The Times Square Seder was held on March 30, 2002 on the fourth night of Passover. The event took place in three distinct spaces all on the same block of 42nd Street just steps away from Times Square. There were two storefront window spaces and one interior space that was transformed into the Matzah Ball Soup Kitchen. The performance began in front of the first window, then continued inside this storefront window space, moved onto the street, and thento the nearby soup kitchen. Meanwhile, an interactive video installation played throughout the evening in the second storefront window. Along with sculpture and video art, the Seder featured symbolic actions performed by political and religious leaders known for their concern with social justice. The former Manhattan Borough President and current director of The American Jewish World Service, Ruth Messinger, helped to officiate. Rabbi Arthur Waskow, leader of the famous Freedom Seder in the 1960s and current Director of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia was also a participant in the Seder performance.

In April 2004 Melissa Shiff published an article in Tikkun Magazine entitled “Times Square Seder: Happening for Homelessness”