Hillel’s Seder options cater to taste, needs

By Amanda Graf

The University has created many traditions in its history, including homecoming, Quad Day and the Alma Mater. These symbols and rituals give students a common identity. Tonight, Jewish students on campus will begin a holiday that celebrates century-old traditions that first united the Chosen People of Israel.

Passover begins at sundown and ends eight days later. This holiday is a time for Jews to remember the events that brought Israelites out of Egypt and united them as a people.

Moses was challenged by God around 1800 B.C. to liberate the Israelites who were enslaved in Egypt, according to Hebrew Scripture. After struggling with the pharaoh and a series of plagues that culminated in the death of the first-born of all Egyptians, the Israelites were freed.

“Each year we celebrate Passover to retell the story of our exodus from Egypt,” said Melissa Cohen, events coordinator at Hillel, 405 E. John St. “If we don’t do it, the idea is that we will forget that we were once slaves.”

A Seder is a festival meal celebrated on the first and sometimes the second night of Passover. Jews use a book called a Haggadah to lead them through the prayers and rituals that help to retell the story of Passover as if they were those enslaved in Egypt. Eating bitter herbs and a green vegetable dipped in salt water, breaking the unleavened matzah and drinking from four cups of wine are just some of the 15 rituals outlined in the Haggadah.

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    Hillel will offer a variety of Seder meals this year to accommodate students’ preferences and schedules. For the second year in a row they will offer at “quickie” Seder that begins at 5:30 p.m. Cohen said this meal is for “the student on the go” who only has an hour to spare, but still wants a Passover experience.

    Other Seders including the traditional, home-style, young professional/graduate student and environmental-themed, will all begin at 8 p.m. at Hillel.

    Mari Gordon, sophomore in LAS, came up with the idea of having an environmental-themed Seder as a way to combine “tradition and modernity.” She said the rituals and prayers will be mindful of the gifts of the environment. For example, they will recognize the matzah as a symbol of grain and sustenance.

    “It makes the traditions and ritual applicable in a modern context,” Gordon said.

    Also during Passover, Jews abstain from eating or having in their homes any leavened bread, or chametz. In America, this fast also includes corn and rice products.

    “The taking out of that leavening is supposed to remind you of taking away your ego,” said Josh Richman, junior in LAS. “On Passover we take that extra bit of inflation away and are ourselves, true to who we really are.”

    Richman said he has always celebrated Passover at home, but being on campus during Passover will “give more of a religious meaning to it.”

    “It gives to me a reminder that our accomplishments here are not completely due to our actions and that you always have to take into account that God is with us and helping us through,” Richman said.