A long table in the center of the room was adorned with a blue tablecloth and traditional Seder items including matzah, parsley, and grape juice (a replacement for wine).
“Welcome everyone to the second night of Passover,” said Tracy Steinberg, senior nursing major and president of Hillel. “ Let’s start off the night with our first cup of grape juice and say a prayer.”
Participants read prayers and songs from the Haggadah, a Hebrew booklet that serves as a guide to Passover ceremony.
“Passover is a tradition where you gather around the table and appreciate the history (of the Jewish people,)” junior philosophy major Evan Greenberger said. “For a lot of people who otherwise aren’t really religious, they feel connected to Passover. Personally, to me it means to be with family and friends. And eating food. That’s the main thing.”
The Seder plates in the middle of the table held the six items that each holds its own symbolic meaning for the holiday.
As a part of the ceremony, the parsley was taken from the Seder plate and dipped in salt water.
It was explained that this process serves as a reminder of Jewish tears and its bitterness parallels the horrible lives the enslaved Jews endured.
Besides the karpas (parsley), other items on the Seder plate include beitzah (a roasted egg), z’roa (roasted bone), charoset (a spread of chopped apple and nuts), marror (a bitter herb), and chazeret (another bitter herb).
A ritual accompanied the eating of each item on the plate and afterwards, the actual meal was served.
During the holiday, Jews are only allowed to eat kosher foods and cannot eat anything that features dough that rises.
Because it can be difficult to find tasty things to eat, Brittany Gilbert suggested a means of maintaining the Passover practices while satisfying cravings for good food.
“Everyone should try matzah pizza,” said Gilbert, sophomore psychology major. “It’s pretty simple. You take a piece of matzah, cheese, and sauce and heat it up. I prefer the toaster oven because the microwave makes it soft, but it’s good and it’s kosher.”
Although there was no matzah pizza at this Seder dinner, Hillel served brisket, salad, fish, and other kosher dishes purchased at Whole Foods.
After eating parsley and other bitter herbs, this food served as a nice, and more flavorful meal.
Hillel was able to provide a place where students who could not make it home to be with their families could still feel comfortable and carry out the traditions.
“The Seder at [the College] represents an informal atmosphere where students can still celebrate Passover, make friends, and still maintain Judaism,” Steinberg said. “It’s an informal way to get that aspect of the religion since some people are more religious than others.”
Without cars on campus and with classes throughout the week, returning to home is very difficult for some students.
“Because I can’t exactly go home for Seder, this is a nice and intimate environment,” said Gilbert. “It’s hard to keep Passover while away so this is an opportunity to do so. And you’re with great people so that’s a plus.”
The environment indeed provided a homely and familial feeling, where everyone was friendly and bonded over the dinner together.
The night concluded with flour-free desserts such as macaroons and chocolate-covered matzah while songs were sang from the Haggadah.
“I love the people here and what Hillel represents and what it brings to campus,” said Steinberg. “It is open to so many different kinds of people. Jewish people come to events, but non-Jewish people come too. It provides a relaxed environment that lets people be themselves.”