by Lynsey Jeffery
Students celebrated Passover on Monday and Tuesday at Maryland Hillel with a range of different seders.
Passover, a Jewish holiday celebrated in spring to commemorate the exodus of Jewish Israelites from slavery in Egypt, brings together family and friends to participate in a seder— a ceremonial dinner that follows a symbolic order. Maryland Hillel offered five different seders on Monday and Tuesday nights for students and their families.
The Passover seder takes place on the first two nights of the holiday. The entire holiday lasts from sundown on the first night to sundown eight days later. This year, Passover began at sundown on Monday and will end at sundown Tuesday, April 18.
Hillel gave students the option of choosing one of three seders on Monday and one of two on Tuesday, each with a different theme. Themes included a family-style seder, an improv seder, a Greek life seder and a second night traditional family-style seder.
Each seder cost students $10, however, some students were overcharged due to an issue with the registration website. Hillel staff member Shira Gabay promised affected students refunds.
Seders can vary greatly in length and tone but they all consist of 15 basic steps that each have a symbolic meaning.
Sophomore sociology major Devorah Stavisky co-led the Monday night traditional seder with Rabbi Aderet Drucker and fellow student Shiri Huber. Stavisky described the symbolism in the seder’s structure.
“We celebrate Passover to recount the story of Exodus – of how the Jews fled Egypt,” she said. “And every aspect of the meal from the way in which we sit, to the types of food we eat, to the way that we set the table are all meant to instigate curiosity among the people at the meal, especially amongst kids.”
The five seders held at Hillel followed different methods for doing these 15 steps. At the improv seder, each portion of the seder was put into a bowl. Participants chose steps randomly and did them in that order, Stavisky said.
The Greek seder consisted of many small tables, each with a table leader. Participants did some steps of the seder only with their tables, while others were with the entire room.
One main step of the seder deals with matzo, or unleavened bread. During Passover, Jews do not eat any leavened or risen food like bread or other wheat products to remember the inability of their ancestors to eat leavened food as they were escaping Egypt.
“Matzo is a really important aspect of the meal. It basically represents how the Jews had to flee Egypt so quickly that they weren’t able to let their bread rise, so it’s a testament to the sacrifices they had to make to leave Egypt quickly enough to escape oppression.” Stavisky said.
“There’s a lot of lessons we can take from what actually happened,” said Alex Pollack, student leader and sophomore computer engineering major. “One is our responsibility to be aware of injustices around the world.”
The seder meals at Hillel were more attended than expected this year. Stavisky said the traditional Monday night seder expected 60 students, but hosted 90. She said she believes the seder would have been more successful had the organizers been prepared for such a large number, but was ultimately happy with how it turned out.
For many students, a seder at school is a way to balance religion and education. “I wanted to keep in the Passover spirit even though I’m at school,” said Drew Hein, a sophomore enrolled in letters and sciences.
Hillel also provided a place for students to come together and celebrate their shared faith.
“Passover is a really good time to reconnect with the people around us and reconnect with the story that has maintained for, I think, a lot of people, the core of their Judaism,” Stavisky said.