The College’s chapter of the Jewish student organization Hillel gathered together both Jewish and non-Jewish members of the community, including President Gene Nichol, for a Seder held in the Wren Hall of the Wren building on the second night of Passover, April 3.
p. “For the second night we invited the entire community and had a special ‘learning Seder,’” Hillel President junior Alex Eichel said. “This was something we had never done before. We did this because so many non-Jews were asking about Passover and wanted to come to a Seder. [It] was a great success.”
p. The Seder, the traditional Passover prayers and meal ceremony, included audience participation in the readings and explanations for all the songs as part of Hillel’s effort to educate those interested about the meaning and traditions of Passover.
A two-night event, the Great Hall was packed both for the learning Seder and the regular Seder. This was the first year that the Seder was held in the Wren building.
p. Despite the Seder’s timing during the after effects of the Wren Cross controversy, the Great Hall was selected more for its practicality than as a political statement.
p. “Since the first night of Passover was a Monday night, all of the sororities booked the rooms in the UC and every other space that fit 100 people,” Eichel said. “No sorority would switch rooms with us. The only other spaces available were the Alumni House and the Great Hall. Why did we choose the Great Hall? The Alumni house was very expensive. We had the Great Hall booked before the Wren controversy even started.”
p. Although the Seder is held on the first two nights, Jews follow strict kosher-for-Passover rules for all eight days of Passover. These dietary restrictions prohibit any products made from flour, wheat, barley or oats.
p. Hillel provided dinner each night to anyone observing Passover, asking for donations from those who would partake in the meals. Dining services also had a selection of kosher-for-Passover food at both the Caf and the University Center.
p. “This is our eighth year of serving Passover food,” Commons Director Larry Smith said. “We have a wider selection at the UC and the Caf for lunch and dinner and just the cold setup at the Marketplace, [including the matzah, gefilte fish, hard-boiled eggs and charoset].”
p. Dining Services coordinated their menu with Hillel, either through Hillel Director Geoff Brown or another member of the organization. Dining Services does not follow kosher rules in the kitchen, but they do provide at least two or three kosher entrees.
p. “The menu varies year to year based on who we talk to, but it has been pretty constant over the years. Over the last couple years, I have noticed that no one goes directly to the Passover section because we have so many other options,” Smith said.
Both Smith and Resident District Manager Phil DiBenedetto attended the second night Seder, where they were thanked by Hillel leaders for their efforts in accommodating Jewish students.
p. “We have received a lot of positive feedback [about our kosher-for-Passover selection] from both Hillel and individual students,” Smith said.
p. Although their efforts are appreciated, some students think that there is much progress to be made.
p. “They are trying,” Eichel said. “Each year is a little better. But, honestly, the accommodations are slim to none compared to other schools. When I ate at the UC [my freshman year], the Passover section included matzah and a buffet of things to make a matzah sandwich with. They included ham, bacon and cheese. It’s rough.”