Students and community members looking to continue familial traditions of celebrating Passover dinner while away from home or even those seeking to plant new roots in their religious background had the chance to attend a Passover Seder on campus.
In remembrance of those times, the Hillel at CU co-sponsored a Passover Seder with Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi in Room 235 of the UMC.
The Jewish holiday of Passover is a tribute and commemoration of the struggles the Jewish people suffered through as they sought freedom from slavery in Egypt.
Chelsea Bear, a 22-year-old evolutionary biology and sociology double major and president of the student board at Hillel, said that Passover used to be held in the Hillel house on Colorado Boulevard.
“Well last year, and for the past three years, Hillel has always done Seder on the first night and it was jam-packed every year,” Bear said. “So really, we moved to the UMC so that one, more people would be able to attend and two, to make it more accessible to students and community at CU.”
Each of the 13 tables in the room was capable of seating eight members and hardly any chairs were left empty as the Seder began. Seder plates containing the customary foods of a roasted shankbone, a hard-boiled egg, bitter herbs, charoset (a mixture of apples, nuts, cinnamon and wine), karpas (parsley) and chazeret (romaine lettuce) adorned each table along with plates of vegetables and bottles of grape juice in place of wine.
Margot Touitou, a 21-year-old senior psychology major, said that she had heard about the communal Passover dinner through Ashleigh Miller, the coordinator of Jewish student life at CU, during an interview for a Birthright Israel trip.
“For me, it’s the expression of freedom, which is so important for the people of Israel, because every since Jews have existed, someone has tried to annihilate us, and they can’t, and it’s just a great celebration,” Toutiou said of what Passover means for her.
Hanan Nayberg, director of Hillel at CU, began the night by reading from the Haggadah, a religious text that dictates the direction of the Seder. Subsequent passages were then read by guests as a microphone was passed around the room and symbolic rituals were acted out, such as the dipping of parsley in salt water to symbolize the tears of the Jewish slaves in Egypt.
“It’s a really important holiday that a lot of people don’t know,” Touitou said. “Christ celebrated the last supper and that was really a Seder. It’s a Jewish tradition, and even Jesus celebrated freedom from Egypt.”
Noah Walcutt, a 24-year-old mechanical engineer at Samson Design Associates, said he Google searched CU Boulder Hillel and stumbled upon the Passover celebration.
“The basic gist is that the Jews were slaves in Egypt and Moses was commanded by God to free the Jewish people from the Egyptian oppressors,” Walcutt said. “The reason it’s called Passover is because God commanded the Jewish people to mark their door so the angel of death would pass over and not kill their first born. Consequently the first born of the pharaoh was killed by the angel of death.”
Everything on the Seder Plate represents a different aspect of the exodus from Egypt and the experiences of the Jewish people in their journey to Israel.
“The bitter herbs is the bitterness of oppression and the charoses is supposed to be symbolic of the mortar the Jews laid when building the Egyptian pyramids,” Walcutt said. “Matzo is symbolic of how the Jews didn’t have time to leaven the bread and bake it with yeast, so they baked it on their backs without yeast, so Jews aren’t allowed to consume yeast products during Passover.”
Becca Schnee, a 22-year-old senior sociology major, said that while Passover lasts eight days and follows the Jewish calendar, it is not only representative of past grievances faced by the Jews but also of present day repressions of other constituents as well.
“It’s about remembering having to flee and being oppressed and having to apply it to groups that being oppressed now,” Schnee said. “In a lot of Seders people put an orange on the Seder plate and that represents the oppression of women; it’s a way of recognizing that there is still female oppression.”
According to Schnee, the Hillel in Denver is doing a queer Seder on the third night as a way of recognizing the subjugation GLBT population.
The concurrent respect towards other afflicted groups entails a unity and cohesion that was reflected in Passover Seders around the world. The shared ritual of Passover was crucial in creating the communal atmosphere sought by students looking to celebrate their religion away from home.
“I think it’s also about bringing people together and the knowledge that we had a Seder here but the knowledge that people around the world are doing the same thing too,” Schnee said.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Sheila V Kumar at Sheila.firstname.lastname@example.org.