Hillel creates reflective and justice-oriented space at Passover Seder dinner

By Jude Souazoube

Elm Staff Writer

The Washington College and Chestertown community gathered in Hynson Hall for a social justice-themed Passover Seder hosted by WC Hillel, the Jewish Student Union. 

Passover is a major holiday in the Jewish tradition that commemorates the exodus of Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt; the holiday is a seven-day observance that officially began April 5 at sundown. Hillel’s Passover Seder called for reflection on the pain of slavery and the joy of liberation. 

On April 4 at 5:30 p.m., attendees participated in the dinner which included prayer, conversation, and storytelling. Students, faculty, and local Chestertown residents were able to participate in the reading of the Haggadah — a Jewish text that sets forth the order of the Passover Seder.  

Inspiration for the remodeled Haggadah read at the Seder was derived from the 1969 Freedom seder. The Freedom seder was first used on the third night of Passover on April 4, 1969, the first anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr.  

Hillel’s Passover Seder fell on the same date; the significance of the date affirmed the decision to have a justice themed event.       

“[Having a social justice theme] was easy. When we started planning for the year that was one of the first things we wanted to do,” Co-Advisor of Hillel and Assistant Professor of Mathematics Dr. Gabe Feinberg said.  

The advisors and student leaders brainstormed possible structures and the logistics for a Passover Seder. 

“We thought, ‘What should the Passover Seder be about? What is most important to us?’ and the answer we came upon was inclusion and acceptance,” Hillel President senior Max Tucker said. 

The attendees had various religious and cultural backgrounds but were able to sit together and engage in meaningful dialogue. 

“The Passover Seder dinner was a great opportunity to experience and learn about a tradition different than my own,” senior Kayleigh Maimone said. “It was so nice to see students, faculty, and the greater Chestertown community come together to support Hillel.”

Maimone attended the seder with her friend who shares her love for learning about different cultures. 

The Passover event was one of the largest attended campus-wide seders with nearly 90 guests. The nature of the seder required important arrangements to be made to ensure the event ran smoothly. Hillel advisors Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Aaron Krochmal and Dr. Feinberg took on handling most of the logistics to alleviate potential stress for the student leaders. 

“Logistics are always difficult for any event. We are so fortunate to have [our advisors]. They communicated with dining hall catering and reserved the room,” Tucker said. 

Hillel hopes that attendees were able to walk away from the seder with valuable lessons and a good experience. 

“I hope for some [attendees] it was a window into Jewish culture and the religion. I hope even if they weren’t so interested in that part, they were interested in the social justice aspect of it and, if they haven’t had a Matzah ball before, they had their first Matzah ball,” Dr. Feinberg said. 

Hillel is affiliated with Hillel International, an organization that supports and inspires Jewish students across multiple universities and colleges. The student-led organization has hosted events such as bagel breakfast to create an intentional safe space for Jewish students and an educational space for non-Jewish students to engage with and learn about the culture.  

“Informally, [our mission statement is that] we hope to just inform, educate, and most importantly provide a space,” Tucker said. Hillel has more events lined up for the rest of the semester. 

Hillel will be hosting members of the Chestertown Havurah — Jewish community — April 15 at 4 p.m. for a program on Holocaust Remembrance. April 17 at 5 p.m. Hillel will be hosting the winners of the Roy Ans Fellowship; both events will be at the Hillel House. On April 21 at 7 p.m. there will be a pride shabbat in The Egg. Students curious to learn more about Hillel are encouraged to attend these events. 

Elm Archive Photo Photo Caption: Hillel encouraged open, campus-wide attendance.

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