Hillel, a Jewish student organization on campus, hosted its annual Passover Seder Wednesday in the Lory Student Center, giving students a “home away from home” during the important holiday.
Traditionally a family holiday, Passover is celebrated in the home, not the synagogue, Hedy Berman, director of Hillel at CSU said.
“It can be a lonely time for out-of-state students,” Berman said. “Hillel provides that home away from home, a family and a community.”
Aaron Matzkin, a senior criminal justice major has celebrated Passover with Hillel each year since he started classes at CSU. Matzkin is from the San Francisco Bay area and doesn’t get to go home to celebrate with family.
“This is my Jewish home away from home,” Matzkin said. “It is a good place to gather everyone together for food and ritual.”
But the celebration is not just for Jewish people, Rachael Osofsky, Senior Jewish Campus Service Core Fellow for Hillel said.
“It’s not only important for Jews,” Osofsky said. “It is important to open to other students who want to learn more about Judaism.”
The celebration was also open to community members, who may not have wanted to put on the Seder for a small family, Osofsky said.
Many students who are part of Hillel helped lead the ceremony with a variety of songs and other traditions they brought from their individual families.
But Seder means “order” and the story remains the same across families.
Passover is about telling and reenacting the story of the exodus of Jews from Egypt, and the liberation of Jews from slavery.
During the celebration, which started Wednesday and lasts eight days, many Jews abstain from eating leavened bread, or bread that rises, which includes corn (and corn syrup for some), grains, starch, rice, beans and wheat.
When the Jews were released from slavery in Egypt, they left quickly before bread would have had time to rise, so, today, Jews remember the story by eating Kosher foods, like unleavened bread. For the next seven days, Hillel will offer Kosher lunches in their office.
Reading from the Hillel Passover Haggadah (which means “telling”), Matzkin reminded participants of the meaning behind Passover and the night’s celebration.
“On a night such as this, Israel went forth from degradation to joy,” Matzkin read. “May tonight’s celebration remind us of who we were, of who we are, and of who we can become.”
But it is more than just a reminder of history. It is about living in the present, and personal reflection.
“It’s what you bring to it,” Berman said. “We take history and inform the present.”
Egypt is “Mitzrayim,” in Hebrew, which, in literal translation, means “a tight, narrow place,” Berman said. “We ask ourselves, what are some of the ways we feel enslaved and how can we free ourselves?”
For Josh (Yoshi) Dember, a senior marketing major who helped plan the Seder, Passover has another meaning.
“It is Jewish spring cleaning at its max,” Dember said. “It is about cleaning out physical bread, and cleaning out your soul too. During the exodus, we started over as new people. We remember that and try to emulate that.”
Everything at Passover has meaning, from the songs, to the food and wine to the “Passover Plate,” and from that, individuals draw meaning for their own life.
“We remember the past and give the present a sense of purpose,” Dember said. “It is a great reminder to keep asking ‘why.’ Just as everything in the Passover Seder has meaning, so does everything in life.”
Hillel also added an element of service to their Seder. For every ticket sold for the event, the group donated $2 to Mazon, the Jewish response to hunger, giving about $150 to the organization.