By Elizabeth Sekkes
On April 1, a Passover Seder was hosted by the Center for Multicultural Affairs and the Center for Middle East Studies.
Attendees who entered the Council Chamber of the RCC were ushered to a table surrounded with smiling faces and ready introductions. At a Passover Seder, anyone and everyone is welcome, regardless of differences in religion or lifestyle.
In addition to presenting the attendees with the ancient traditions of symbolic Passover foods and readings, the speakers all intertwined the biblical plight of the Israelites, of whom they were observing, with the struggles that are faced today.
Rabbi J. Hannah Orden said her favorite aspect of the ceremony is the intermingling of new and old traditions as the ancient story of redemption is remembered and told.
“There are still people today who are oppressed and not free,” Rabbi Orden said. “We connect our ancient story with theirs.”
Dr. Jason Pina, Vice president of Student Affairs told students that no matter how many troubles they may see before and behind us, God will make a way. The encouraging message was well received by those at each table.
After hearing uplifting promises of hope in times of trouble and bondage such as those presented by Dr. Pina, Rabbi Orden explained each of the traditional foods on the tables. Bitter herbs dipped in salt water symbolized the tears shed by the Israelites during their bondage in Egypt. Similar to the Christian observance of Easter, a boiled egg at each table symbolizes new birth and renewal.
One contemporary food at Rabbi Orden’s table was an orange. According to Rabbi Orden, the orange symbolizes people who have been previously excluded from the Jewish community such as gays, lesbians and women; the sweetness of the orange serves to symbolize the sweetness that is found when differences are put aside.
Interwoven throughout the ceremony were ancient songs and readings from a book called a Haggadah. The book is meant to be read from back to front, because Hebrew is read from right to left. Traditional questions were asked and answered throughout, and in the absence of wine, drops of iced tea were placed on a plate to represent the plagues that were inflicted on the Egyptians, as well as common inflictions which the world would like to be rid of. Sensitive issues such as cancer, discrimination and AIDS were named.
At a certain point in the ceremony, Rabbi Orden opened a window in the room to welcome in the spirit of Elijah. Opening a window or a door at this time also symbolizes that there are open doors for those who need a place to stay.
Rebecca Leavitt, an attendee from the Social Work Department also echoed sentiments concerning acceptance and love.
“The spirit of this holiday is all about hope,” Leavitt said. “That in the midst of oppression that people can come together and create a better community and life. It’s about serving others.”
Towards the end of the ceremony a lunch was served, which included chicken broth soup with matzo balls, chicken, roasted vegetables, salad and sponge cake with fruit. At the conclusion, the Emancipation Proclamation was read as a powerful reminder of freedom and equality.
Following the reading, the traditional words “ Next year may we all be in peace, next year in Jerusalem” were uttered as parting words among newfound friends.