Passover, one of the most celebrated holidays in the Jewish world, commemorates the biblical Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. The week-long holiday is celebrated by munching on matzah, slabs of crisp, unleavened bread, and abstaining from chametz, or leavened food. Other observances include the seder (a ritual meal), lively song, intense discussion and of course, debate.
Unlike many Jewish holidays, one of the primary rituals of Passover, the seder, takes place in the home. Hillels around the world serve as surrogate homes for students during Passover, making the role of Hillel even more important. Some of them may have difficulty being away from their family on this holiday, and others may be first-time attendees at a seder.
In this way, Hillel upholds the commandment described in the Hagadah, the guidebook for the seder: “Let all those who are hungry, come and eat.” Whether students are hungry for brisket and macaroons, or hungry for the warmth of community and the light of Torah, Hillel welcomes them to the table. Below are highlights from their Passover-inspired activities and Hillel seders:
A Sweet Seder
After raising their glasses of chocolate milk, students from University of Texas, Dallas Hillel recited kiddush as part of their annual chocolate seder. They used a variety of sweets to represent traditional items on the seder plate, including unsweetened chocolate to symbolize maror, or bitter herbs.
Students from Tanger Hillel at Brooklyn College spent days stuffing bags with Passover essentials — matzah, canned vegetables, matzo ball soup mix. They delivered the packages to more than 275 senior citizens in Brooklyn.
Comfort is Key
Using colorful pieces of fabric, students from West Chester University Hillel created their own pillows to observe the custom of reclining during the seder. In ancient times, royalty used to eat while reclining on couches, armchairs or pillows while slaves were forced to stand nearby. The Jewish people commemorate their freedom from slavery by relaxing during the Passover meal.
Students helped kickoff Passover cleaning at Elon Hillel by ridding the kitchen of chametz, unleavened food. They noshed on bagels and cream cheese before scrubbing the stove, wiping down countertops and sweeping the floor.
On the field
Underneath the glow of stadium lights, more than 400 students from Syracuse University Hillel celebrated the first Passover seder in the Carrier Dome, the largest domed stadium on a college campus. Special guests attended the meal, including Eric Fingerhut, president and CEO of Hillel International, and Kent Syverud, chancellor and president of Syracuse University.
Throngs of students gathered at Hillel Rio to celebrate Passover with a traditional seder meal, complete with steaming bowls of matzah ball soup and plates of hard-boiled eggs. Attendees engaged in meaningful discussions about the holiday and sang lively songs from the Haggadah.
University of Miami Hillel added musical flare to its Passover seder. Some Hillel students and professionals strummed guitars and played piano while their peers sang classic Jewish songs, such as “Hallelujah.” Attendees also discussed the importance of Israel and its history.
Mahjong and Matzah
Students from Goucher College Hillel spent Tuesday night munching on homemade matzah brei, drizzled with kosher for Passover syrup, of course. While eating, they learned how to play Mahjong, a tile-based game that challenges players to eliminate all pieces from the board.
Pesach — Passover in Hebrew.
Seder — Literally “order.” The seder is the ritual meal on the first night, and repeated on the second night in many homes, where the narratives of the Exodus from Egypt are told.
Haggadah — The text read at the seder.
Matzah — Unleavened bread that resembles a cracker. It's one of the key symbolic foods of Passover.
Chametz — Leavened food that is avoided on Passover.
“Chag kasher v’sameach” — “A happy and kosher holiday” (Hebrew)
“Ah zissen Pesach” — “A sweet Passover” (Yiddish)