This year, the first night of Passover was certainly different from all other nights on hundreds of campuses around the world. While spending Passover on campus is certainly not a new concept, the themes of this year's seders were some of the most creative and highly publicized in recent years.
Chocoholics at the University of Washington were quick to sign-up for a chocolate seder which incorporated Kosher for Passover sweets with the meal. Social justice activists on UW's campus attended a seder themed on modern day slavery. In addition to telling the story of the Jewish exodus from Egypt, students discussed the plight of indentured immigrant workers in Florida and the pressing global issue of human trafficking.
At Santa Clara University, in Northern California, Hillel hosted high school students who were spending the weekend on campus to compete at the California High School Speech Association's state tournament. The competition, which CHSSA officials apologized for scheduling during Passover, couldn't be rescheduled once the conflict was brought to light. Jewish teens who traveled to Silicon Valley for the tournament were welcomed by Hillel students. Together, they partook in seder traditions.
Jake Novak, 16, from San Dieguito Academy in Encintas, California, told The Mercury News, "[My] parents were less likely to let me go to the tournament before they heard there would a seder [at Hillel]. Seders are usually at my grandmother's house, our whole family gets together. So, I was kind of upset at first, but got more excited when I heard about this seder."
"While, obviously, we don't think it's ideal to hold a tournament on a big Jewish holiday," said Sue Maltiel, executive director of Hillel of Silicon Valley, "[We decided,] 'let's make a holiday for every student who is away from home.' "
For those Jewish college students studying abroad in Europe, Hillel hosted an Italian seder in Rome for the first time ever. Hillel's Outstanding Student Initiatives grants and Taglit-Birthright Israel: Birthright Israel NEXT made the European seder experience possible. It was hosted by Sammy Auerbach and Jason Leivenberg, Taglit-Birthright Israel alumni and students from UC Berkeley Hillel. Senior Jewish Educator Rabbi Jon Kelsen from Pardes in Israel also attended, along with more than 100 students who broke matzah at the Jewish Community Center in Rome.
Back stateside, Hillel at the University of Illinois and Urbana-Champaign and St. Louis Hillel at Washington University offered "speed seders" for those students who couldn't commit to the full-length version. The "In & Out of Egypt Quick" seder incorporated all the traditions at abbreviated length. Environmentally-friendly seders and traditional seders for Reform and Conservative students were also held on those campuses.
Keshet, the GLBTQ group at Indiana University held a Queer Seder that explores the queer Jewish experience.
Penn State University's annual "Blue-White Weekend" inspired a "Blue and White" seder, also the colors of the Israeli flag. Penn State Hillel encouraged Jewish parents and alumni to balance their passion for Penn State football with their commitment to celebrating the holiday by hosting anyone in town for the weekend's festivities.
Following in their annual tradition, Southern Methodist University (SMU) Hillel hosted an interfaith seder, inviting students of all faiths to join the SMU Hillel community for an evening full of tradition, food and learning opportunities.
Generous Hillel donors pledged more than $13,000 online to help fund the seders, allowing Jewish students to participate in the holiday at their home away from home. The monies raised by Hillel’s Charles and Lynn Schusterman International Center are being distributed to donor-designated campuses.
To read local news stories about these Hillel seders, visit:
Santa Clara Hillel Hosts High School Debaters for Passover in The Mercury News
Orthodox, Reform Students Lead Seder at Columbia in The Columbia Spectator
UCLA Break Unleavened Bread Together in The Daily Bruin
Hillel at the University of Georgia Cleans Up for Passover in The Red and Black
Students Suggest Matzo Toppings in The Brown Daily Herald
University of Florida Students Spend Passover on Campus Studying for Finals in The Independent Florida Alligator
Central Florida University Hillel Hosts Green Seder in the Orlando Sentinel