Religious groups provide homestyle traditions for holidays

Miki Johnson

Although most people see holidays as a time to be with family, some students who can’t go home this week are exploring Passover and Easter options at Northwestern.

The Fiedler Hillel Center sponsored a seder in the Louis Room on Wednesday night to celebrate the first night of Passover.

The students and few faculty members who attended the event were led by Rabbi Michael Mishkin, who instructed the crowd to read prayers and sing songs from Haggadah prayer book, sip wine and perform a group hand washing.

“I don’t really feel like I’m missing out on the family thing,” said Hayley Friedman, a Weinberg junior who attended Wednesday’s seder. “I can still maintain the tradition of seder at Hillel.”

Passover lasts eight days and commemorates the exodus of the Jewish slaves from Egypt. Observant Jews spend the first two nights at seders, a traditional dinner where the Passover story is retold.

This year the more than 150 people in attendance at Hillel’s seder sat at tables of eight instead of at one big table as in past years. David Newman, the Jewish life coordinator for the center, said Hillel hoped to create a stronger sense of community by having individual tables.

Another 45 to 60 are signed up to attend the second seder at Hillel tonight, Newman said.

He added that although some students are disappointed they won’t be with their families this year for the holiday, many said they are excited to share their family traditions with others at school since the “essence of Passover is telling the story.”

Weinberg sophomore Adam Riff liked the idea of organizing a seder by himself for the first time, so he and a few friends decided to host one at Willard Residential College tonight.

“There have always been adults leading the seders I’ve been to,” Riff said. “I thought it would be nice to put one together with close friends at school.”

Although Riff originally intended the gathering to be small, more than 20 Jewish and non-Jewish students, including some international students, have signed up for the dinner.

Riff plans primarily to use the “seder-to-go” packages provided by Hillel. They contain a Haggadah, grape juice, matzoh and everything else needed to perform the seder.

Members of Catholic Undergraduates also offer Easter events for students who won’t be with their family for the weekend, which wraps up the religion’s Holy Week.

Last Sunday through this weekend’s Easter is one of Christianity’s most sacred times. Christains celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Catholic Undergraduates recreated “The Last Supper” at their Wednesday meeting and plan to take a group to Saturday’s Easter Vigil at the Sheil Catholic Center, said Brian Loh, a Weinberg junior in Catholic Undergraduates. Roman Catholics also celebrate special Masses on Thursday and Friday in memory of the Easter events.

The Rev. Kenneth Simpson said the Sheil Center encourages students to take an active role in their religious practice.

For the Easter Vigil, two students are organizing students to read eight scriptural passages that require lengthy practice and preparation.

“We want to give the students a sense of ownership and leadership, a chance to practice,” said Simpson, Sheil chaplain and director. “That way when they graduate they will be able to bring that with them right away.”

Simpson said some students feel so at home at Sheil that they have decided to bring their parents to Mass rather than going to their families’ churches.

“There is a spirit here that permeates because of the vitality of being on a campus,” Simpson said.

Sheil is hosting events every day this week, culminating with Sunday’s Easter Masses at 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.