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The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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NU Hillel hosts community Seder for Passover to celebrate traditions, Jewish experience

Kelley Lu/The Daily Northwestern
Students enjoyed a Passover Seder with the NU Hillel community.

Traditional Passover foods, drinks and flowers decorated tables at NU Hillel during the community Seder to mark the first night of Passover Monday. 

Seder is a traditional meal celebrated with songs and prayers and traditionally held with friends and family on the first two nights of Passover. This year, NU Hillel organized a Traditional Seder and a Reform Seder featuring social justice themes.

The holiday retells and celebrates the story of Jewish liberation from Egyptian slavery over 3,000 years ago. The Haggadah, a Jewish text read throughout the night, guides the order of the feast, starting with Kadesh, the blessing over wine, and ending with Nirtzah, expressions of hopes and prayers.

The tradition is to tell the story in first-person to relive the Exodus together as a community and be “connected to the Jewish story throughout time and space,” according to NU Hillel’s website. 

Weinberg sophomore and NU Hillel religious and spiritual life co-chair Haley Shamah said Hillel’s staff works to foster a community and provide resources for students to celebrate Passover and recreate the family experience associated with Seders.

Some Jewish students do not celebrate Passover at home with Passover Seders, Shamah said, but Hillel hopes to provide the space for all students to come together to try the custom and celebrate the holiday together. 

“Obviously, nothing will compare to the traditions that you’re used to at home and home-cooked food,” Shamah said. “Our hope is that the community that we build at Hillel and the broader Northwestern community will definitely be a fun substitute.”

NU Hillel staff works with NU Dining to provide Kosher Passover meals, according to Shamah. Monday’s Seder menu featured traditional dishes such as chicken matzo ball soup, eggplant schnitzel and chocolate chiffon cake. 

Shamah said food is central to the celebration.

“Passover food is a way for me to connect with my heritage,” Shamah said. “I’ve taken that opportunity in that platform to share with my fellow classmates some of the Seder traditions we do at home.”

Communication sophomore Roie Dahan’s family tradition begins Seder with chraime, a Moroccan fish dish he says is nostalgic for him. 

After coming to NU, Dahan said he’s learned about different songs, prayers and foods being a Sephardic Jew among the majority Ashkenazi Jewish community at the University. 

“It’s really interesting to hear how things are done here versus how I’m used to doing it. In my strain of Judaism, we’re allowed to eat grains and rice during Passover, whereas the Ashkenazi Jews don’t,” Dahan said. “A big part of my Seder at home is rice and dishes with grain, so I do kind of miss that.” 

Spending her first Passover without her family, Communication freshman Amanda Swickle said she finds community within Hillel. 

Swickle said she appreciates that Hillel provides immersive programming to still have the “full experience” of Passover.

“It’s been a little bit hard thinking about not being with my family, but honestly the whole community has turned into my second family,” Swickle said. “Walking into the Hillel building and seeing how many people signed up to be here is really special.” 

Students of all grades will be leading class-specific Seders on Tuesday at Hillel. Swickle said that she looks forward to the Tuesday Seder to celebrate with close friends and meet new people. 

“It’ll be really fun and just another way that spreads community and be with people that I love in a place that I love,” Swickle said. 

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