April 3, 2007

Cornell Hosts Seder Supper

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As the sun set yesterday evening, nearly 1,000 students gathered in Barton Hall to celebrate the first night of the Jewish holiday of Passover with Hillel’s Super Seder. This annual event drew in students, their families, faculty and staff as the eight bread-free days of the holiday began.

The program consisted of 50 different Seders happening simultaneously. Seder is a religious ceremony and meal recounting the Jews’ biblical exodus from Egypt. Faculty and students alike led individual tables full of people through the traditions while tailoring the service to their own preferences. Students were allowed to pick which Seder they wanted to attend from a list.

“We really run the gamut from orthodox to conservative, to all types of Seders,” said LeNorman Strong, assistant vice president of student and academic services, as well as the founder of the Super Seder.

Other types included a sports-themed Seder, a musical Seder, an eco-Seder and more. A number of fraternities, sororities, and academic groups, also reserved their own tables. The goal was for each person to be able to attend to a Seder where they felt comfortable, as evidenced by the event’s slogan, “Your Seder, Your Way.”

Many enjoyed seeing the ways other people celebrated Passover as well.

“I think it was interesting to see the different takes people had on the same tradition,” said Ben Piper ’10, who attended ‘Zach’s Seder,’ which included a mix of English and Hebrew. “I thought the food could have been better, but I really liked the service.”

“Passover is the most widely celebrated holiday in the Jewish community,” said Rabbi Ed Rosenthal, executive director of Hillel and a leader of one of the Seders.

“So even if someone doesn’t keep a strict observance of the full Passover holiday, they will observe it in a way that is appropriate for them and that usually entails a Seder of one type or another,” he said.

Event organizers were prepared for the large amount of people. Almost 1,000 seats were set up, 50 servers were hired and a large amount of matza-ball soup was made.

Cornell Hillel also runs Shabbat 1000, an annual celebration of the weekly Jewish Sabbath, which draws even more students. When the event took place last September, Rosenthal said that a record 1,450 people showed up.

Students registered for the Super Seder online through the Cornell dining website or at the door for the cost of one meal on Cornell’s Dining plan. Pre-registration took place yesterday afternoon, where students picked which Seder they wanted to attend from a list. Rabbi Yechiel R. Frank, Hillel’s Jewish Learning Initiative educator, oversaw the actual event.

Some students had mixed reactions about the Seder.

“I thought it was nice, but there seemed to be a lot of people who didn’t want to be there, and just went because they thought they should,” said Laura Friend ’10, who went to the Seder specified for freshmen who are missing home.

“It would have been better if only the people that really wanted to be there showed up,” she said.

Hillel will provide another Seder tonight for the second night of Passover at 104 West Kosher Dining Hall on West Campus. Jewish students will be able to eat Kosher-for-Passover food throughout the holiday at 104 West.