March 29, 2010

Jewish and Non-Jewish Students Feast During Annual Super Seder

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Unlike previous years, when Super Seder was held in cavernous Barton Hall, this year’s feast took place in Trillium, where the space was smaller and the atmosphere more homey. About 40 tables seated a mix of Jewish and non-Jewish students alike from throughout the Cornell community.

Orly Halpern, engagement associate for Cornell Hillel, said that Seder — the most commonly celebrated holiday among American Jews — is celebrated quite differently at Cornell than in most places across the county.

Seder honors the Jews’ exodus from Egypt and is held at the start of the week-long Passover holiday. Seder is a cultural learning experience at Cornell, Halpern said.

Each table at Super Seder is usually led by a student who is involved in Cornell’s Jewish community. Robert Levine ’13 volunteered this year to be a leader, and he described how his style differs from other leaders.

“[I’m] basing it off a Seder from last year in Israel,” Levine said. “Mine has a participatory style, more like a commentary. Instead of focusing on the actual story, we are going to point out new things, different aspects of the story.” He said it is important to not just re-tell the facts that everyone knows about the exodus from Egypt, but to also draw attention to more subtle or interesting parts of the story and to have a conversation about them.

Across the tables there are several other themes and styles, such as “learning,” where only one person at the table recounts the story, or “pop-culture,” where the leader uses references to Facebook and other popular media to illustrate the story. There are also some tables that tell the story in English, Hebrew, or a combination of both.

Jacob Bank ’11 said that Seder is a “chance to sit down around a group of people, tell the story of the exodus, and talk about all the aspects of the religion.”

He said, “everyone takes turns telling the story, shares a part of the story that has been passed on from generation to generation.”

Bank also described one specific tradition for the youngest child in families celebrating Seder. The child recites and answers questions regarding why Seder is different than any other night during Passover.

Bank explained that because Passover celebrates freedom from slavery, the family is supposed to relax and recline in their seats while eating. But Seder is different than other nights on Passover because, rather than dipping their food once, the family is supposed to dip twice; while normally the family eats both leaven bread and matzo, on Seder they only eat matzo.

Original Author: Melissa Kim