Entirely student-organized Seder celebration successful

Kara McKay

Whitman Students of the Jewish faith joined together for an evening of celebration and remembrance during the campus’ first completely student-run Passover Seder. The event, held Saturday, April 19 in Baker Faculty Center, was organized by Hillel Shalom, the campus’ Jewish club.

Traditionally, the Passover Seder is a ritual meal held on any of the eight nights of Passover, a major Jewish holiday commemorating the Exodus from Egypt and the liberation of the Israelites from slavery.

Rachel Stein and Danny Kaplan, co-presidents of Hillel Shalom, have been planning for over a month to organize the event that was attended by over 60 students.

“This is the first Seder that has been organized completely by students,” said Stein. “Our adviser is on sabbatical, so Danny, myself and other members of the club have done all of the planning, from securing the building, to figuring out the food situation, to arranging the service,” said Stein.

“At home, you know that there will be a synagogue, a rabbi and a service for each holiday. Here, someone has to take a leadership role, and we have to be willing to work a lot more in order to see things happen,” said Stein.

In the past, Bon Appétit had catered the dinner for the Seder; however, they were unable to provide the service this year, so the dinner was held potluck-style.

“Surprisingly, it worked out really well. This is the best, most well attended Seder I’ve experienced during my time at Whitman,” said Kaplan.

The event offered a chance for Whitman students to partake in Passover and connect with others of the Jewish faith while being away from home during the holiday.

“This being my first year, it has been a bit sad for me. I do miss my synagogue and partaking in tradition with my family,” said first-year Leah Wheeler.

Traditionally, Jews abstain from eating leavened bread and other non-kosher foods during Passover. Matzo, a cracker-like flat bread, is customarily substituted for leavened bread during this time.

“My family always makes a ritual of cleaning all the bread products out of our house. We bake a lot of Passover brownies, and cakes, and pastries,” said Wheeler.

“I plan on staying kosher for Passover at Whitman, no matter how hard it is,” said Wheeler. “I bought matzo, so I’ll eat that. There are actually some really good matzo recipes, like matzo pizza, or matzo with cream cheese and jelly.”

“It’s much harder being of Jewish faith at Whitman,” said first-year Daniel Straus.   “There are a lot fewer practicing Jews here than at my home, and there’s not a synagogue that has a permanent rabbi or regular services around. Plus, it is really hard to keep kosher while eating in the dining halls. I still don’t mix milk and cheese or eat any of the unclean meats, but I can’t control how the food is prepared or what it is served out of,” said Straus.

Although Bon Appétit has made an effort to accommodate those students of the Jewish faith, it is not always able to offer them the same range of options that may be available at home.

“We did buy some matzo and will offer it to students while it is available; however, this year we’re having a lot of trouble finding matzo,” said Susan Todhunter, dining manager of Prentiss. “We’ve always relied on buying it in town instead of having in shipped in, but there seems to be a matzo shortage: we’ve searched in Walla Walla and the Tri-Cities, but all the stores are out.”

“However, we do have recipes all week long that are specifically foods that Jewish people can eat during Passover. We’re doing our best, and hopefully that will help,” said Todhunter.