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Chalutzim hosts Passover sedar, Dining Hall caters to traditional foods

This Friday night marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday Passover. Passover, a weeklong holiday (unless we get into the semantics of the 7 nights vs. 8 nights thing), commemorates the Jewish people’s liberation from slavery in Egypt and subsequent 40 year journey in the Sinai desert. To celebrate, Chalutzim will host a seder, or ceremonial meal, in JRC 101 at 6:30 P.M. on Friday night.
To Rabbi and Interim Associate Chaplain Garson Herzfeld, Passover signifies freedom.
“Passover is the festival of freedom because it marks the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt,” Herzfeld said. “It’s an exodus that marks the transition from slavery to freedom.”
The Passover seder is both a meal and a religious service. The meal is incorporated into the night’s procession, which specifically details the Jews’ exit from Egypt, along with related readings and songs. This year’s seder is vegetarian and catered by Grinnell Dining Services; it provides students an opportunity to experience one of Judaism’s three most important festivals (Succot and Shavuot are the others). Attendees will sit at round tables; each table will have wine, hagadahs—traditional books which detail the order of the seder—and a seder plate. The seder plate contains symbolic food which is consumed during the ceremony.
For Rabbi Herzfeld, the round tables are imperative for encouraging participation in the seder, because they provide a more collective ambiance.
“There will be circular tables. And hopefully if I can pull it off—I’ve done these sorts of seders before—I’ve had different people read, and I’ve arranged for a handheld mic. With round tables at least you feel like you can interact with the people at your table and the people at tables around your table.”
Chalutzim leader Melanie Rockoff ’12 looks forward to the potential for communal participation.
“We’ve divvied up different parts of the hagadah so that anyone can read, and it’s totally voluntary so if you don’t want to you don’t have to. The last time I was here for Passover, it was just a really interesting experience: everyone got up and volunteered and I think we’re going to be doing a similar thing this year.”
To Rockoff, the seder is an integral Passover experience.
“I think it’s important because it’s an important Jewish holiday. I also think that it’s important for people to have a place so that they might feel at home,” Rockoff said. “This is something that a lot of people prior to Grinnell have done—it’s a ritual, a tradition—I know that prior to Grinnell I’d never not had Passover seder with my family, and I can’t really imagine not doing it in college.”
The seder is also a celebration with guests. Along with many Grinnell students and faculty, the Washington University in St. Louis women’s softball team, who are in town for the HyVee Classic, will also attend. According to Rabbi Herzfeld, this is in accordance with the spirit of the holiday.
“You’re supposed to invite friends and strangers to your seder. That one night all our people, it doesn’t matter what social status you have in life—that wasn’t important when this was put in place—everyone at the seder is treated the same way, is equal.”
For those who wish to observe, Passover also means a week without food products that rise when baked, or products which connote bread. For the week bread is substituted by matzo, which is a yeastless bread. This tradition is a reminder of the Israelites’ escape; there was not time for the bread to rise as they fled from Egypt. To accommodate students, the dining hall will offer kosher for Passover options next week at every station except for stir-fry.
In the morning, special granola and matzo brei, a dish similar to French toast will be served. During lunch and dinner, kosher for Passover pasta sauces will be available in the pasta line. The Dining Hall will mark other kosher for Passover entrees with a pink tag, which will explain the ingredients that were substituted to make the dish kosher. There will also be matzo pizza and matzo ball soup available at the grill and kosher for Passover outtakes with matzo and hardboiled eggs.
Executive chef Scott Turley does not question the importance of Dining Services’ Passover efforts both in catering the seder and at meals in the Dining Hall.
“So many students need this to get through the week,” he said. “There’ll be a lot going on.”

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