By Jacob Schaperow
Ask Jewish students what Passover on campus means to them, and they will tell you about the stress that comes with having to get homework done, prepare for exams, and catch up on studying with up to four days out of their schedule due to the holiday. Though it can be a struggle to observe Passover while keeping up with schoolwork, the springtime celebration of freedom has its highlights. For more than 150 Jewish students in Greek life, the Greek Seder, held for the second year in a row, livened up the on-campus Passover experience.
Beginning at 7 p.m. on April 15, the Greek Seder offered an opportunity for Jewish students in fraternities and sororities to celebrate Passover with their Greek families at their home-away-from-home. Held in Ritchie Coliseum the seder clipped along at a fairly quick pace, with the Hillel-catered food served about 40 minutes in and finishing up by 8:45 p.m.
According to Hillel Jews in Greek Life (JGL) fellow Brian Medansky, the seder was fast paced in order to appeal to audience demand. “Obviously, there are things in the seder that somebody wants, but if most people wouldn’t want it, it wasn’t worth it to have,” Medansky said.
Medansky attends the University of Maryland from out-of-state. Coming from Chicago, it was unrealistic for him to go home for the holiday this year. Though he could not do a seder with his biological family, Medansky said that doing the seder with his Greek family was a fun experience.
“At my seder [at home], we read everything. We do everything. So it was kind of more fun in the sense that you’re not getting bored and just trudging through the Haggadah,” Medansky said. “It’s an easier seder, and I think it’s different in the sense that you’re with your friends the whole time.”
Greek seder participants used the “A Different Night” haggadah to follow along with the seder. A uniquely Greek aspect of the seder occurred during the magid, storytelling, section of the haggadah. Rather than reading A Different Night’s comparison of various depictions of the four sons throughout Jewish history, the seder’s organizers employed a script adapted to Greek life. The JGL version of the story portrays the wise child as the fraternity president, the wicked child as the pledge-ed, the simple child as the rushing candidate, and the child who does not know how to ask as a new member.
The Greek Seder’s organizers, JGL fellows Yonatan Razin, Zeke Waisel and Medansky, along with Corinne Bernstein, engagement associate at Hillel, implemented “table captains” at the seder to provide a more at-home experience.
“We wanted a feeling of the communal, like, there’s over 150 Greeks here, all celebrating Passover together, which is amazing, but we also wanted the small, intimate family feel of a smaller group of people,” Bernstein said.
Certain parts of the seder, such as the Four Questions and the singing of dayenu, were led from the front of the Ritchie gymnasium, while the rest of the seder was led by the table captains, sitting in a one-to-eight ratio among the other attendees.
Table captain Zach Cohen led his fraternity, Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT), at the Greek Seder. ZBT, a newly reinstated fraternity at UMD with Jewish roots, returned to the Jewish community for the seder after participating in Maryland Hillel’s Good Deeds Day activities last month. Cohen said he felt comfortable being a table captain because he was with his friends.
For Cohen, the seder is a chance to “spend the holiday with the people I care about, which I did. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have done anything. I don’t know where I would have gone. So it was enjoyable to be with 10 of my closest friends, having a big meal together.”