Villanova celebrates Model Seder

Amanda Hanley

The Villanova Hillel celebrated a model Seder meal on April 24 during the Passover celebration.

It was co-sponsored by the Office of Mission Effectiveness and the Commission for Campus Projects of Hillel of Greater Philadelphia.

The Seder is a ritual meal conducted similarly all over the world by Jewish families and communities.

The Seder is important for Jewish faith and identity.

The Haggadah is a text read throughout the meal, serving as a guide for the festivities.

It explains that if not for the Exodus, the Jewish people would still be slaves in Egypt. Therefore the Seder is an occasion for thanksgiving and a re-dedication to the idea of liberation.

“We wanted to make sure we had this event for our Jewish students on campus,” Hillel President Seth Strohl said. “It allows them to spend time with the Jewish community at Villanova, especially when they may not be able to make it home for Passover.”

The Seder is a family-based ritual that has its origin in Exodus 13:8, which reads, “And you shall tell it to your son on that day, saying, ‘Because of this God did for me when He took me out of Egypt.'”

The Haggadah describes in detail how the Seder is conducted.

It includes segments such as blessing the wine, eating a vegetable symbolic of spring, eating the matzah bread, eating the bitter herbs and hearing the story of Passover.

The Seder was open to all members of the Villanova community.

“The Seder also serves as an educational opportunity for non-Jewish students,” Strohl said. “For Catholic students, the Last Supper was a Passover Seder. So it gives them an opportunity to experience part of their tradition. And even for students of other religions, it allows them to share an interfaith experience and learn more about Judaism.”

“We also wanted the Seder to attract Jewish students that have not been involved with Hillel,” Strohl said. “They may not think we exist at Villanova, but this event is designed to let them know that we are here and want to support them throughout their time at Villanova.”

The Villanova Hillel has had a presence here since the 1980s. Its annual events include a High Holy Days celebration, a Chanukah celebration and the Model Passover Seder.

“Villanova Hillel has been in existence for many years, but it has mostly resided within the Jewish faculty and staff,” Strohl said. “About four years ago, several Jewish students, myself included, began to organize it among the students. We have two goals: to provide a support system for Jewish students at Villanova and to provide education and cultural opportunities for non-Jewish students.”

The Villanova Hillel has sponsored speakers such as Judy Meisel, a Holocaust survivor, and Asaf Romirowsky, manager of Israel and Middle East Affairs of the Jewish Federation of Philadelphia.

It also brought the band Rochester Road to campus and co-sponsored lectures by Dr. Norbert Samuelson and Yossi Klein Halevi.

The Villanova Hillel has participated in numerous events, such as World Religions Day, while also working to establish relations with larger groups, such as the Hillel of Greater Philadelphia and the Villanova Interfaith Coalition.

“We feel that this year’s Seder was a huge success,” Strohl said. “We had 30 people attend, and every one of them was enthusiastic to attend and participate. Some of these people are already looking forward to next year’s Seder. We hope that the Seder becomes a yearly tradition at Villanova.”