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UA students, Hillel to serve home-style Passover dinner

By Hillary Davis
Arizona Daily Wildcat
March 30, 1999
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For Jewish UA students, Passover at home means savoring mom's kugel and sipping Manischewitz red wine.

But not all University of Arizona students have family members in Tucson, leaving them with only a matzo ball and a prayer.

In response, the UA-area Hillel Foundation teams up with families from Tucson's Jewish community every year to offer students a home environment for tomorrow night's traditional Seder meal. The dinner leads off the eight-night holiday, said Jonathan Kaplan, Hillel's program director.

Passover is an integral time in the Jewish faith that Kaplan compared to a New Year's celebration of rebirth and freedom. The holiday focuses on "remembering and celebrating" the exodus of Jewish slaves from Egypt, Kaplan said.

"When people have Seder, they remember what it was like to be a slave," he said.

During the Seder, participants recount historical Passover events, and every part of the meal represents an aspect of the story.

Even the type of food served at the structured Seder feast, which is Hebrew for "order," relate to a particular part of the Jews' struggle.

Kaplan said students who do not normally participate in the other holidays become involved with Passover.

Hillel placed 50 of the UA's approximately 3,500 Jewish students with host families for this year's celebration.

Kaplan said he attributes the popularity of Hillel's placement program to the traditions that define Seder itself.

"I think people like having Seder with a family," Kaplan said. "(Even) if it's not with their own, do it (Seder) with a family, that's the point."

Tucson resident Vicki Pepper has hosted Seders for the past 12 years with her husband Phil.

"It's just always been something we've done," she said. "These young people add a lot. It's been good for my kids to meet some of these students."

Pepper said having strangers and non-Jewish guests attend a Seder is a tradition.

A student-run Seder will also take place at La Paz residence hall, organized by Brad Schweig, a UA retail and consumer studies sophomore.

Schweig created the Seder for people like himself, who didn't have as much time to devote to the weekday meal or cannot return home to their own families.

"I just thought it would be fun to have one in the residence halls," Schweig said.

Schweig's Seder has drawn 37 participants. The $10 per person admission fee will pay for traditional foods such as matzo ball soup, a special Passover cake and the representative foods such as parsley dipped in salt water.

Schweig's event also proved to be popular with UA students, as he managed to accommodate a waiting list of participants.

"People like being with a big family," he said. "It's part of the idea."