Hillel, AEPi hold Seders

By Cassie Tomlin
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, April 25, 2005

Some Jewish students who stuck around campus during Passover this year spent the holiday weekend at student-oriented Seder dinners.

Alyssa Cunial, an undeclared freshman, said this is the first year she has been away from home during the family-oriented holiday, but the Hillel Foundation was the next best place for her to be.

"It's like a family here too," Cunial said.

About 50 students attended the second-night Seder event last night at Hillel, 1245 E. Second St.

Matt Johl, a business and marketing sophomore, said even though a final paper prevented him from going home to Kansas for Passover, it was important for to him to spend the holiday surrounded by others who practice his faith.

"It's good to be here, but I miss the family atmosphere," Johl said. "My mom called to tell me she wishes I was there."

On the first two nights of the seven-day Passover celebration, which commemorates the Israelites' exodus from Egypt, families gather for Seder dinners to retell the story and say prayers, Cunial said.

Cunial said food at the Seder dinners represent different aspects and traditions of the holiday.

Matzoh, unleavened bread, symbolizes how Jews had no time to let bread rise before leaving Egypt, Cunial said.

"Everyone has four cups of wine representing the plagues," Cunial said. "Or in our case, grape juice."

Josh Tennenbaum, Judaic chair for Alpha Epsilon Pi, said the fraternity's third annual first-night Seder event Saturday brought about 150 people, mostly students, to celebrate Passover at the fraternity house, 1510 N. Vine Ave.

Tennenbaum, who organized the Seder, said hosting the dinner was an effort to reach out to other Jewish students during the important holiday.

"The main idea is that this is for kids that wouldn't normally celebrate Passover; to have them do something that connects them to their religion and to be around a bunch of other people who share that," Tennenbaum said.

Tennenbaum said he partook in the Seder at AEPi on Saturday and celebrated with his family yesterday.

He said many students felt compelled to attend AEPi's Seder out of respect for their parents and the tradition.

"I got a lot of calls at the last minute, people saying, 'My family would really like it if I attended a Seder'," Tennenbaum said.

He said this year's turnout was smaller than past years because the holiday fell on a weekend, allotting students time to travel to their homes to celebrate with their families.

Tennenbaum said he planned the Seder to be relatively short and student-oriented.

"We did the prayers quickly so it was more of a student-type atmosphere and everyone could leave and do whatever they want afterwards," Tennenbaum said.