About a dozen students and staff members gathered Tuesday evening in Davenport Dining Hall to participate in a model Passover seder commemorating the holiday which begins Friday night and marks the Jewish exodus from Egypt.
The La Verne event was organized by Zandra Wagoner, university chaplain, and conducted by Paul Buch, cantor of Temple Beth Israel in Pomona.
Most of the participants had never been to a seder before.
“I loved it,” law student Jonathan David said. “It was really great to experience Jewish culture.”
There are a total of 14 steps to the seder meal. They include the various items and food on the table, which are symbols for the Jewish exodus.
There was grape juice – a substitute for wine – parsley, salt water, eggs, horseradish and charoses.
Charoses was everyone’s favorite because it was a mixture of apples, nuts, cinnamon and other delicious spices.
“Imagery is extremely important in Judaism, but some of them aren’t obvious,” Buch said.
During the seder, everyone read from the Haggadah, a book that retells the story of the exodus and includes songs and prayers.
Buch explained that older Haggadah books were illustrated similar to the old illustrated Bibles and that many were also works of art.
Buch said the Haggadah encourages everyone to remember his or her own freedom story.
He explained that whether it was a personal story or part of an ethnic background, we all have a freedom story that should never be forgotten.
Everyone present took turns reading the prayers and the story of the exodus, so that everyone could participate.
“I thought it was delightful.” Jaye Houston, an adjunct instructor of general studies, said. “It is important to learn about different cultures and different religions.”
Part of the Jewish custom during the seder is to put a little bit of horseradish on a piece of matzo – a cracker made with unleavened bread – and eat it to remember the bitterness of slavery.
After a minute the horseradish began to burn with bitterness and everyone reached for their glass of water or grape juice.
“I thought it was really interesting, I’ve never experienced Jewish culture like this,” Brandon Coble, junior biology major, said.
Coble and David were the only two who happily ate second, third and fourth helpings of the bitter horseradish.
Buch also talked a little bit about the Jewish religion and some of its traditions, including sabbath traditions and most of the rituals pertaining to the seder.
He brought up the fact that on the sabbath there are no prayers of petition. When asked why, he said it was because in the Bible it says on the seventh day God rested.
“He’s got a day off, don’t bug him,” Buch said.
“I think Zandra Wagoner did an excellent job putting this together,” Houston said. “It’s nice to see this taking place on campus.”
Annunciata Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.