Besides for the Seders, one of the best aspects of Passover is the eating “kosher for Passover”. “What?!”, you’re probably asking me, “Isn’t that the most annoying part?” Well, what I love most is how everyone does it – Jews who don’t keep kosher or rarely identify as Jewish will be adamant about keeping “kosher for Passover”. I once had someone ask me if his turkey and cheese salad was “kosher for passover” – I guess they’re different laws and as long as there’s no leaven in there, he was doing alright. I’m not sure why, but it’s great!
At Penn, people come out of the woodworks to eat at Hillel on Pesach; I saw some people who I hadn’t seen since last Pesach, and some people who I had never seen. Many of the people who I met for the first time at the Seder came back to Hillel over the next few days and we’ve made sure to say ‘hello’ to them and reconnect with them. One of the best practices we tried instituting was in arranging our seating: Over yom tov, those who were at shacharit would come down to eat after prayers and we were often the first and only ones there. Normally, we would fill 2 or 3 tables ourselves – partially out of convenience and partially out of design. Because invariably, half an hour later, random people would start trickling in to eat lunch, likely in between classes or perhaps just getting out of bed. We would be sitting in our nice, yom tov-clothes and trying to have a nice yom tov-meal, and in would come these random kids – who probably didn’t know what yom tov was, who just wanted to eat “kosher for passover”. And so we’d end up sitting at our tables, they’d end up sitting at their tables (or by themselves) and never the twain shall meet.
I had an idea. Instead of all sitting together and filling up our tables, what if we spread out and filled 5 or 6 tables halfway, leaving half the table empty. When the other students would come in, either they’d join on their own or we could invite them to sit with us. And that’s what we did – and people were usually overjoyed to sit with us, talk with us, and to celebrate Pesach with us. They were also then able to hear kiddush with us, which is a much better and more organic method than getting up on a chair to make kiddush for everyone in the room (which some people tried doing). By making one little change, I and others were able to make so many new friends and helped make the environment a little more welcoming and friendly for everyone.