Guest author: Aaron Wilson, UPenn ’15
Last year I had what was, without question, the most meaningful and important Jewish experience of my college career. At Penn there are literally thousands of Jews who identify as such and have some background but are not involved in the Jewish community. At the beginning of March I started speaking to friends from classes and asking if they were doing anything for Passover. It slowly became clear that most of my uninvolved friends had been to seders in the past but didn’t plan on doing anything this year. After hearing this enough I decided to stay at Penn to host H2H style seders in my house. Of course my parents expected me to come home but when I shared with them how important this was, they respected my decision to stay.
I invited 17 people to my first night seder. 17 people said yes. A week before the seder I emailed everyone and asked that they clear their schedule for the night and bring some kind of idea or memory related to Passover. On the night of the seder I had my living room set up with dimmed lighting, a circle of couch cushions on the floor, and a very low table in the middle. What becomes clear when you prepare to lead your own seder is that the seder is literally just a long, engaging conversation about core Jewish values. And that showed as we got into the seder. I prepared plenty of helpful notes, but as we got into it, I used them less and less, as everyone was so excitedly engaged in conversation that the seder began to carry itself.
We didn’t get to shulchan orech until 11pm (the secret is to serve lots of salad and vegetables at karpas) and there were still 10 people sitting around and talking about Jewish ideas until 1am. And this was in the middle of the week.
Pesach seems far away, but now is the time to begin planting seeds. Plant seeds in the minds of your parents that you might stay at school to host seders. Plant seeds in the minds of your friends to consider staying to host seders with you. It’s not as easy as hosting a shabbat dinner, but the effort you put in is repaid 100 times. I can’t stress enough how strongly I’d encourage you to host seders and have the most meaningful Jewish experience of your college career.
editor’s note: if you’re interested in running Seders on your campus, or need help organizing stuff on your campus, or want to go somewhere else to run Seders, let us know and we’d love to help make it happen – and give you the most meaningful and important Jewish experience of your college career! And check here for Aaron’s session on leading a Seder!