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Haggadah

by Rhonda Shapiro-Rieser

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

On the evening of Monday, April 10, the Sanctuary in Helen Hills Chapel was filled with 72 singing, laughing, and reflecting students. The Smith College Jewish Community (SCJC) hosted a Passover Seder. It was the largest, happiest, most energetic ever.

Students took turns reading from the Haggadah, the book of liturgy and readings that is at the center of the Seder. In fact, the word Seder means "order" because the meal itself follows the order of the Haggadah. Board members from SCJC edited the Haggadah, creating a Smith version. They focused readings not only on the ancient tale of slavery and redemption but also social justice issues of today. Students recounted the Biblical plagues in the traditional Haggadah, and also the plagues of racism, and the affirmation that Black lives matter. Everyone cheered at one reading that stated "a million people, a million genders!"

The cry for justice that originated in the text came alive with the readings. The traditions of the Seder were upheld in songs like Dayenu, and Ehud me yodeah which date back to the rabbinical period. Many tears were shed following the commandment to eat bitter herbs—the horseradish had a serious kick to it that matzah couldn't blunt.

The singing went on and on. People sang as they got their food from the laden buffet table filled with kosher for passover food generously supplied by Dining Services. Students rushed around after the meal trying to be the first to find the hidden piece of matzah, the afikomen, that one must retrieve in order for the meal to end. The victorious received prizes.

The laughter and singing even continued through clean up. Then hugs, wishes for a Hag Sameach, a joyous holiday, and for many, back to studying.

Rhonda Shapiro-Rieser is Smith's Interfaith Spiritual Advisor at the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life.