Multicultural Seder celebrates freedom

The GW Hillel sponsored the third annual Multicultural Freedom Seder Tuesday at the Western Presbyterian Church to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Passover.


Passover commemorates the deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. The stories told at Passover are meant to give those of the Jewish faith an understanding of their ancestors’ flight from Egypt. But members of various cultural student groups also told of the obstacles their ancestors faced battling for freedom.

“When I thought about the story of Passover, which is about freedom, I realized that everyone has their own story regarding freedom,” said senior Stacey Nolish, one of the original founders of the event. “I thought having a multicultural Seder would be a great way to get everyone together to share their stories.”

The Seder, which means “order” in Hebrew, was led by juniors Jeff Brown and Emily Katz. Participants at the Seder read from a Hagadah, a book traditionally read at a Jewish Seder. Students compiled a special Hagadah for this year’s Multicultural Freedom Seder.

“In every struggle to attain freedom, there is a person who stands out as the personification of the struggle itself,” Brown and Katz wrote in an introduction to the Seder.

“From Moses to Martin Luther King Jr., there have been countless examples of people who have demanded a change for the better in every generation. Tonight we share their stories,” according to the introduction. “All of us are slaves if any one of us is a slave,” said Rabbi Gerald Serotta, director of GW Hillel, in the Seder’s opening. “We dedicate tonight’s words of freedom to those fleeing the suffering in Kosovo.

“I hope that as we come together tonight and hear many stories of liberation, we’re inspired to end the slavery and degradation that still exists in our world,” Serotta said.

The Russian Bazaar, Newman Center, GW Pride, Philippine Cultural Society, Latinos for Progress, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, Chinese American Student Association, Turkish Student Association and Muslim Students Association submitted stories.

Participants in the Seder shared a buffet-style Passover meal, including chicken soup, matzah, potato kugel and chicken.

About 120 people attended the Seder, of which about 30 or 40 percent were Jewish, Katz said. Throughout the evening, Jewish students familiar with the service and food conversed with non-Jewish students about the meaning of various elements of the holiday.

Jim Miller, the new GW Africana studies program director, said he has attended freedom Seders for years.

“I come out of the civil rights movement, and I think that whenever people from different backgrounds can come together over food and ritual that’s a nice thing to do,” he said.

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