Why is this lunch different from all other lunches?


By the time they gathered around a table at the back of Newberger Hillel's chapel, the ten Chicago students who stopped by for Passover lunch on Sunday had already had their fill of grape juice. Coming off three- and four-hour seders the night before, they'd been drinking plenty of it. Still, each filled a tiny cup from an Ocean Spray bottle and, after the kiddush was read, drank it. "Four more cups to go tonight!" one student joked, pretending to wince as she looked ahead to the weekend's second seder.

Launching its Passover celebration last Friday, Chicago's Hillel chapter hosted five seders over the weekend, each different: traditional, Reform, and student-led seders that coincided with a "freedom and responsibility seder" and a "skeptic's seder." Two others—a "feminist seder" and a "Red Hadaggah Yiddish seder"—are planned for Wednesday night. Throughout the holiday, which lasts until sundown on April 27, Hillel serves kosher lunches and dinners at its Woodlawn Avenue house.

During Sunday's lunch, which incorporated elements of the seder ceremony, students dined on spinach salad, broccoli soup, matzah, and latkes cooked with apricot. Tabletalk turned from matzah cereal ("Who would ever think that tastes good?") and Passover songs to unfinished schoolwork and classroom-related nightmares. One student offered a joke about a blind man handed a piece of matzah, only to have another student preempt the punchline: the blind man says, "Who wrote this nonsense?" After an hour of food and conversation, someone started singing the Birkat, and the rest joined in. Then they cleared the table and headed out into the warm spring day.


Photo: The traditional seder plate including, clockwise from top: maror (romaine lettuce), z'roa (roasted shankbone), charoset, maror (chrein), karpas (celery sticks), beitzah (roasted egg).

April 21, 2008