Students learn Jewish traditions

There are over 6 million Jewish Americans living in the United States, with over 6,000 living in Iowa. St. Ambrose student Ian Ross wanted to bring his Jewish traditions to other students at SAU through a Passover Seder Meal.

The meal took place March 31 in the Rogalski Center ballroom, though the majority of the Jewish community celebrates Passover on April 16. More than 50 students, faculty and visitors attended the meal, including Ross’ family, who came to celebrate the Seder meal with the SAU community.

Rabbi Karp, who teaches classes on Judaism at SAU, presented the Seder meal and spoke of its importance to the Jewish community. Passover celebrates the liberation of slaves from Egypt when Moses parted the Red Sea.

“Jewish slaves became a free nation after crossing the Red Sea and remained free for the next 2,000 years,” Karp explained. “The symbolic rituals practiced during the Passover meal drive home the message. The Passover is one of the central moments of Jewish history.”

The celebration begins with a ceremonial lighting of candles, traditionally done by the woman of the house. The Passover Seder is different from most other Jewish holidays because it is celebrated more in the home than in the synagogue. The guests were invited to follow along with the ceremony in the Haggadah book, which included information and responses for guests.

Rabbi Karp explained that the word “Seder” means “order” in Hebrew. The dinner celebration follows a specific order of events, including the ceremonial drinking of wine. Wine symbolizes joy in the Jewish tradition, and the tradition continues to celebrate liberation from Egypt by drinking wine.

The tradition also involves eating matzah bread, parsley and horseradish. The parsley symbolizes spring and is dipped in saltwater that symbolizes the tears of slaves. The traditional meal included Rabbi Karp reading from the Haggadah with the rest of the group responding.  Even children were included in the ceremony, being asked to read the questions of the four children.  The four children in the Haggadah were the wise, the wicked, the simple, and the unable to ask.  Guests in the group read from the Haggadah throughout the meal.

One traditional event during the Passover Seder for children involved matzah. A piece of matzah is hidden during the meal and the meal can’t end without someone finding it and whoever finds the hidden matzah gets a prize. Ross rewarded the children searching for the hidden prize with a dollar.

Towards the end of the ceremony, before the meal, Karp emphasized the need to help those amidst injustice.

“Jews have always been at the receiving end of the injustice, so now it’s our job to help those on the receiving end of injustice,” Karp said. “None of us are free if there are people in the world that aren’t.”

Karp also mentioned the current situations in the Middle East and the need for justice.

Before the meal could be served, each guest ate a boiled egg. Dinner featured traditional Jewish food. The Passover Seder meal gave students a chance to learn Jewish traditions in a more informal, relaxed environment.

This was the second year SAU hosted a Passover Seder meal and it was Ross’ idea from the start.

“I wanted to share my Jewish traditions with the SAU community,” Ross said.

Ross says he sent an email to Sr. Joan before getting help from the Rev. Chuck Adams. The event was sponsored by the Dean of Students, Residence Life, Campus Ministry and Student Government Association. Ross says he hopes the tradition can continue, even after his time at SAU is over.


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