12th Annual Passover Seder combines tradition, community

Nicole Towne

Friends, family, students and community members from northern Colorado gathered together in the Grand Ballroom overlooking the mountains and the setting sun to celebrate the beginning of Passover with a multi-course kosher meal.

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Monday night’s Seder marked the 11th annual Passover Seder hosted by the Chabad Jewish Student organization at Colorado State University. Year to year, the event brings out around 200 attendees both identifying with the Jewish faith and those who do not. It has the reputation for being Colorado’s largest community Passover Seder.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik said Passover is about freedom at the start of the event, as guests helped themselves to gefilte fish and vegetables.

Chabad, Jewish, matzo, Passover, Seder
Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik speaks to those in attendance of CSU’s Passover Seder event hosted by the Chabad Jewish Student Organization. All photos were taken before sunset in accordance with Jewish tradition. (Davis Bonner | Collegian)

“Passover is about liberation,” Gorelik said. “It’s about freeing ourselves from the things that hold us back.”

Passover is celebrated each year in remembrance of God freeing the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. The Seder is grounded in rituals and symbolism. There are scripture readings, songs, blessings and food.

“I think there is reward in coming together as a community and participating in a ritual that has gone on for thousands of years,” said Michael Lichtbach, CSU alum and former CSU Chabad President.

The Passover Seder is made up of 15 steps. Each step has symbolic value and each of the foods on the Seder plate are placed with purpose.

The Seder process starts with saying a blessing over a cup of wine or grape juice. It is followed by hand washing to cleanse and prepare oneself for the meal.

The next step is to take a vegetable, dip it into a bowl of salt water and eat it. This symbolizes the tears shed by the enslaved Israelites. The salt water also represents spiritual cleansing.

Accompanying the salt water dipped vegetables are bitter herbs and matzah. The bitter herbs serve as a reminder of the importance of perseverance and working to overcome personal challenges. The matzah is a flat type of break taking on the consistency of a cracker. In the Passover story, the Israelites were in a rush to leave Egypt and they did not have time to allow their bread to rise before baking it.

Chabad, Jewish, matzo, Passover, Seder
The traditional Kosher dishes of unleavened bread, matzo ball soup, charoset and horseradish are served for those in attendance of CSU’s Passover Seder event hosted by the Chabad Jewish Student Organization. All photos were taken before sunset in accordance with Jewish tradition. (Davis Bonner | Collegian)

During the Seder both traditional songs such as “Dayenu,” which means “it would have been sufficient,” and untraditional songs such as “Take Me Out to the Seder,” which goes to the tune of the baseball classic, were sung.

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Matthew Minchen, senior psychology major and member of the Jewish fraternity AE Pi, helped coordinate and perform in short skits, which were presented throughout the Seder.

“It’s awesome to be a part of entertaining people,” Minchen said. “I like helping to make sure people have a fun time while they’re here.”

Minchen has been involved with AE Pi and Chabad since his freshman year, and said that they were both instrumental in getting connected at CSU, especially as an out-of-state student

“I enjoy that the Jewish community here has helped me create a stronger identity for myself,” Minchen said.

Chabad, Jewish, matzo, Passover, Seder
Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik speaks to those in attendance of CSU’s Passover Seder event hosted by the Chabad Jewish Student Organization. All photos were taken before sunset in accordance with Jewish tradition. (Davis Bonner | Collegian)

Courtney Madden, a Fort Collins community member, attended the Seder with a friend and is of the Christian faith.

“It’s always a good idea to learn new things and be connected to the world around you,” Madden said.

Madden said it was interesting hearing the blessings and the stories surrounding Passover and getting to learn about Judaism.

“It’s always a good idea to learn new things and be connected to the world around you,” Madden said.

For Michael Lichtbach, Passover is about connecting to his heritage. It is about overcoming personal challenges and reaching his own promised land. It is a message that goes beyond the yearly Passover celebration.

“The message of Passover applies all the time,” Lichtbach said.

Collegian reporter Nicole Towne can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @nicole_towne21.