Seder celebrates Jewish liberation

Cantor Paul Buch leads the University of La Verne Passover Seder with a brief historical and traditional ceremony through song and interactive readings on Wednesday in the Quay Davis Executive Board Room. This is the first in-person Seder on campus since the COVID-19 pandemic began. / photo by Drake Ingram
Paul Buch, cantor for Temple Beth Israel in Pomona, leads the University’s annual Passover Seder with a brief historical and traditional ceremony through song and interactive readings on Wednesday in the Quay Davis Executive Board Room, the first on-campus Seder since 2019. / photo by Drake Ingram

Megan Mojica
Staff Writer

After a two-year hiatus, the University of La Verne once again held its annual Passover Seder on Wednesday, hosted by the Office of Spiritual and Religious Life and Hillel, a Jewish club on campus.

The event, held in the Quay Davis Executive Boardroom, hosted over 20 guests, both Jewish and non-Jewish. 

The night was filled with traditions that included prayer, singing, storytelling, drinking, eating and conversation. 

The Seder is a cultural and religious celebration of the Jewish holy week of Passover that signifies the retelling of the biblical story of the exodus from Egypt, where God freed the Israelites from slavery. 

The Seder was accompanied by a meal catered by Bon Appetit that ignited the senses and symbolized 14 different portions of the story through themes of freedom and liberation. The traditional seder plate includes items such as hard boiled eggs, horseradish, bitter herbs, matzah and a shankbone – or boiled beet for a vegetarian option – that are used symbolically at different points of the meal. 

The annual Seder tradition at ULV was started in the 1970s by English professor Rhoda Kachuck. 

Cantor Paul Buch of Temple Beth Israel in Pomona, who has led the Seder at ULV for over 15 years, said he has always enjoyed leading events at the University. 

“The philosophy of the University is so compatible with my own personal orientation to inclusion and education and respect and understanding amongst all religions and spiritual traditions,” said Buch.  

Hillel President Kira Degelsmith, senior psychology major, said it is important to her that there is an interfaith connection at ULV due to the small number of Jewish students and faculty on campus. 

 “It’s really awesome to see people come who are partly Jewish or not Jewish, who want to learn about the faith and be immersed in the Jewish culture,” Degelsmith said.

University Chaplain Zandra Wagoner said it is important to her because it is a tradition that honors a part of the campus community and the recognition of the violence of slavery and the human need for freedom and liberation as endearing human themes.

“For me the re-enactment of this Seder each year is an invitation to freedom, it’s an invitation to be part of liberation and to question all forms of violence, especially that kind of violence that enslaves people in many, many forms,” Wagoner said.

Buch said that the themes of freedom from bondage and freedom from oppression are ideas that we can all understand during these times. 

“I think it’s an event that at its core has ideas that all humanity understands as beings, key to what it means to be human,” Buch said.  “Especially humans who are designed in the image of God and that the ideas of freedom and not being beholden to any slave master.” 

Tonya Brooks, adjunct professor of school psychology, said her experience at the event was nice and welcoming. 

“You are a part of the religious experience,” Brooks said. “I do like the story, the history, the education that goes with the Seder.” 

Buch said he hopes that guests could take away some understanding of the tradition, culture, and people they may have not been familiar with. 

Megan Mojica can be reached at megan.mojica@laverne.edu.

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Megan Mojica, a junior broadcast journalism major, is a staff writer for the Campus Times.

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Drake Ingram, a junior criminology major and photography minor, is a staff photographer for the Campus Times.

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